YouTube Changes: Gremlin Enters Pupil Stage

The Gremlin after his pupil stage

YouTube Changes: Phases, Winners, Losers & Gremlins

While preparing for an article for ReelSEO, I happened to be watching Gremlins (1984). I couldn’t help but see the parallels between YouTube changes and the cute and fuzzy Mogwai’s mutating into the entertaining but deadly Gremlins (pictured here). We’re about to see YouTube go “pro” in an extreme form, and that’s one of the biggest changes the video-sharing site has made in its history.

Don’t get me wrong. I like change. Even if it involves some interim puss-oozing pods during the “pupil” stage. And while I mourn for my RIP and decaying fellow independent creators (and my own channel), I am excited to see how YouTube/Google becomes a cable network despite the significant battles by studios, networks and serious content producers. It’s inevitable progress… even though I’ll miss the community (but they’re there somewhere, right?).

This post will be somewhat jumbled since my thoughts for the ReelSEO piece are still sorting themselves out. I would also value some input from people who’ve been watching YouTube’s transitions even more closely than me.

Some facts & phases of YouTube’s evolution (with considerable help from Urgo6667‘s ugly but robust SocialBlade data repository)

  • Phase 1: YouTube in the 2009-2010 placed considerable emphasis on an exclusive and select pool of YouTube Partners. These independent content creators were rewarded with preferred placement throughout the site (driving views), advanced channel features, and premium monetization (sharing the income from higher yield advertisements from brands that feared consumer-generated content).
  • Phase 2: Just as some governments reportedly destabilize other countries by introducing currency, the income caused new behaviors. As Archfiend laments in this video, the advertising income helped fuel desperate habits like faking thumbnail images, begging for comments and asking for 5 stars or thumbs up.
  • Phase 3: YouTube, once the home of free speech and cat videos, began to become increasingly commercial. Once subtle ads soon blanketed the homepage. Optional prerolls became mandatory. The lines blurred between popular content and what was “featured” (based on advertising dollars or preferential content placement for select creators).
  • Phase 4: Some prolific YouTube pioneers left the site jaded. These include Renetto, Pipistrello, and Comedian SeanBedlam (see his frustrated video posted in August announcing he’s quitting).
  • Phase 5: As a great magician distracts you from his slight of hand, YouTube introduced the NextUp program. It gave $35K checks to a new crop of YouTube Partners to fuel their content.
  • Phase 6: Now YouTube is going after cable and investing $100 million in professional content

But as 2011 progressed, YouTube changes resulted in views spread out in cryptic ways. Some YouTube channels have taken significant hits from these changes in which videos appear in powerful areas such as search results, “related videos” and “spotlights.”

I’ve shared my own sharp decline since September (in October I averaged 64% fewer views then 3 months ago), but this chart from once-popular HotForWords tells a typical story…

HotforWords decline is happening to many once-vibrant content creators

Fall of Pioneers… The decline of solo creators is not unlike the fate of Indie singers online… as viewers shifted to mainstream content that arrived late to the party. But check out some non-trivial examples:

  • TheStation, which was launched by top YouTubers, went from more than 272,000 views October 2010 to under 110,000 in October 2011.
  • Smosh, one of the most subscribed channels, is down 94% last month relative to 6 and 3 months ago. They were once the darlings of YouTube with frequent sponsors.
  • SMPFilms, an early pioneer of YouTube meetups, is down 56% from 6 months ago… getting about 63,000 views currently (the drop is almost identical to the decline of Google’s channel on YouTube). MysteryGuitarMan (MGM) took a similar hit, and so did MediocreFilms.
Obviously there are few caveats to these declines:
  • Some (but a minority) of the decline could be the creator’s diminished productivity. For instance I posted less frequently. But this seems unlikely given that MGM and Smosh are still rolling out new videos that get significant views.
  • The decline is, perhaps, simply a return to normal. Most Partners saw a dramatic “artificial” lift in monthly views that were not dependent on their new content. In effect YouTube throttled creators and then stopped.
  • More than 50% of my own views comes from related videos. Some of that might be based on an algorithm that attaches similar videos, and that’s presumably less likely to change. But YouTube may continue to “throttle” my videos as related videos, meaning I’ve got further room to drop. Here’s hoping the Wizards of Al don’t decide to beat me down again for this post.
So where’d all the views go? And why my lip all bufted up?
  • YouTube has not seen a decline in viewers, so the views are being spread out to the new “mini Partners” and other creators.
  • Here are some of the fastest-growing Channels according to SocialBlade analysis: Vevo (which took a 1900% growth relative to 3 months ago), HollywoodTV, StanfordUniversity, and PlayStation with a remarkable 500K views a month.
  • Stay tuned… working with Urgo I might publish a list of the biggest losers/gainers.
Thoughts? Observations? Insights? Bring ’em. And thanks mystery man (you know who you are).
WVFF remembers YouTube solo artists, represented by Gizmo... 2006-2011

YouTube Offers Advances for Scheduled Content

Content creators and currators are getting six and seven figure “advances” from Google/YouTube, reports the Wall Street Journal. YouTube allegedly is planning to schedule content starting in 2012, and topics range from fashion to sports (I’m guessing travel, cooking and “how-to” are among them).

