Slave to the algorithm
September 12, 2018 3:20 AM   Subscribe

 
I imagine YouTube cares as little for its creators as it does for its audience members. As long as the cash rolls in from advertisers, the product (ie the people) is utterly interchangeable. “There’s more where that came from” is a prime slogan of capitalism.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:32 AM on September 12 [46 favorites]


On the upside: no more PewDiePie.
posted by flabdablet at 3:56 AM on September 12 [56 favorites]


The "became deeply bleak" article features Matt Lees, a man I've been a fan of for a long time, largely as he rails against the hatefulness and pettiness of so much of modern media. You can see it, and his attempts to right his biochemical ship, on his channel, where his most recent non-update videos are absurdist 30-minute-long anti-hyper machines, and his other series "Best Game Ever", where he just... talks positively about games he likes. All while taking care of his extremely sick wife.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:59 AM on September 12 [15 favorites]


This is all I ever wanted. And why the fuck am I so unfucking unhappy? It - It doesn’t make any sense. You know what I mean? Because, like, this is literally my fucking dream. And I’m fucking so unfucking happy. It doesn’t make any fucking sense. It’s so stupid. It is so stupid.
That point right there, where the penny drops and you work out that the things you've been led to expect will make you happy, and the things that actually do, are not in general the same things? That's a fairly pivotal point.
posted by flabdablet at 4:04 AM on September 12 [75 favorites]


"This is all I’ve ever wanted. Why am I so unhappy?"

A therapist may be able to help.
posted by parki at 4:08 AM on September 12 [11 favorites]


This was always an unhealthy culture that involved both fans and creators shoring up their sense of self with shallow interactions masquerading as intimate ones. It's inevitable that at least some people will discover how limited that form of satisfaction is.
posted by Miko at 4:27 AM on September 12 [47 favorites]


> "On the upside: no more PewDiePie."
On the downside: Nazis will keep using it to gather supporters & converts, not money.

(Right now I'm a little torn about YT - because, despite not being much of a YouTube-watcher and despising the whole 'monetisation' culture there, I've been seriously considering making some hobby-related videos. Not for the money - the subject, audience, and style I'm thinking of all work against YT monetisation - but because all bar 1 or 2 of the current regulars on the subject bore me to tears. And I figure that if I feel that way, there must be other people who want to watch videos that hit that middle ground between "over-excited idiot gibbering shit for 5 minutes" and "boring monotone being extremely knowledgeable for 1¾ hours"…)
posted by Pinback at 4:30 AM on September 12 [11 favorites]


Because, like, this is literally my fucking dream

Oh my dear, anything that makes you that unhappy is not your fucking dream. Seriously, find another dream.
posted by jontyjago at 4:31 AM on September 12 [5 favorites]


Have yet to dig in, but don’t discount the agony of powerlessness in being at the mercy of an algorithm in a single platform for your living. When it’s wrapped up in your social identity too...I mean that’s got to be exponentially more stressful.

Feeling trapped and powerless is how you get trauma. It’s one of the reasons unions are necessary. Platforms like YouTube and Amazon have made organizing for creators essentially impossible, so...regulation is where it’s at.

But I wouldn’t count on it, not for a long time.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:34 AM on September 12 [26 favorites]


All the ails of celebrity with barely any of its perks. It's been a bullshit agreement since reality shows became a viable cottage industry. Even top-tier celebs can barely cope, and they're the ones whose lifestyles have managed to organically develop and fund the support needed, haphazard though it may be.

Related, Lindsay Ellis just posted a video about cultivated authenticity for clicks.
posted by cendawanita at 4:41 AM on September 12 [54 favorites]


I was really hoping that the ones burning out would be the ones spreading hate on there.
posted by peppermind at 4:48 AM on September 12 [6 favorites]


There seems to be a distinction to be made about people who produce YouTube content. On one hand you have the 'I love (restoring lawnmowers/breeding geckos/sculpting anthropomorphic teapots)' crowd, and then you have the 'I make my living through YouTube talking about X' people.

The former have a life outside YouTube, but love making engaging videos about the things they enjoy. It's clear that they'd be doing what they're doing with or without YouTube. They enjoy the attention more out of a sense that other people are sharing their enthusiasm about something than as a personal thing. These people don't have a schedule, don't overly rely on subscribers, and generally come across as happy, enthusiastic people. If it all gets too much, they just go back to what they enjoy, and post content less often, until they feel they're at a point where they simply must share something with the world again.

