> Every other week, Tonjes, 29, debates getting another job but wonders how she’d have the time to keep up her three channels on top of a 9-to-5.
Maybe keep up two channels? or one? Before the Internet, this story would have been a person stuck in a crappy job who doesn't get to indulge their passion for music _at all_, since they would get _zero_ dollars for it (barring the enormously low chance of getting a major-label record deal, an option which still technically exists). The low barriers to entry for YouTube/Instagram/etc are the other side of the coin for lower income per subscriber than traditional gated channels like getting signed at a record company.
TL;DR: Someone being unable to afford their groceries is what's actually sad, but this isn't an article about poverty and lack of a safety net. Low-barrier, low-gatekeeper distribution channels like YT or Instagram _mitigate_ this problem, not create it. Calling the economics of being Internet-famous sad is missing the point by a mile.
My opinion on the intent of the post was to highlight the reality of an "internet famous" person. There is this notion floating around that if you get enough subscribers / fans you can make enough money to quit your job and sign autographs. While many people have gone on to do this, this is not the norm whatsoever. It takes hard work, a head for marketing, production experience, photography, videography...or just a really good idea and/or personality.
I definitely get what you are saying, its definitely more sad when you can't pay your bills.
Perhaps I'm underestimating the naivete of the average person, but I didn't realize that people thought this was a thing. Hell, the concept that Internet fame isn't necessarily lucrative is so well-understood that even freaking South Park got around to satirizing it almost 8 YEARS ago (and South Park doesn't have a tendency to satirize super-niche concepts).
Even if I'm wrong about that and it is somehow novel and interesting to write a long article about how subscriber counts don't turn into dollars, I still find the article's premise and insistent emphasis that the economics of these distribution channels are somehow sad to be completely wrongheaded.
Warhol said everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes. He never said anything about being able to pay the bills from it.
> I still find the article's premise and insistent emphasis that the economics of these distribution channels are somehow sad to be completely wrongheaded.
I don't. A huge chunk of social traffic and the ad spend it feeds to YouTube/FB/etc only exists because (mostly) younger and (often) more creatively inclined users have been sold on the idea of making money from a "personal brand."
AdBusters was satirising this fifteen years ago, and now it's turned into reality.
The reality is that you always make more money from being the farmer than from being the livestock. Perhaps the farms have an interest in not making that too obvious.
It's not the hopefuls who are wrongheaded - it's the tropes of the bullshit "social" economy they're growing up in.
But the jump from "non-trivial cash" for a teen to "living wage for an adult or family" is substantial.
If lots of people are willing and able to do what you do for nearly free, you shouldn't expect to make much from doing it.
So if I'm understanding correctly, your claim is not that these channels don't trivially provide a fulltime job, but that they're somehow heavily marketed as doing so to kids? I suppose I can buy that.
On the other hand, kids are precisely the ones who don't need a full-time job. A kid with an extremely successful YouTube channel has an awesome hobby, not a full time job. This is further reflected by the fact that almost every single person who had money issues in the article is in their mid 20s at least (The 18 year old who quit IG modelling did so because it was fake, which is pretty much the opposite problem of "this is not lucrative enough"). I don't think it's too much to expect from people in their mid 20s to be realistic about how much money they can make adding another photographer to the Instagram hordes.
Hell I've been traveling for a while and have been posting random pictures, and I've had several people tell me that I'm one of their favorite feeds. I am decidedly not particularly good at photography, and somehow my random "hey look at my pics" is providing an amount of utility to some users that's roughly the same as the "professional" IGers they follow that have branding deals and stuff. Any market where supply can be increased at all by an untalented guy deciding he should post photos of his trip on a whim is not going to be one where suppliers can trivially demand large amounts of money, and for good reason.
> The reality is that you always make more money from being the farmer than from being the livestock. Perhaps the farms have an interest in not making that too obvious.
Perhaps, but this is one of the cases (as opposed to the usual analogy to owning capital vs productive labor) where the relationship is substantially less exploitative. The job of the farmer is substantially more unique and useful than any given "livestock" (though a lot of this is due to network effects, which always suck a bit).
Well, yeah, livestock can't own property, and is chattel. A more relevant analogy would be "label" and "artist".
Its a thing for much the same reason as pursuing sports for a reasonable possibility of raking in ludicrously large paychecks is: the successes are inherently highly visible in the media, the failures inherently almost completely invisible.
> Hell, the concept that Internet fame isn't necessarily lucrative is so well-understood that even freaking South Park got around to satirizing it almost 8 YEARS ago
8 years ago, there were a lot fewer highly-visible internet celebrities; many of the currently well-established social media services didn't exist or were fairly new; Facebook was only 3 years old.
Wait what? This has always been the case and always will be. Art has never been profitable. The starving artist is a trope at this point.
I would recommend that if one wants to be famous and vastly rich not to do it via the Internet. The good old "you are working for them" is even more true here.
And regarding the offset/highlighted comment about Van Gogh. If the author knew their art history (or at least had seen and paid attention to Mona Lisa Smile), he only sold one painting during his lifetime . One might even go so far as to draw a parallel between his position with the art dealer Goupil & Cie and somebody today "shilling themselves out on audible.com".