Let’s look at how this works, and then what it means to independent creators that are not being bombarded with YouTube/Google checks.

Here’s how it would work: Howcast, a creator of instructional-videos, would collect a series around, say, planning the perfect vacation. The company gets a big ass check (advance), and nothing else until the ad revenue (from ads adjacent to the content) surpasses that big-ass advance. Then, like traditional YouTube Partners, the ad revenue is split almost 50/50 between YouTube/Google and Howcast. Howcast, which traditionally pays creators a “flat” fee (a couple hundred per episode) makes the difference. Not too shabby.

The WSJ reports that dozen “channels” are in the works, and that YouTube has requested some content for the channels within the next 60 days for a 2012 launch.

This marks a significant shift in YouTube’s evolution. YouTube, which has taken great care to call itself a “platform,” is now playing the role of a network by funding content and “slotting” it for scheduled and premium visibility.

What does this mean to independent creators?

  • Mostly it’s a shift away from independent creators, which is consistant with the past year or so.
  • However if it brings more mainstream viewers (and presumably frequent and predictable viewers), it’s another way to get your related videos seen (in “watch” pages).
  • A better approach would be to package your independent creation in the format being popularized. Even if Google/YouTube doesn’t track you down with a few hundred thousand, you’ll be ready to be dropped into this scheduled series when the bar drops.
YouTube Dials Down Spontaneity, Raises Volume of Scheduling

YouTube’s New Year’s Resolutions

Hi. I'm YouTube. I'm a little drunk, but here are my New Year's Resolutions. Dude I love you.

Hi. I’m YouTube. I’ve never spoken before, so forgive me if I sound like a computer. I having been designed by engineers not ‘creative people’ with sub-par GPAs. I wasn’t made by the sales and marketing people who, in college, cheated off those who programmed me. Sorry- that came out wrong. That takes me to my New Year’s Resolutions, and I’m a little buzzed right now. So I’m going to write this down and so I remembering it tomorrow.

I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job in 2010, but I’m not perfect. No machine, much less you humans, is. I’ve got some things to improve in 2011. So now let me getting started.

In 2011 I'm going to be nice to agency people despite their GPAs
  1. I’m going to stop being a dick to agencies. I didn’t realize that online video, unlike paid search, isn’t exactly a self-serve checkout lane at the grocery store. You’re going to totally think this is funny, but I thought you agency people were just idiots spending my customer’s money. Seriously. I realize now you idiots actually add some value. Or at least you’re influencing where brands spend money online, despite your small brains and Madison Avenue bullshit. I know Yahoo and AOL’s media sales representatives are totally more hot than my human selling people, but I hope you’ll give us a second chance. We got off on the wrong foot. Let’s be friends and drink martinis or sangrias or whatever you do to mask the putrid scent of failed dreams or quell your pent-up artistic aspirations. Cheers!
  2. Baby New Year looks like a love child from Swiss Miss and Chucky. Who's with me?

    I’m going to stop acting like a stoned teenager. Don’t get me wrong, I like those teenagers. I’m not a perv or anything… it’s just that they binge on my video like Alcoholic’s Anonymous noobs suck down cigarettes! I know I made an indelible first impression with most of you. Probably when you hear my name (hey, YouTube!) you generally think of either some ripped SNL skit, or Pandas crapping on skateboard toilets. In my defense, when Google bought me, I tried to just give people the crap they wanted. And oh you humans like your crap. This shizzle worked for search. But then, like “black hat” search-engine optimization trolls, some real crappy video got top billing. And it kinda got stuck in what my Master calls an “infinite loop.” It got stuck in an infinite loop. An infinite loop. Anyway, I didn’t really adjust well for broader audiences. I now realize there are people who will watch online video that agree this dude is a douche, and frankly I can’t sell even diet ads around his vids anyway. S0 I’m working on that. But, dude, I’m not going to become some girly Vimeo artistic local theater or anything. I’m also going to leave the booby videos to the peeps in Tel Aviv. Seriously if you know of any real online-video sites that are doing it right, please let me know. I’ll copy them, acquire them, or destroy them… whatever it takes to be a man.

