I don't intend for this blog post to be a dig at Google, neither is it me complaining that YouTube have cut my earnings. I know Google don't owe me a living.
YouTube are very good at making Creators empowered and valued through things like YouTube Space events. I've been to many of these events at the London Space, but despite this Creators like me are near worthless to Google.
The fact is 95% of YouTube views come from just 5% of YouTubers. I fall outside of that 95% of views. I'm in the remaining tiny 5% of views generated by the majority of channels. In fact my video views account for just a tiny fraction of a percentage of that 5%.
The money I earn for YouTube is a drop in the ocean. To Google, losing my contribution to the platform would be like Tesco giving a free egg to one customer a year.
My YouTube earnings are, like everyone else's, based on advertising. They fluctuate based on the market value. The whole #adpocalypse (a debate I refuse to get drawn into) thing isn't YouTube ripping off its Creators. It's caused by advertisers spending less on the platform and Google are doing everything they can to resolve it, which does mean some necessary but unfortunate changes in monetisation rules for some smaller channels.
This post isn't about YouTube's current monetisation policy or how they're handling it. Luckily, I'm not one of those smaller channel who've had their monetisation cut. I am writing as someone who runs a YouTube channel as a business about how changes to the industry have affected my motivation based specifically on the type of content I produce.
Although I first signed up to YouTube in 2006, it wasn't until 2014 that I really started running my YouTube channel as a business. Over the last four and half years I've been producing weekly videos. I haven't missed a single week, a fact I'm quite proud of. In fact some weeks I have upped my efforts and made two videos, at times like school holidays when more of my audience are online.
Over this time I have gained 76k subscribers and amassed over 20 million views of my content. It might be a drop in the ocean on the scale of things, but again, I'm really proud of my achievements.
When I started making videos again in 2014, I was making about $15 a month from the old videos that were still on my channel from the early days. I used that money to buy bits of royalty free music to use in my videos and the odd bits of graphic effects and stock video.
As my channel started to grow, so did my revenue. This allowed me to start spending a little bit of money on videos, which is what gave rise to my first potion video, the type of content I am known for on YouTube.
These video are very reliant on props and also ingredients to make them look interesting and different. After the success of the first potion video I knew I had to make more but I could really only afford to do one a month. This grew my channel a little more and allowed me to spend more, until I got to a point where I could make a potion video a week.
Despite the fact my views have been fairly consistent (last month was slightly higher than the same month a year ago), my videos are now earning considerably less. My budget per video has tumbled down to just $35. It doesn't give me much to play with at all and means I certainly can't do anything special without ending up out of pocket.
Again, I don't blame YouTube for this. They don't owe me a certain amount per video and the truth is, most channels don't need a budget. If I just sat in front of a camera and spoke as many vloggers do my required budget would be zero and a drop in revenue wouldn't effect my content at all. So this is as much about my content style as anything else.
To get around this, over the last few weeks I've started to experiment with some different types of content and made videos which are more in line with the type of content I post on my website. Things like 'What Type Of Ghost Is In Your House?' and 'Can Pets See Ghosts?'
Because I'd done something a little bit different, I was more vigilant of the comments section as I was worried the new content might be a little to jarring and my audience wouldn't like it... and it was then that something else started niggling away at me.
I'd hit the publish button on a video and clicked on to the comments and sat there refreshing the page to watch them come in. The first few comments said things like "awesome video," "love this" and other cliches. So I was thinking "this is OK, they're taking to the new content." Then someone commented, "I'm confuse, people are saying this video is great but I can't hear any sounds. Is it just me?"
It wasn't just this commenter, I'd made an mistake when exporting the video in Final Cut and there was no sound! So all this praise following the upload of a video was meaningless words, they hadn't even taken the time to watch the video, they're more interested in being seen to be the first to comment... which in hindsight is pretty obvious when you think that all these positive comments were being posted alongside other comments saying "first comment!"
So, to get to the point. The lack of any real interest and engagement from the majority of my audience coupled with the massive decline in available budget meant that when it came to making a video for this week my motivation was zero. I have a couple of other projects going on at the moment and quite frankly I couldn't drag myself away from them. I'd rather being working on the other bits than YouTube.
There hasn't been a week since February 2014 when I haven't uploaded a video and I was almost terrified to miss an upload because all good Creators know that YouTube rewards consistency and regularity. I always post my videos on a Thursday night so they're available on Friday morning around the world. This week I couldn't bring myself to do it. I put it off all week until Thursday night, my deadline, and still I couldn't do it.
I'd passed the point of no return. I'd missed a week. I'd quit YouTube.
Or had I? I'm not hugely driven by money when it comes to YouTube as it is, or was, something I enjoy doing, but as I've previously said, I do need some budget to maintain the quality of my videos.
There are however a couple of things that are spurring me on to continue. First is my goal of hitting 100k subscribers, which would entitle me to a silver play button, a kind of congratulation plaque that YouTube give to those who hit this threshold. It may sound silly but if I was awarded one of these play buttons it would be one of my proudest accomplishments in life. I'm not actually that far off, I could achieve it within a year.
Secondly is my audience. It was playing on my mind that I ended last week's video by saying "I'll be back next Friday, have a good week." I couldn't vanish without a explanation or reason.
So, on Friday I started to reconsider and ended up shooting a video at lunch and editing it as quickly as I could after work. So I did manage to get a video online on Friday as usual, albeit in the dying hours of the day. But, it was probably the worst video I've ever made.
It got a couple of comments straight away like "this is amazing" and "first comment," blah blah meaningless crap. But one comment really cut through. It read, "I appreciate you're trying something new, but this video didn't really seem very humorous. It wasn't whimsical and lacked goofy grammar mistakes and fanciful ‘ingrediments.' Keep trying though, you've made some silly (awesome) videos in the past."
They were spot on. The video did lack everything that makes my videos different. I always think that the kids that watch my videos don't get my jokes and only like them because they think the potions and magic is real. But, I guess even if the silly words and double-meanings are going over their head, it still appeals to them, which is why they watch. After all when you look back at movies you used to watch when you're a kid, you find they're packed full of jokes that you didn't get at the time.
You've probably realised that this isn't me saying I almost quit, but now everything is fine and I'm here to stay. This is me saying, I'm on the verge of quitting and I'm struggling to find a way to make my channel work on the available budget.
Perhaps this new strand of content has failed because of my underlying negativity. Maybe I need a break and a reboot... but will YouTube punish me for a lack of consistency if I do take a break? Can I find a way to produce humorous videos that are whimsical and include the goofy grammar mistakes that my audience are familiar with on a shoestring budget?
It's kind of heartbreaking to be honest, not because I'm loosing money... because I'm not, most of the cash I earned I put back into my channel. It's heartbreaking because there are 76k people who've clicked the subscribe button that I'm letting down and YouTube was a creative outlet that I really enjoyed having.
So right now, I don't know the state of my channel. A week from now, next Friday, maybe things will be different. I clearly need to have a good think.