Actually he's the canonical example of how it was for the VAST majority of artists. Being rich, or having a rich patron, was very much an exception. There are tons of poets, painters, musicians, writers etc that never got any of that, including tons of later recognized ones.
"accountant" -> all qualified practitioners have a steady income, little variation between accountants and
"rockstar" -> huge variation - winner takes all, a few practitioners get most of the fame and income, the majority get nothing.
No prizes for working out where "artist" and "celebrity" fit on that continuum.
The drivers is, how much does the business model scale?
Accountancy is still pretty much 1-to-1; but everyone on spotify/iTunes can in theory listen to the same hit band (within same musical tastes) so the 2nd-ranked band gets far less play than the 1st, despite being nearly as good. Scale down to the 100th who is also quite good but has to have a day job. If you know musicians you have met them.
Yes, portraiture was in Rembrandt's day a business model that did not scale, but van Gough was later - he wasn't a portraitist and photography was established by then.
The article mentions people who had to quit their day jobs because too many people recognized them.
The thing is, they have a hobby that brings in a fair amount of money and the cost is fame. Given that they could stop at any moment and their fame would dissipate pretty rapidly, is it "sad" that these channels provide the opportunity to make this trade off? All these channels are providing is shifting the opportunity boundary so more people who are extremely passionate about their creations (and think it's worth the time and the fame) can indulge in it. Earlier, only those who had the luxury of chasing after major labels or distributors had this chance.
According to the article, many of the 'famous' YouTube stars do not bring in a fair amount of money, so they must rely on day jobs that they cannot keep because of the fame.
Whether you find it 'sad' or not is not particularly relevant. The author is exposing the misconceptions about 'fame' in the YouTube world and exposing the irony of being too famous for day jobs but not paid enough to quit them.
It appears you don't empathize because you believe the opportunity they are given to pursue their passion outweighs the struggle of funding that passion. They disagree.
A "fair amount of money" for creating music and videos doesn't mean "enough to not have to work". As an analogy, if I made crafts or something and sold them online and they weren't so successful that I could quit the working world, it wouldn't be inaccurate if I were to say "I make a fair amount of money on the side from my hobby". Note that I'm using the word "fair" in the sense you'd say something is "fairly big", not in the sense of justice (a much more complicated discussion).
> Whether you find it 'sad' or not is not particularly relevant.
Jesus christ dude, do you just click on random comments on the page without reading the thread they're part of? The parent comment of this thread is me disagreeing with the article title's characterization of the economics as "sad". There is quite literally nothing more relevant to this discussion.
> It appears you don't empathize because you believe the opportunity they are given to pursue their passion outweighs the struggle of funding that passion. They disagree.
This is 100% wrong, in more than one way (200% wrong?). First off, the comment you're responding to and quoting isn't talking about the financial cost of creating. If you bothered to actually read the thread, you'd see that we covered that in _the very first comment_, and no one is really in disagreement in this thread that the financial struggle of artists of all kinds is a bummer. We're talking about what costs in particular are unique to Internet-famous creators, (ie what makes it 'sad'), and the answer is the cost of fame.
Secondly, let's say I go along with your random change in subject and start talking about the financial costs of creating not being worth the opportunity for people who are currently creators. This is also completely wrong, pretty much by definition. The people who _aren't_ still YouTube (et al) creators are the ones that decided that the struggle of funding their passion is not worth it. The ones who are still doing it, by definition, have decided that the costs are worth it.
You've completely misunderstood the article, this entire comment thread, and the comment you're responding to, so I'll summarize part of it for you here:
I find it as sad as anyone (and more than many) that people have to get jobs and aren't free to pursue their passion if it doesn't happen to be lucrative. This is a completely different discussion, and one that often comes up on HN. It usually involved discussion of post-scarcity economies, basic incomes, etc. That has precisely nothing to do with the "sad economics" of Internet fame in particular. Hence my original contention that the author is essentially complaining about the same problem (people have to get jobs instead of follow their passion), and to make the article more clickbaity, pointing at a solution that doesn't go far enough and pretend that it's causing the problem. Specifically, the fact that lower-gated revenue sharing for online creators doesn't allow them to live off their work is an incomplete improvement on the previous gatekeeper system where you had to get lucky and be connected and convince a record exec that your passion is worth it.
 this is particularly sad in the arts, where our current system isn't particularly good at valuing its positive externalities. Which isn't to say that I have a perfect solution for arts funding...
You are pretty old then, I guess?
What I actually meant by "fashionable" was that, in the couple decades preceding the financial crisis, it was far, far from the mainstream to be concerned about or even acknowledge some of the structural economic issues that had been growing since the 80s or so in the US (for example, dropping social mobility, which is more or less agreed to be a bad thing pretty much across the political spectrum). There were obviously plenty of people who cared in the same period, but that's not really what "fashionable" means.
So no, I'm not particularly old, but caring about those issues in particular for a couple of decades gives me something like a 15-year head-start on the epoch we're currently in, when suddenly even the most ignorant and apathetic person in the country can quote factoids from a Robert Reich book or whatever.