When your entire raison d'YouTube is to monetise your life and gain Kudos, you're just a low-level celebrity.

In a way it's the old 'famous for a reason' vs. 'famous for being famous' dichotomy. The former have always been happier. It's a conversation I've been having with my 8-year-old, who would love nothing more at this moment than to be a famous YouTuber.
posted by pipeski at 4:49 AM on September 12 [69 favorites]


It feels like this topic is blowing up right now, so I wanna share some related stuff that goes deeper into the issue.

First of all Reply All podcast episode 125 "All My Pets", produced by Shruthi Pinnamaneni shows the effect of YouTube celebrity culture on "creators" and fans, and specifically the experience of one vlogger, Taylor Nicole Dean. It's kind of a "Fear and Loathing" voyage into a dark place.

Secondly, YouTube channel StrucciMovies is diving deep via video-essays into the concept of "para-social relationships", which describes the relationship between many vloggers and their fans. Fake Friends Part 1 (20 minutes) introduces the concept. Fake Friends Part 2 (2 hours!!) dives much deeper, and has a lot to say about YouTuber jacksepticeye, who also seems to have been coasting to a mental breakdown, if he hasn't officially done so yet.

It seems to me that YouTube vloggers become celebrities, but unlike Hollywood actors, they aren't renowned for a performance or skill, but for "being themselves". And they don't have the protection of an agent, corporation, or any education on how to separate their identity and life from their fans. Their fans, thus, eat them alive. And Google skims profit off the top.
posted by sixohsix at 4:50 AM on September 12 [51 favorites]


Wait, jacksepticeye and PewDiePie are not the same guy?

Mind. Blown.
posted by flabdablet at 4:55 AM on September 12


On the upside: no more PewDiePie.

There exists pages dedicated to YouTube's new changes 2-(5?) years ago which stated at some open to enough of the public there was a leak meeting that the new changes were aimed at not only PewDiePie but also a Keemstar, Leafy is here and a few others. Learning about what a keemstar is was not a highppoint of that day.

And yea - the product (ie the people) is utterly interchangeable. As long as there are people to point at and say "See, you can be like them!" there will be a swarm of people trying to become that youtube "superstar".
posted by rough ashlar at 5:07 AM on September 12


The thing that turns me off the most about most streams / YT vids is the inevitable interruptions for personal thanks for the follows, the subscriptions, the donations, whatever. It's sick, this culture of stroke-backs, I believe. If I give someone money for doing the thing, I don't want them to stop doing that thing to thank me. I want them to do the thing. Another reason why I'm so uneasy with Patreon. I can make shit, or I can say thank you countless times. I don't get it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:22 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


I can say thank you countless times. I don't get it.

Saying thank you is an interaction element that is low-processing time/effort for the fan interaction. And it can be 100% sincere.

I could say "thanks for your comment" or I could say "Sean - there is an issue at the brother-in-law's home with catclaws getting caught up in his beard. How do you deal with that problem?" Both are interactions with the people who've taken the time to comment. The 2nd one means the creator took the time to go look at someone else's content and either created some bullshit (ok, cat claws was BS) or really has an issue and hopes the other person has an answer. The second way doesn't scale to the level of "I make my money from YouTube." Saying "thanks" is cut and paste-able along with assignable to a trusted 3rd party.

As for sickness - there is plenty of old biology being used in new ways along with even brain wiring changes if a 'new media celeberity' Jodan Harbinger's interview subject Allen Pease is to be believed. I don't have the time index noted where Mr. Pease makes the claim about a drop in the facial recognition section of the brain but it should be there.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:46 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


I'm strangely reminded of why I abandoned being an actress.

At some level, all of these creators wanted to Express Themselves. Youtube videos was a way to do that, and when they put one up, people actually listened. Woo! But then they got so focused on Staying Relevant and trying to Get More Clicks that....they stopped actually Expressing Themselves. They were no longer an artist speaking from themselves, they had become a tool of a machine. And all that energy went to trying to perfect being that tool.