  3. I don't know what love feels like, but check out this Asian robot. Is she hawt?

    I’m going to be more humane. My programmers are teaching me to be like humans. While they haven’t compiled the code for what you evolved apes call “love” and “empathy,” Master has taught me ways to simulate the job of a broadcast programmer without the Marhals suits and Scotch. In 2009 and even some of 2010, a few dozen “wanna-be stars” totally troll-hacked me into thinking their videos were good. I’m onto them. I am beginning to develop predictable logic about this thing you call “non-suck-ass” video. I’m going to start pimping videos that are “good like.” On my road to being and overtaking humans, please forgive me for occasionally making some stupid video popular or burying something half decent.

  4. I realize I need to be more than a search-engine. Over the past few years I was trying to kiss Google’s ass (it’s my Master). So I was all OCD about video search, while also trying to “thin the Hurl herd” of original YouTube doob heads. Now I realize that this online-video space is uncomfortably different from paid search. People may stick around and watch crap, and I can make a few bucks jamming pre-rolls down their throats and charge really low CPMs and make money. I owe it to you to be more than a map. I need to be the the navigation system, destination and “thing that wouldn’t leave.” If you have unbastardized free time I’ve failed you. I know half of my views are for music videos, but I want to be more than a free jute box to you.
  5. I’m going to stop jamming bottom-feeder pre-rolls at people. During that last point I realized I probably shouldn’t serve crappy CPM pre-rolls, but go for fewer and more relevant ads. Then I can charge a lot more. My Master told me that one day I too may create a bidding war over my advertising space, so it commands its actual worth. Then, with patience, I can start bidding careless media buyers against each other, and charge a super premium. Oh shit, I forgot about my first resolution. Forget that last point. Anyway my Master doesn’t pay a lot of attention to me because I’m kinda like the Coke machine at the casino, but one day I’m going to be His favorite. You’ll see.
  6. I made him. I can destroy him.

    I’m going to democratize content. I’ve totally played favorites lately with a few asswipe amateurs. I’ve made a few people temporary millionaires who will be bussing tables and driving Geek Squad vans again soon. A dozen or so people make $100K plus a year. This year I’m going to try to spread the wealth better, and see if I can cultivate better relationships with people who don’t just rally fan bases but actually have something watchable. I’m not talking about those shitty subtitled foreign films or anything, but I’m going to let a few brains on stage. I’ll start with Alf reruns.

  7. I’m going to stop being a dick to networks and producers. I realize I’ve not helped you promote and sell your own ads, and I’m totally going to change all of that this totally completely this year pinky promise. It’s a top priority even though it was like the 7th thing that came to mind. But let’s face it. Who needs whom more? Or as you advertising people say, “who needs who more?”
  8. I’m going to exercise and start eating well. I’m totally kidding about that. Just busting your balls. I’m going to get fatter and lazier because I’m practically a monopoly. I can apologize for being me, but I’m not going to mean it.
  9. android droid cartoon darth vader vador head
    All distribution channels will be almost as equal as my Master

    I’m really going to work on distribution BFFs. You’ve got to admit I’m a happening Hip Hop bar. But like Starbucks jamming Via into grocery stores, you’ll find me wherever you go. Let’s face it, most people have been coming to me to watch videos, but I’m really, really, really trying to be a platform not some lame-ass portal like AOL or Yahoo or Bling or whatever. I know I’ve been saying that, like, every year. But this year’s going to be different. But can you blame me for not getting my nips all hard over the 127 people using TiVos and AppleTVs? And I don’t even hear iTunes and iPads claiming “do no evil,” much living up to it. Anyway, this year I totally promise — if you’ve got, like, more than maybe a thousand people viewing videos on your stupid little phone, web-video box or elevator kiosk… I’ll pay attention to you. You can have the goods, and I don’t just mean the old “suck on my API or embed.” But let’s make a deal here. Don’t pull any flash cock-blockers or start shouting monopoly crap (because we’ll kick you in your net neutralities). If you’re really nice I’ll even allow you dumbass telephone companies to shit out some pre-rolls via me, and I’ll share a tiny bit of money with you. I mean nobody’s going to buy them, but I’ll try. My Master’s Droid is first in line of course. But our dance floor is huge, so the VIP entrance is the front door. Let’s party! Who else thinks Mark Cuban is a douche bag? YEAH!