At any rate, it was a throwaway remark to point out that I'm not just pretending to care about the deeper issues underlying how "sad" Internet economics are because I think it's the "in" thing to do (I know plenty of people who are like this for any social issue that's currently in vogue).
My feeling is that the 2008 crash and the lopsided recovery from same has... given rise to the sorts of economic feelings that were popular in the '70s and before. Sanders isn't particularly radical by '70s standards, but compared to anyone who had a shot during my lifetime? he is extremely radical.
I like using "left" and "right" because their meanings are less complicated than "liberal" and "conservative" (essentially, on which side of the Legislative Assembly would you sit?)
- of course, we're talking about economics only, to the extent that you can talk about economics without talking about social issues. I have a much harder time supporting the claim of a leftwards social push during the same time.
by lopsided, I mean that some areas, and some people have done pretty okay. I certainly can't complain about my position. For that matter, compared to 2001? 2008 wasn't a crash for me and the people I hang out with at all. But, I am given to understand that others aren't so lucky.
I think experiences like that shape people, and over time becomes part of their core. I'm more libertarian while many of my friends who grew up well to very well off are extremely liberal. They never experienced pulling themselves out of nearly nothing so they have a hard time imagining it is possible. I did it, so I think it is infinitely possible. Of course the reality is somewhere in the middle.
Maybe earlier, I don't know, since similar sentiments were apparently expressed in the Roman province of Judea, circa 30AD.
Further, it should be obvious from the context that I'm speaking about the local temporal context (last 40 years), as opposed to claiming that human society has never gone through periods where economic opportunity was prioritized more highly than today. Part of why my response was so dismissive is because bringing up the fact that people cared about poverty in Roman times means she's either uninterested in understanding my point or too stupid to do so.
Did they? I seem to recall most sentiment measures being stubbornly bad for most of the period between the 2001 recession and the Great Recession, despite periods of fairly positive results in top-line measures. (E.g., consumer confidence in the "expansion" period between the 2001 recession and the Great Recession never reached the level it was June of the March-November 2001 recession, and was often far below its levels from during the 2001 recession. )
Sure, the media presentation (what news and pundits were talking about) was generally positive up until the collapse and Great Recession, but I don't think that it necessarily reflected the "population at large".
> means she's either uninterested in understanding my point or too stupid to do so.
Please apply the principle of charity. People here aren't generally dumb (hell, most people aren't generally dumb); HN is frequented by people for whom English is not the native language, and then sometimes people post comments when they're tired, or feeling sick. Just because someone misses your point doesn't mean they're stupid.
Though I'm not sure how much this is really affecting the USA - witness Trump stand up and boast "I'm really rich" - which implies "I have far more money than you, we are unequal" and be rewarded for it. I'm also not sure how deep it runs - it seems that a simple security scare would shake it off and the usual tough posturing will again be a more effective political tool - see the recent Vegas Republican debate.
But if there's an inexact use of the English language, "inequality" only came into it later - "social mobility, income inequality" is not exactly the same thing as "poverty" as originally responded to, is it?
You also can do better than "must be too stupid" if someone don't share this "obvious" parochial context. Or makes allusions to ancient events that you don't get.
Pretty sure many artist of that day had to paint wives/daughters of rich folks that they'd rather not have painted to get by. And most artists that sell for millions today were pretty poor unless they had a random rich person and were their "pet artist".
I'll sound pretty heartless but the post sounds entitled. There is no grantee of riches just because you're "famous". Actually turning that fame into money is a skill and not something that happens automatically. If you think it's unfair and you deserve more because you have so many fans...charge them directly and not through indirect means like adds, branding or product placement and see how many stick around.
"""The most Allison and I have made combined on one deal is $6,000, and 30 percent of that went to our multichannel network"""
And despite that they started a company to make it a full time gig?
I also don't buy the implied sentiment that telling the truth about being more or less busto despite all the followers is seen as whining. Sure by some but you don't want those as followers. Transparency is usually valued very much in communities.
He moved in November 1885 to Antwerp and rented a small room above a paint dealer's shop in the Rue des Images (Lange Beeldekensstraat). He had little money and ate poorly, preferring to spend the money Theo sent on painting materials and models. Bread, coffee, and tobacco were his staple intake. In February 1886, he wrote to Theo saying that he could only remember eating six hot meals since May of the previous year. His teeth became loose and painful. While in Antwerp, he applied himself to the study of color theory and spent time in museums, particularly studying the work of Peter Paul Rubens, gaining encouragement to broaden his palette to carmine, cobalt, and emerald green. He bought Japanese Ukiyo-e woodcuts in the docklands, and incorporated their style into the background of some of his paintings. While in Antwerp, Van Gogh began to drink absinthe heavily. He was treated by Dr. Amadeus Cavenaile, whose practice was near the docklands,[note 9] possibly for syphilis;[note 10] the treatment of alum irrigation and sitz baths was jotted down by Van Gogh in one of his notebooks. Despite his rejection of academic teaching, he took the higher-level admission exams at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, and, in January 1886, matriculated in painting and drawing. For most of February, he was ill and run down by overwork, a poor diet, and excessive smoking.