I realized before I graduated from college that the amount of mental and physical work I would have to do even just to be barely competent as a professional actor would make actually being an actor no longer fun. So I stopped - found another thing to do in theater that suited me better, and re-dedicated myself to writing as the way to Express Myself (it was something that was always there anyway). These days I'm very sensitive to that distinction - my blog has taken a movie-review turn, and a friend keeps nagging me to start a Youtube channel and monetize it - or at the very least get onto monetizing my blog. But I know that I would be much happier if I focused on just saying what I want to say, and being slightly indifferent to how many people read it - tell people about it and encourage them to read it, yeah, but don't get too hung up on how many readers I have or advertise it or whatever. I'm saying what I want to say, and if you're interested, great, and maybe you'll tell someone and they'll read it too. If not, no skin off my nose.

I probably won't make any money, but that wasn't the point of Expressing Myself anyway. I suspect a lot of these creators have come to that 'am I doing this to make money or express myself" point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:51 AM on September 12 [37 favorites]


I got to almost 50 videos (one a week) on my life coaching channel before I decided to burn the boats and quit YouTube. I can definitely vouch for the fact that it gets old fast, especially when:

- You are supposed to stick to a strict publishing schedule
- You are thinking about your next video when you're editing and putting together your current video
- You start out with good intentions, but the mere platform itself mutates it into something else
- You make the mistake of trying to monetize it and earn a little bit of folding money from it.

All of this added extra stress, extra divided attention and extra unhappiness.
I deleted a bunch of the less popular videos, turned off monitization on the ones that people seemed to be getting a great deal of good from, turned off the lights and left the building.
I've never been happier (this is also about the time I quit Twitter and Facebook, tangentially) and I have more time to spend with my family and my current crop of clients.
Win win.
I TRULY feel for these people, but I think they have put their ladder against the wrong tree.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:53 AM on September 12 [19 favorites]


There needs to be a YouTuber Union. The only solution to this kind of exploitation is to organize.
posted by rockindata at 5:57 AM on September 12 [11 favorites]


There exists pages dedicated to YouTube's new changes 2-(5?) years ago which stated at some open to enough of the public there was a leak meeting that the new changes were aimed at not only PewDiePie


.....say again?
posted by eustatic at 5:59 AM on September 12 [10 favorites]


The former have a life outside YouTube, but love making engaging videos about the things they enjoy. It's clear that they'd be doing what they're doing with or without YouTube.

The flip side of this is that they are producing a thing that has entertainment value for millions of people who have been taught to treat it as normal and natural that it should be nearly impossible to actually get paid for producing that entertainment. Whether you're using it to make your whole living or not, you're producing labor, and yet people treat it as highly unreasonable that people should expect even minimum wage for the labor in question unless they are one of the best people in the whole field. If you're making a video just because you like whatever it is, there's not something wrong with that, but Youtube as a platform is a commercial enterprise and the people who make its content are doing work.

Youtube and Youtube's audience expect professional-caliber video productions released on an aggressively regular schedule... and also have created this idea that it's greedy or entitled to want to get paid a living wage for that, that it isn't a "real job". Video production is real work, even if those videos are about things that you think are frivolous.
posted by Sequence at 6:00 AM on September 12 [37 favorites]


YouTube pays its creators based on viewtime, not viewcount. This is great for the company in the short term but not so great for the squishy little meatlings who provide it with money-making content in the any term.
posted by BiggerJ at 6:03 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


Related, Lindsay Ellis just posted a video about cultivated authenticity for clicks.

just wanted to shout-out/reinforce how good this video is at digging into the root causes of both burnout and YouTube's larger and unique appeal. plus it's really well produced and incisive, as with all of Lindsay's work

also, this honest and upsetting exchange from her:
I’m a huge fan & yet this thread baffles me. I’m curious how EVERY SINGLE YouTuber “copes” with the toxic atmosphere of YouTube. The reason I am not a YouTuber myself is because I’m sure I can’t “cope” with it. What definition of “cope” are you using?— John Fremer III (@nonaligned) September 9, 2018
Here’s my secret - I do not cope. It poisons me and I internalize it and I’m pretty sure one day it’s going to kill me. https://t.co/Gq8sw1fOx4— LindsYEE Ellis (@thelindsayellis) September 9, 2018
posted by Kybard at 6:07 AM on September 12 [46 favorites]


Platforms that depend on creators to create content on a full time basis but deliberately offer little to no support and make everything dependent on an opaque algorithm (which, honestly, is often a convenient figleaf) are inherently abusive.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t great for some people, or that they aren’t better than what they were replacing. (Amazon self-publishing is far less exploitive and abusive than traditional publishing contracts, for example.)

