Looking at the Problem of Small Creators on YouTube

Felix Kjellberg, also known as Pewdiepie, garnered a lot of press a few weeks ago when he announced that he’d be deleting his YouTube channel after getting 50 million subscribers. Felix, the most subscribed user on the platform, has earned plenty of revenue from ads on his videos, but has also had a number of complaints against YouTube.

Some of the complaints involve suggested videos, which can account for a large percentage of new viewers. But Felix asserts that the algorithms for suggested videos have been changed to award videos that get more clicks, “clickbait” essentially. YouTube has not specifically published their algorithms for what content is recommended, though anecdotal evidence suggests that some people aren’t happy with what they’re suggested.

Felix, who’s main channel now sits at 51 million subscribers, has deleted his second, alternate channel. He had no plans to delete his main channel, as that’s a significant source of his revenue. His protest was muted by practicality, although the headlines he generated should as has led to a discussion of content creation on the Internet.

He’s beholden to YouTube and their algorithm changes. As he isn’t running his own video server and website, he is not as independent as possible. At the same time, the platform has allowed him to earn the vast amount of subscribers and views that he has. The video of him deleting his channel has accumulated 24 million views at this point, an audience that would be hard to obtain organically.

Small creators on YouTube can have a tough time getting started, the biggest problem of which is revenue. Channels can start out with dozens or hundreds of views. A small change can cripple these creators.

When YouTube first started out, there were numerous examples of experimental videos from independent creators. Yet now many top videos are from the same places you’d see from cable: TV clips, movie trailers, and commercials. It’s great to see these groups embracing cordcutting, but there’s the cost of shifting attention away from these independent creators. Clickbait videos, with catchy titles and thumbnails, may attract more views but not of good quality.

Hobbyists are limited in time and money, and if they leave the platform viewers will be worse off. Is YouTube going to become the place of #brands, or remain a platform for everyone?

The Internet Creators Guild was formed earlier in the year for these smaller hobbyists to trade best practices and help each other.

There are other ways for hobbyists to stay on the platform. Many of them have started alternative forms of revenue, from simple things like t-shirts and accessories to more direct ways like Patreon. A growing number have been joined these patron services, which allow fans to offer automatic periodic payments to support their craft. This supplemental income can help these creators stay independent and creating great content with less impact from YouTube changes. It can also serve as a springboard for them to aspire to do more.

This holiday season, consider donating to a Patreon campaign of your favorite creators. It’ll help them continue to create great content and many have rewards to thank patrons. It could also serve as a neat gift, similar to other forms of gift donations. With your patronage, you can show that you support independent media.

As we enter the next year, let’s look ahead to what kind of content we want to see. Then, let’s do what we can to get it. Though YouTube may continue being used by corporations and brands, it should not dissuade anyone from creating the content they want. As fans and part of their community, we should be a part of their success through patronage and sharing what they make.

Note: we do not have a Patreon or other patronage account.

Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Nick Felker is a student Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Rowan University (C/O 2017) and the student IEEE webmaster. When he's not studying, he is a software developer for the web and Android (Felker Tech). He has several open source projects on GitHub (http://github.com/fleker) Devices: Moto G-2013 Moto G-2015, Moto 360, Google ADT-1, Nexus 7-2013 (x2), Lenovo Laptop, Custom Desktop. Although he was an intern at Google, the content of this blog is entirely independent and his own thoughts.

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