Once Van Gogh broke through and gained some success, he shot himself after two years.
Yes, it's tough to make it on YouTube, but comparing yourself to famous painters isn't going to win any sympathy.
That would explain why he saw the world as swirly as he painted it later
Thousands of people see you on social media and many of them mistakenly assume you're making a decent living. They're so ignorant.
What's more, it's those opinionated viewers with their snarky comments about selling out who are entitled. They expect free, adless entertainment by selfless, sharing Internet personalities.
I'm grateful to this vlogger for having the courage to speak out on a painful and embarrassing topic. It's given me a lot to think about.
Rather, this long post should be seen as a critique of the limitations of channels like YouTube. Such platforms are supposed to cater to long tail and empower them, but clearly they fall short.
Rather than criticizing the long tail artists for feeling entitled, it can also be seen as, that YouTube like platforms could solve this problem in a better way. Perhaps something like reddit tipping using bitcoin (I know this sounds a bit futuristic).
Clearly Ad based model are lacking and not paying enough.
Summary: If artists in the earlier centuries suffered and lived in misery, it does not mean that the current lot should also live the same way. Not in the age of Internet and cyber currencies.
edit: minor correction
Rather ironic, considering the rest of the comment.
But then again I have the same view that I criticize when it comes to OpenSSL not getting enough money (how can this possibly be it's so valuable for so many people) so maybe I just don't get youtubing for a living. It's the same argument...mmmm...food for thought :)
This problem used to be solved with patents and copyrights, but that tends to screw over the majority content consumers in favour of the minority content creators. The ad- and donation-supported model is a step in the right direction. I particularly like the Kickstarter-backed model that certain open-source projects (see Django Rest Framework) use, but I'm not sure if that's a viable long-term solution.
I think the first step is to break the current distribution models for content. Essentially content creators relinquish their rights over their content which includes the ability to monetize the content. The social networks make billions on content created by their users...my answer, the content creators who have established followers, start hosting/publishing their content on their own websites and only use the social networks to redirect traffic to their own websites they control and they can monetize.
I don't recognize any of these people. I think calling them famous is a stretch. Having impressive youtube numbers, well, isn't that impressive outside of youtube. I see millions of views on crap like cat videos or terrible comedy or whatever. If someone is getting regular high numbers that means he or she is competitive with a cat yawning video or someone doing tasteless race comedy (two things recently forwarded to me). I think these people need to realize that things are much more competitive outside their little worlds and they simply aren't talented enough to make it outside of their little echo chambers.
Also, a pet peeve of mine is the phrase "internet famous." These people are best sub-sub-genre famous or whatever. There is no singular internet culture. Its a lot of different cultures connected by tcp/ip.
There's something about entertainment that's just awful. The unbelievable egos involved, the entitlement, the lack of criticism, the fanboys/girls telling them they're awesome, etc. I imagine this all leads to some pretty sour attitudes like the one quoted. From a financial perspective 70k followers isn't a lot. Its not going to pay out. Even if each of those people gave you a dollar, which they wont - hell they're probably running ad block, its a measly $70k. For "real" famous people that's a rounding error.
Probably why people picture Jesus as a European white guy.
If you've spent any time in LA, you've met actress/model/waitress types. Walk-on parts in a few movies, some commercial work, no real money.
Authors have the same problem. A decade ago, there were people who thought blogging was a career. That's so dead. The Huffington Post is now an Aol content farm, with content-farm type rates.
Fame leading to riches was an artifact of expensive distribution. That's so over.
All super rich people are famous. Trump, Bush family, Walton family, etc. Rich, therefore you're famous.
In logical fallacy land, all famous people are therefore rich.
And youtube people are psuedo-famous (lets be realistic, 99% to 99.9% of the population don't care about them) therefore they must be rich.
Via the miracle of hollywood accounting, I distinctly remember William Shatner (or was it Leonard Nimoy) temporarily living in a van down by the river in the 70s in between trek and later revenue sources. In the hollywood PR era they were all rich even when they were not, in the YT era it can't be covered up anymore.
The take-aways for me are:
1. If you become famous on social media, understand that it might not make you enough money to survive, paradoxically with more fame leading to possibly less income.
2. If you must make videos, vlogs, blogs, or whatever else online, do something that you want to do for its own sake. Make something that in itself is valuable. Don't make a song because you think it'll make you money or a branded informative video because you think it'll net you an audience and therefore income. Create something great for the sake of the greatness. That way, you can't really lose either way. Because, it seems, either way, you're going to lose.
There are multiple problems solved - you don't come across as fake or forced, the content you're covering seems natural, because you are generally interested in it. The flow of content comes easily because you're actively engaged in the community, so you're almost creating new content accidentally, as a by product of your self-interest.
I watch my daughters and their engagement with youtubers, twitchers etc, what seems crazy to me, in terms of what I would watch on you tube, they happily consume - watching people unwrap items they've ordered online, new fads, hours of gaming sessions. I mean really? I'd rather play the games myself!
It does lend a lot of weight to the idea that the next generation of celebrities are online based only... The downside is they can't monetize their fame! Or at least, don't know how to yet.