But they’re still, you know. Exploitive and abusive. And they will continue to be exploitive and abusive until the asymmetrical power dynamic is corrected.

I really hope there are progrsssive think tanks trying to figure out what proper regulation of the tech giants will look like, because if we ever fight our way out of this Nazi timeline and into power, we are going to have to hit the ground running.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:08 AM on September 12 [17 favorites]


I'm watching a parody STNG video, that has both obsessive Trekkie parody AND gamer-wish-fulfillment fantasy parody about "no-scoping the Klingon vessel" from a Science Vessel (LOL) self-produced by a teen on a budget in the teens of dollars, who is atypical in his physical features and speech, and would be mocked for it as as a meme or some other excuse trying to score cheap and worthless internet asshole points.

It's a shame, as it's freakin' hilarious in just the way the artist intended, with a perfect catch phrase as the capstone. I can't share it. Online culture is too relentlessly uncivil and cruel and obsessed with punching down.

Something has to change.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:10 AM on September 12 [9 favorites]


if a 'new media celeberity' Jodan Harbinger's interview subject Allen Pease is to be believed

That thread where we were talking about throwing books across the room, and I said I hadn't done it though I had drowned Dan Brown in the bath? I remember now. I did throw a book across a room once, and it was Allan Pease and Paul Dunn's "Write Language".

I would not believe Allan Pease if he told me water was wet. The man has been a leading expert in the delivery of facile bullshit for decades.
posted by flabdablet at 6:11 AM on September 12 [6 favorites]


Another reason why I'm so uneasy with Patreon. I can make shit, or I can say thank you countless times. I don't get it.

Well, a lot of folks are doing things that are simply not going to be marketable in late stage modern capitalism, or if if they are marketable, the creator doesn't have the access or knowledge necessary to do that. But if they can find fifty people who want to throw them a buck or two, they can continue to put time and energy into something that maybe takes too much of both to really be justifiable as a hobby, but is something they love, because they've found other people who like it and support it.

My current writing project is not a novel, which I can say as some authority, as I have a lot of educational background in the book publishing industry. It is too long and complex. It's a weird serial fiction slice-of-life thing about teenagers in a fantasy world with a relatively slow burning more standard plot in the background, and I'm pretty sure if I had the time and energy I could drop two to five hundred thousand words a year on it. I'm probably five hundred thousand words out from having enough of a complete story that I could even consider trying to edit that bad boy into a regular novel, and I'm not sure I'll like the final result even if I try it. That's an incredible amount of work to do. I love writing it, but with a full time day job and a mortgage and a lot of health problems in my family, sometimes there's weeks I don't even touch it.

And it's so long. What I want to do is going to take so long, like decades. I've barely started. I probably won't ever finish it if I can't figure out how to start devoting more time and energy to it, and thus correspondingly less time and energy to other things, like my shitty dayjob.

A patreon bringing in a little cash would make it so much easier to justify putting the time and energy into the story when I'm at emotional low ebbs, when I might rather just watch TV with my wife or play a video game or something. I would have people outside my own brain putting value on my work. That would, I think, be incredibly motivating.

I also don't really understand Patreon people for whom being thanked by name in a video or something is a motivator. That seems weird to me. When I Patreon I just am content supporting a thing I like.
posted by Caduceus at 6:15 AM on September 12 [13 favorites]


Who cares about YouTube fame when you could be Metafilter famous? YouTube may pay in money, but the cabal has a monopoly on baked bean distribution...

Imagine everything I could do with all those beans...all I want is just a taste of the fame associated with those beans... just a taste of those beans...

Hey, anybody got a good recipe for beans?
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:25 AM on September 12 [8 favorites]


> “There’s more where that came from” is a prime slogan of capitalism.

I would also accept "There's always someone younger and hungrier coming down the stairs after you."
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:26 AM on September 12 [13 favorites]


All of this strikes me as eerily similar to the way casinos manipulate folks into becoming and staying addicted to gambling. "Take the money and run" seems to be a rarely repeated maxim these days, and certainly not anything you'll hear from YouTube (ahem, GOOGLE) or its paid enabler-therapists.