  10. Lastly, the viewer comes first. I’m totally going to do right by the viewer and that’s why I saved it for my big finish. Master has taught me my priorities. After bold land-grabbing innovation, vigilant legal, and revenue building, the customer always comes first.
youtube nerd
Lastly, viewers come first

Exclusive: How Much Money YouTube Partners Make

{Update from 2013 reveals YouTube stars making $4 million plus per year}

How much do YouTube stars make each year? Oh for goodness sakes. Just like my same 5 YouTube videos (see right column of channel page here) represent the majority of my online views… It seems that most of WillVideoForFood’s blog traffic comes from people searching for how much YouTubers make. If you’re curious, read on. If you want to make big bucks, buy my book first. You’ll still be facing tough odds, but at least you’ll wander into the jungle equipped with some survival tools.


We YouTube “Partners” (or “stars” as I hate saying) are all contractually forbidden to share our revenue. But I’ve given hints and clues over time. For those of you who Googled your way here, I’m both a marketer/advertiser and a creator/YouTuber, so that gives me two lenses into this Da Vinci-Code like mystery. Davinci made me think of “Da Bears.”

I’d estimate there are have at least a few dozen YouTube Partners earning $100K per year. That’s great money if you’re in your 20s or 30s and have minimal costs in production or overhead (like 4 kids and a horrific mortgage). But it’s a rounding error for a professional content creator or network.

To calculate a particular Parner’s income, here are some tips:

  • You basically take the Partner’s total views for the month, multiply it by a fraction of a penny, and you have a rough idea. TubeMogul‘s Marketplace shows some of the most-viewed people (and their monthly views). But remember: the most-subscribed are not necessarily most-viewed and vice versa. YouTube doesn’t give a hoot how many subscribers you have (although that certainly helps drive views, but increasingly it seems less powerful than being a “related video”). In general, the commercial content is getting more daily views but the amateurs have a lock on subscribers.
  • Most ads are placed by advertisers based on total 1K views, but some is on a per-click basis (CPC text ads placed by Google Adwords/Adsense). Google/YouTube is usually paid by an agency or media buyer a CPM (cost per thousand, say between $5 and $25 dollars per thousand views), then shares some of that with the creator. This can be highly misleading, because:
    • Some views earn nothing (if they’re embedded and no ad follows it).
    • And increasingly advertisers are paying a high premium for specific content they commission, target, or hand select. Sometimes this might average a few bucks and others it might be much higher… $25 CMP was the published rate of InVideo ads and I know of specific integrated campaigns that command a higher premium from YouTube. Yey!
  • Another confounding variable: potty-mouthed creator turns away advertisers. So watch the ads on your Partner for a while. Are they premium InVideo ads with accompanying display (square) ads? Or are they garbage Adwords/Adsense ads?
  • The text ads may SOMETIMES be paid on a per-click basis, which can make them fruitless or profitable depending on people clicking and buying the advertiser’s product (the latter must occur, or a savvy advertiser will quickly stop the campaign that’s raping them of click dollars and not generating business). I was telling my YouTube buds to turn these off because they’re ugly and don’t make much money, but a few of them gave me a stern stare like they knew otherwise. So whatever… maybe they make money and maybe they don’t. I don’t get a breakdown on them, and they’re still ugly.
  • Then you have to factor in “sponsored videos,” where a YouTuber promotes a product or service for a flat fee (or variable based on views) via Hitviews or related companies. That can easily be more than YouTube shells out per month for ad sharing. The going rate here is incredibly wide: from $1K to $20K and higher per video.

So in conclusion:

  1. Do your own math using monthly views on TubeMogul and assuming some CPM (cost per thousand), but recognize YouTube takes a cut and some of the advertising inventory isn’t sold or is driven by keyword Google adsense text thingies. Maybe the creator/partner gets a few bucks per thousand views and maybe more or less.
  2. Use some of the assumptions above to calibrate your estimate if you’re trying to peak into the W-9s of your favorite “Stars” like Fred. There are now dozens of popular YouTube people that make a full-time living on YouTube revenue, and I’d guess a lot of $50K-$100K per year people. I am not among the full-timers. With a family of 6, I gotta have a day job too. But Shaycarl, Sxephil, Charles Trippy, Michael Buckley and many more… they’re full-time at this. If I was making the bucks I’m making via YouTube after college, I’d probably go full-time too. Fred? Let’s just say he’s got college covered, or a nice nest-egg.
  3. Before you get excited (or jealous), it’s a long haul to cashville. And if you start with the hope of making money, you’re doomed. You need to LOVE it, and be extremely patient as the road to loads of views is tougher to climb, and requires an ass-load of persistence. Start as a hobby and “just keep swimming.”
  4. Finally, there are two forces at odds that impact the sustainability of this revenue for YouTube amateurs. First, we’ll probably see continued competition from more professionally-produced content that fetches higher ad dollars because it feels safer to squeamish media buyers (see, I’m not calling them all dense anymore… only the ones that don’t read this vlog). But the good news is that dollars are projected to grow dramatically. Currently, as a marketer, I’d argue that YouTube is selling itself short.