I make that whole "next gen celebs online only" comment like it hasn't happened yet, knowing that it is well on the way again from observing my 13/12/11 yr old daughters and their use of youtube/minecraft/instagram (did you notice the lack of Facebook? Yeah...)
Sometime, I get really into it. The vast majority, I just ignore their channel.
I suspect it may not all be a generation gap. Some people just find watching other people play games interesting. Others don't.
On the topic of 30-somethings, while you may hear a lot more about the youth, I gotta say there's a lot of "30 somethings" in the general "Internet video" space, doing various interesting works. I noticed once I started getting into Patreon that without particularly meaning to be hipster, an awful lot of my entertainment time is spent on grain-fed, organically-raised artisanal Internet video now. It just sorta... happened.
And I can't blame them. Girls need some girl time, boys need some boy time.
I strongly recommend ViHart's discussion of Edmund Snow Carpenter's "They Became What The Beheld". It is very easy to focus on the medium, when you should be focusing on the message.
 Marshall McLuhan may have written the initial version of that book.
Heck, lose half your fans, .5% of the remainder pays you a couple bucks a month... that probably would count as a huge win.
I have actually watched a couple of my Patreon recipients go from bending their art in various ways for money (nasty ads on the site, etc.) to just making the art. The piper must always be paid, but a wide, amorphous crowd of Patreon supporters individually paying in just a couple of bucks a month, all of whom have sampled your free wares and pretty much know exactly what they're getting is probably just about the best boss you could imagine. (Modulo perhaps having to deal with the occasional person who may stomp off loudly taking their money with them, but I haven't seen that yet, and that's where the "width" comes in; if one person stomps away with their 2$/month, well... whoop-de-do. and all of my patreon supportees that are keeping up their end of the deal are seeing slow-but-steady patron growth. Slow-but-steady growing subscription revenue starts to add up!)
Do you think this would work for Patreon? I have a site where people are extremely appreciative of the volume of free work I have online. Probably some would sign up for a bit.
My only concern about testing it would be if the number was embarrassingly low in case I'm wrong about who would support it (sub $500). Though I suppose I could just close it if that happened.
Might come down to whether you can make a good offer for Patreon-supporter bonuses. I assume you're already freely offering it, so you probably want to keep doing that. (Or possibly need to; I've never read the Patreon agreement for producers.)
The other concern I'd have is that this sort of subscription service will tend to not have people cancel, then find out a year or more later that they were still subscribed and didn't realize it. I don't know if Patreon has policies or procedures for when that happens, if the patron feels like they've been "ripped off" because they forgot to cancel for a year. Most of what I'm patronizing doesn't have that issue.
Yeah, I wondered about that. I just sent Patreon a message to check.
I do already freely offer it, and would keep doing so. I could increase the speed of releasing new ones if I got enough patrons, and think of some bonuses to offer.
Edit: Patreon got back to me. They said it's fine. They pointed out there are ongoing email notifications when I do new stuff, and that patrons are pretty good about not forgetting they've paid money.
I'll at least try it.
It's hard for me to recommend something that doesn't seem to work over something that does, when we're talking cold hard cash and whether or not you get to make a living.
(Edit later: Ah, dangoor links to graphtreon, which has the data I was looking for. Using $50K/year in Patreon income as the cutoff for "middle class", trying to account for Patreon fees and the extra details of covering health care, it looks like we've got ~100 people or groups making at least one "middle-class lifestyle" amount of money on Patreon alone, quite a few more "starving artists" if they were only on Patreon, and a long list of people making good monthly supplement money to what must be another income.)
I think Flattr was there too early, before the need for it emerged.
How so? Tone note: Honest question. I like Patreon and like what I understand of its philosophy just fine, but I'm happy to learn about competition and alternatives.
These people really need ad salesmen to turn their channels into real businesses. They're not going to have the time to sell ads themselves.
There are a lot of issues behind selling ads (just because you have a billion views, doesn't mean you're useful to advertisers), but going to a site like sellercrowd.com should get them some leads on salespeople and techniques.
That's what multi-channel networks are all about. MCNs build a roster of marketable talent and (the best ones) work out things like ad sales, product placement, collaborations and appearances in other media. They take a cut and the YouTuber gets to focus on their craft (some MCNs even have shared high-end production facilities). Google has a cozy relationship with many MCNs because of the revenue they can drive and the way they keep content creators in the YouTube ecosystem.
This is a best-case scenario - there are of course numerous shadier networks.
Hard as it might be to believe I actually respect salespeople and no matter how good they are, they can't sell the unsalable. Its disrespectful to even ask them, in a golden-rule-ish way I wouldn't even ask them.
I believe non-monetizability is the core problem not salespeople. If I churned out IT training videos for people who can't read websites and FAQs, it would be infinitely easier for a professional talented salesperson to sell, rather than "A picture of me out to brunch in Los Feliz" from the article. Its highly likely the only people that could sell her eating brunch would be incredibly talented, and therefore precisely the least likely salespeople to be selling vlogger brunch videos.
The meta issue which is extremely hard to discuss culturally in the USA is the people complaining in the article are high school kids. They may be 20+ years old but they stopped social development around age 14 or so. At that age, success is defined solely as popularity among your similar age and development level peers, not money, never money. In fact adults who tell kids to focus on their future, by getting training or an education or just by working hard, are told they're boring or old or not letting them be a kid. Well, if you let a kid age out of middle/high school without growing up, you get "wah wah My friends like me, how dare the world not make me rich". This fits the old nerd trope where you come back into town with your freshly minted degree and very high paycheck and run into the coolest kids from high school, still there, pumpin gas and flippin burgers and cashiering at the grocery store, they were kids, they were the cool kids, we grew up and are now rich and cool, but they're still cool kids making change at the cash register for a living, presumably for the rest of their lives.
The, uh, low developmental age of the folks in the article shows in the video topics. They are perfectly appropriate for a 13 year old to impress other 13 year olds and make a happy little echo chamber of little kids. Thats more or less non-monetizable, exactly as what most 13 year old kids do outside YT videos, therefore unsurprisingly she's deep in poverty and being a little kid at heart she's not going to have the bootstraps to pull herself up with.
The pity of it is they're so darn close, so close to actually making it. I am not talking about being even more clickbaity or shoveling just one more advertisement. Take for example the self described lesbian stoner waitress in the first paragraph. You can't monetize her "how to win the breakup" video no matter how stylish the presentation or the personal magnetism of the presenter or how experienced the presenter is or how great her first impression is. But she could make at least small stacks of cash if she leveraged her real job, being a waitress. Women who've never waitressed before (still working on their liberal arts degree, etc) wonder how to do the job and what its like, she can release some fun training-ish vids. Everyone loves to laugh, do some problem customer videos. The secret inside story of being a waitress. Re-enact the worst (in a funny sense) pickup lines she's had to tolerate (or not tolerate, or maybe the lines that actually worked LOL). How to beat the waitress interview and get hired. Small talk for people who don't like small talk but want a job. Rather than daydreaming of getting millions, she might actually get hundreds or even thousands. It would certainly be an easier sell for a professional salesperson than "I am pretty, and I ate brunch today"
In any case, these people don't have ad salespeople, which is the missing ingredient for profit.
I've found that display advertising, particularly on desktop, outperforms YouTube ads at about 2.5 to 1.
And yet, he gets paid $13.5k per video:
with "only" 5100 patrons. He's also on two successful podcasts that doubtless net him a few thousand more per month.
He's also gone out of his way to make sure that he's not visibly famous (he doesn't appear in his videos), which is an interesting contrast with the people in this article.
If I had to guess the biggest difference between CGP Grey and the people discussed in this article, I would guess that CGP Grey had a plan and optimized for things that can actually make a living for him. He talks a bit about this on the Cortex podcast.
I bet someone could make a tidy fortune coming up with a monetization strategy for these artists. My guess is that targeting parents would do the trick.
Moreover, perhaps if no one is paying for the content, then it's not worth paying for.
You wouldn't pay a damn thing for that. Just because a product is widely consumed doesn't make it valuable any more than the time and money put into making it. I can spend thousands to create a 2 by 2 cube of steel and stick it in my front yard, the fact that investment was made doesn't mean its valuable.
Edit: Bad typo.
I feel a bit bad about this slightly cynical comment but, well, that's what I think. It would be absolutely amazing if we all could make a living from what we enjoy.
On another note, I might have missed it in the article but I didn't see the author talking about the target audience? Shouldn't it make a huge difference in terms of CPM and therefore revenue?
Because I'd imagine that advertisers are willing to pay totally different amounts of money if your average subscriber is in late 20s or 30s, from the USA, UK or Canada and with middle or higher level of income, compared to just a bunch of high schoolers who have little spending power?
it's a tournament. the very best, or at least most popular, take home millions. Everyone else is bush league and take home pretty much nothing.
Oh absolutely, no doubt about that. It's just that people (outside small circles like HN) don't talk about it and is definitely not romanticized as much as hard work.
You work 20-40 hours week, no overtime, and make decent living? Ha you got it easy, shut up now. But look at that struggling poor dude who works 80 hours/wk.
Narrative like this, implying that if you are struggling, etc, then you deserve something automatically is quite common in the mainstream. Maybe it's just a cynic inside me but I got this vibe from an article. But probably that's just me. I'd assume because a large share of population can be categorized as 'struggling' and relate to this narrative, making it popular and safe choice.
( Sidenote: flattr.com was supposed to be addressing this but from the consumer side. )
This has always been the case and is why movie stars become producers, why music stars start labels, and why sports stars start promotion companies and clothing lines.
In other words: fame is a means to an end, not an end.
Youtubers try to act all perfect according to an image because they believe that what the viewers want. So they don't communicate their money trouble.
Viewers got this distorted notion that they're rich because of subscribers numbers due to said zero communication. And they acted spoiled when they do one of their sponsored videos.
I am aware that his situation is still confusing as to the actual facts but I am speaking more in an analogy here confirming your sentiment.
They want the rich and famous lifestyle. Being poor and famous and working hard at it is a drag.