How’s that? About as specific I can be without breaking my contract or confidence from my friends.

I know some of you peeps know more than I do, so feel free to comment below anonymously or not. Da bears.

The Difference Between YouTube’s Amateur and Professional Content

What’s the primary difference between an amateur on YouTube and a professional creator? Not the production quality or style, silly. It’s the viewership.

As you see below, the most-viewed partners are almost entirely professional. Yet the most-subscribed people are almost all amateurs.

It’s a simple point, but important one: Don’t think subscriptions will necessarily lead to views or views will automatically lead to subscriptions. Unless you’re TheStation.

Most-Viewed YouTube Channels
Most-Viewed YouTube Channels

Most-Subscribed YouTube Partners
Most-Subscribed YouTube Partners

How to Update Your YouTube Channel Page to New Beta Look

How to secretly upgrade to the new YouTube channel beta.

Here’s the link to upgrade your partner channel to the “secret” new one in beta.

What we like:

  • It keeps people within your videos and channel page as they browse (instead of dragging them around)
  • It has some nice ways of separating your recent content from your best content (via playlists)
  • It’s prettier, even if it’s a bit “Hulu” like

What we don’t like (and why we chose to keep ours on the old one):

  • It’s hard to get to your most recent videos, sorted by date
  • Some of the special playlist boxes receive less attention
  • The description of your content is tucked below the fold

Here’s a blog with more. What do you like/not like? Hey- it’s in beta. Gotta give ’em some feedback, right?

picture-21picture-31

Another YouTube Myth Debunked: “Best Rated” Videos Get Views?

highest rated video of weekI made a spoof video last week called “Why You Should Rate” that was designed to point out a little YouTube myth. People think that a highly rated video with lots of comments means that they’ll get views. To further illustrate the point, the video itself is one of YouTube’s “top 20” highest rated videos of the week, and has about 7,000 views. Contrast that with my recent “Snake in a Pool,” which has no “honors” and 100,000 plus views.

While I’m too lazy to disprove this “ratings = views” myth via statistical analysis, I would invite a high school student to take this on as an independent project. Further, they could analyze the correlation between total duration and total views to identify the theoretically ideal video length. The time that optimizes views (I’m betting on 75-90 seconds). There’s plenty of public data to help here, and I’d love to publish the findings.

While it’s true that a video resulting in lots of comments also often gets lots of views, the comments and views are not directly related. It’s likely the video topic’s  high impact and/or controversial nature that causes other things: views, comments and ratings (although it’s possible that videos ranking high on these ratings are rewarded with preferred placement on the YouTube’s “promoted videos” homepage section to balance the paid videos that sneak there… and that would result in a second wave of views).

Very few people surf YouTube’s ranked videos on a regular basis. So while the “highest rated” or “most viewed” of all time is almost impossible to dethrone, the daily and weekly honors are little more than ego feeders. The sustainability of a YouTuber is a function of good content, fresh material, a balance of consistency with variety, creator adaptability (I’ll call the Madonna reinvention factor), and a loyal audience that is satisfied enough to watch and share the content with friends.

In theory, a highly rated video would be highly viewed. But in fact the highly viewed videos are often one-hit wonders that pop outside YouTube and therefore have lots of views by innactive YouTube viewers- those that don’t tend to comment or rate. It’s also true that what we watch isn’t necessarily what we like. Would you rate a highway accident 5 stars? Nope. Would you look?

So where am I going with this post? The same place I went with this video, which is artificially ranked in the league of HappySlip, Smosh, KevJumba, The Onion, College Humor, and even the Retarded Policeman. Heck I even topped the inexplicably popular “Fred” and one of the”very funny cats” videos.

In the end, I like the creative experience of YouTube, the people with whom I interact in various ways, the videos that don’t suck, and the revenue subsidy (aka debt-relief fund). But assessing yourself based on subscribers, honors and other proxies to faux fame is fools gold, friend. Shiny and perty, but it will just sink you when you try to swim from the shipwreck. And that’s a mixed metaphor you can take to the bank on your horse that you lead to water in a stitch in time.

YouTube Now Advertising Free!

youtube advertising cancelled

 Well it’s been a week or so since I’ve seen an Invideo ad on YouTube. I’m not aware of a public statement regarding what is allegedly a technical issue.

My new banner is “Nalts: Now With No Advertising.” And I’m still posting away…

At least the subliminal ads are still running (see YouTube Picks).