The big problem with all of this though is that when artists wise up and stop trying to chase the dollars that aren't there, they stop producing as much creatively, and the fans don't realize what they are missing.
More than a few times I've wished that the millions of fans out there would suddenly wake up with a much more evolved sense of taste, willing to reject the art that is a waste of time, and willing to pay for the art that is actually worth their time.
Robert Crumb was paid for his work. Beethoven was paid for his work. Van Gogh wasn't paid for his work and it helped drive him to suicide.
So, is it better to have 10,000 fans who will pay you for your work, or 3,000,000 who won't pay you anything, ever?
But a lot of podcasts will just have a note at the end, "If you want to support me being able to do this full time, donate! Set up a recurring donation and I'll send you [some cheap swag]."
Then they can talk about meeting their goal, and how donations keep them free of influence from sponsors, and how it will improve the content if everyone gave just $1.
NPR even does that sort of thing.
There more and less classy ways to beg for money.
Around 2005 I had a very generic ecommerce site on which I threw some Adsense as an experiment.
I was getting $200 in Adsense a month from 3,000-3,500 daily views x 30 so ~ 100,000 views a month.
The monetization per fan here is pretty stark. You would get a few bucks in pocket from the first example and next to nothing from the second.
Selling 500,000 records is decent cash. Getting 500,000 views of a jokey video that caters to kids or the easily distracted isn't.
So you can't get rich if you have to give your 'product' away? Not really a big surprise is it?
If you don't explain the situation to your subscribers, how are they going to be understanding?
So you put up this 'persona' on youtube. You said you 'struggled' but now you're not allowed to talk about your problem anymore.
So, if you end up doing sponsored videos to make a living and some subscribers decide not to subscribe any longer because you're 'selling out'. Well, I guess they're not really a subscriber like you thought would be.
I don't think this necessarily follow. I've watched YouTube videos that were as entertaining as TV shows where in the latter's case onscreen & production workers are getting paid. It's not that the content isn't valuable it's that supply is vast and so the price is depressed to roughly "well I'll put up with a couple of add" (near zero).
Having worth and being saleable are not directly comparable measures. Air is of effectively infinite worth to humans but you can't usually sell it.
Besides which, a lot of times the difference between scraping by and becoming a millionaire can sometimes be a good business manager. Knowing what to do and how best to do it, and keep up with it, can make orders of magnitude difference in monetization. And that's true in any business, in any industry.
But how about upselling?
They could see YouTube as free marketing, teaser content, for whatever they're actually selling. Depending on what they do, it could be a how-to book, a video tutorial on DVD, 1:1 coaching, etc.
When I go to conferences or tech meetups, people tell me how much this essay or that book changed their life, and it's wonderful, but the revenues from everything put together wouldn't have paid for a van or a spot by the river for the eleven years that I've been writing.
Being internet-obscure is a wonderful and rewarding hobby, if you can afford a hobby. But for me, the rewards are in the writing and in the feeling that I'm contributing a little bit to helping people enjoy programming.
Which is a lot like other hobbies, where part of the social thing is helping other people enter the hobby and enjoy it.
Internet increases the quantity of content, but quality of content drives compensation.
This is a business. Doing anything for free and expecting to magically get paid = bad business.
This article highlights the silliness of it all by quoting things like subscriber and follower numbers as if that means anything. So what if you have 1M subscribers? The internet has democratized and made content distribution much easier, faster and cheaper. It hasn't somehow changed the economics behind selling content itself.
This is basic pricing research - do your consumers care enough to actually pay for what you have? If so, then how are you going to capture and convert that? Ads? Subscriptions? Donations? Figure it out and put the plan in place. There will always be some people to whom it's not worth it - just because they're vocal about it doesn't mean you need to go into depression. And you don't need to be homeless to continue your "art" either. Neither option is healthy and it's what sets apart those who can actually succeed at this.
Perhaps the funniest line in this whole article is this:
> Aspiring vloggers may want to think about getting business degrees, because that’s what being famous online is: It’s protecting your assets, budgeting, figuring out production costs, and rationing out money to employees—whether that’s yourself or a camera crew.
Yea right... except that a business degree would at least teach the basics of having an actual business model.
I'm not quite sure why they're working minimum wage jobs to make ends meet when they could for example be using their online experience consulting for businesses who would love to devise impactful, authentic ways to connect with the demographics of their fanbase.
I think a lot of these middle tier influencers would benefit from training on how to present their skills/experiences to businesses who are willing to pay. (Not viewers.)
I just read a story about how this girl Esmee Denters (she used to be signed with Justin Timberlake, then the label dropped her) was working part time at a yogurt shop. She could easily make much more for example coaching aspiring singers on to navigate the music industry, etc.
Basically, maybe your viewers won't pay for your content but you can use your content for the proof of expertise to start an auxiliary business that makes money.
I certainly don't know who I would reach out to, or how, if I had 100k instagram fans and wanted to do some consulting. How does one acquire this knowledge?
Those things are called 'hobbies'.
Should a channel with videos of roughly 250k views (with bad directing and average acting) allows its creator to live a rich or middle-class live ? I don't know, maybe but a TV show with these ratings in the US alone would get canceled quickly I guess.
I liked the candid honesty but the focus on subscribers numbers or Instragram likes felt delusional or disconnected from real life, (but I didn't know you could live of Instragram sponsored content so I'm clearly not an export in the field).
Also I think if you rely on the general public and especially the youths to live you should have a plan B because it's a fickle group, ask any celebrities of reality TV.
I think the explanations about their attempts to monetize but the problems with monetization are also discussed.
I didn't get the impression she was complaining about it as much as the expectation that they are doing incredibly well when they aren't.
It's like that "I have to succeed" line in the article. You have a fairly steady income and spend a lot of time doing something you love; you're already succeeding. You don't want to "succeed", you want to be rich. I'm sorry you feel that being a barista is beneath you, aren't you the special one.
edit: to be clear I don't mean you, I mean the person who said that :)
For a long time, we've seen sponsored content as a bad, evil thing, that is driven by greed and capitalism. ( See corresponding Wayne's World moment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjB6r-HDDI0 )
This still stands for many situations but it seems like there are people out there only accepting and promoting things they:
- believe in
- have no issues with ( neither moral, nor technical )
- or even actually use them.
All these cases are, in my opinion, valid cases for accepting money and is pretty far from evil.
Image a world where all the commercials are done by people actually believing in the product - and not the money behind it.
More like the creators have no clue on how to run a business. No different than many starving artists who have no monetization talent or abilities.
there are several reasons for this kurtosis: mostly having to do with vertical differentiation---the characteristic in which one product is clearly preferred over another. at the cinema, for example, each movie is priced identically and yet one is clearly preferred than the other. this leads to a few films becoming runaway successes and the rest barely breaking even. there is a positive feedback loop that magnifies the effect over time. you see this quite clearly in the youtube ecosystem as well. youtube videos are "priced" identically; and so obviously there is a clear preference for one over the other, as there is a clear preference of a performer over another.
risky careers are sexy. these performers may bemoan their situation but in fact it is precisely this kurtosis that gives them their fame. after all the opposite of a kurtocracy is a mediocracy, in which rather than the extraordinary dominating, the ordinary dominates. another fantastic label for such industries is "humdrum" industries. nursing, teaching, bookkeeping, dentistry, engineering, accounting, retail are all mediocracies in which employees do not face extremes of success and failure. some of these fields are clearly available to youtubers should they find their current path untenable.
That's got to be very strange feeling, one that Aaron Swartz most likely felt.
At the time, I opined something rather harsh:
If your business model relies on free [read: freemium] services, you have a hobby, not a business.
It remains true today.
- Seems more glamorous from the outside that it usually is.
- Most people never make a lot of money.
- Having a significant user base (just like Instagram followers) does not guarantee success.
- Going to get a "real job" feels like selling out.
Doesn't matter whether you're talking about the creation of Scotch whisky, computer code, or video content.
This seems like a good system to me.
The danger embedded in this exception is that it's the generally mediated norm for the creative 'genius', the artist living the high life receiving reward for their exceptional talent. Skill + followers = reward. People in the top spots have earned their place.
Anyone who has participated in a creative profession long enough will have seen many brilliantly talented people fail, and critiques will follow as to why they missed out (obsessive personality, no marketability, poor communication, not in touch with reality, poor career trajectory, no exposure, etc). Creative people are pinned against each other, so these critiques flow from fellow producers too, and sadly when one person calls it a day, others will see opportunity left in their wake and attempt to fill the gap only to deal with similar patterns. Mostly failure is just part of the biz and no real indicator of talent.
Many will reach for the 'lottery' metaphor to justify creative economy, which I think at it's heart is true. Creative capital is amassed by a tiny minority in a global pool, and the 'pop' market intends to keep it this way - it's much easier to manage and account for a tiny list of select 'important' people, rally behind them and create an economy that benefits all parties (distributors and artists) than to embrace the entirety of creative output.
But again there are exceptions. And these are the ones maintaining 'creative integrity', who then become every other artists benchmark for succeeding against the odds. They help fertilize the pool, keep enthusiasm up and make people have faith that good work can succeed. Again another lottery, and these rare successes often become heavily fortified by the same industry, itself championing the outsider and benefiting from the perceived 'integrity'.
However, when you decide to give up on the supply chain completely and present yourself to an audience honestly things can actually come good. There are audiences that have given up on the supply chain too, and are sympathetic to artists presenting themselves with all their frailties. Once a connection is made, these people become real subscribers and will pay to keep this connection flowing and will even help advertise the artists they love (think t-shirts). There are many great examples of artists who have decided to control their supply chain, get intimate with an audience, and nurture the connection as directly as possible. They still work with mass culture but only as an interface to build audience.
How hard is it for these Vloggers to do the same, kick the supply-chain (freeloading hits) and direct their core audience to their own supply. Surely it's as simple as adding to their 'please like / subscribe to our channel' spiel with a 'and to see our other content visit our website direct'.
Maybe something will disrupt the 'pop' industry and create equity, but when mass piracy doesn't change much and pay services still only give majority revenue to top billers, it seems that 'pop' is more agile than most give lip service to.
It's a lottery system. The visible success stories are atypical.