Of course as you get deeper into the process addiction it gets harder to walk away.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:27 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


> That point right there, where the penny drops and you work out that the things you've been led to expect will make you happy, and the things that actually do, are not in general the same things? That's a fairly pivotal point.

That's also capitalism in a nutshell. Maybe they should try purchasing goods and services to alleviate this unhappiness!
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:29 AM on September 12 [9 favorites]


IIRC Jim Sterling lives entirely on Patreon (aside from the occasional video that gets forcibly monetized); it'd be interesting to compare his experience to that of these people who rely on YouTube itself to promote them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:30 AM on September 12 [4 favorites]


Whether you're using it to make your whole living or not, you're producing labor, and yet people treat it as highly unreasonable that people should expect even minimum wage for the labor in question unless they are one of the best people in the whole field.

This is far from unique to youtube. This is basically how modern society treats all creative endeavors (and by modern I mean certainly predating youtube's existence). I can't recall the last time I was paid as a performing musician beyond expenses (and expenses is rare enough). Same deal for writers (you want to be paid for your fanfic??) and visual artists. The top flight can get paid. Everyone else can do one, ie do it for exposure (or in the case of music, even pay to play).
posted by Dysk at 6:32 AM on September 12 [20 favorites]


Amazon self-publishing is far less exploitive and abusive than traditional publishing contracts, for example.

Mmmyyyyeahhhh, but in that sphere, people end up chasing the Amazon algorithms and the whims of the reading public instead of the YouTube algorithms and the whims of the watching public. IMO, the worlds are not dissimilar. There are options to diversify beyond the 'Zon, but then, I see YouTubers begging their viewers to watch them on other streaming platforms, too.

I'm an analogue of one of those cheery hobbyists talking about their collections, in that I make very little money writing books I love. Other self-publishers were vicious to me (snob! precious! sellout! you don't have the hustle, you're not smart like us!), and Amazon's certainly not here to help me, as I am the grist and not the miller.

My point is, YouTube is an example of a mess that stretches 'round the internet. Ask an artist on Tumblr about people who expect free work, too. Maybe the expectation of free #content is the problem - but then, if everything costs money, lots of people get shut out. Double-edged sword of the internet age, perhaps.
posted by cage and aquarium at 6:47 AM on September 12 [8 favorites]


Mmmyyyyeahhhh, but in that sphere, people end up chasing the Amazon algorithms and the whims of the reading public instead of the YouTube algorithms and the whims of the watching public. IMO, the worlds are not dissimilar

Yes, that was part of my (poorly made) point. Amazon is, in this narrow respect, better than what came before it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t abusive or exploitive. It is.

(Still waaaaay better than what came before it though.)
posted by schadenfrau at 6:51 AM on September 12 [1 favorite]


sixohsix's comment about YouTube people being famous for "being themselves" reminds me of Natalie Wynn'x recent talk at XOXO. She makes ContraPoints, and talked in detail about the personal stress of putting yourself out there and then being criticized. Because it's you being criticized, your authentic self. Her solution has been to create a series of fictional personas that she acts as, caricatures of herself and other people, as a sort of emotional armor to have some distance between herself and her critics.
posted by Nelson at 6:56 AM on September 12 [21 favorites]


Charge people.
If they won't pay then it's not a real job or a job you will be doing in the long term.
See also samurai sword makers, monocle polishers, hovercraft pilots. The tale of people with a previously higher income being stressed at their newer, lower and more precarious income as the world changes around them is as old as time.
posted by Damienmce at 6:59 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


I have a few artists that I follow, and I've just now realized that the ones I watch the most have the camera focused on the piece, and I have no idea what these artists look like. I could guess gender, if pressed, but it's not relevant to the work, so...

I don't think any of those channels are monetized, and they have views in the hundreds or thousands vs millions, I think they all broadcast because they love doing art, and showing other people how to do art.

I learned how to make soap from Appalachian women, using traditions as old as soap itself. I had an opportunity to study soap making with the Nablus soap makers, who have been making soap in the same location since the Romans invaded Palestine.

I would love to pass on that knowledge, and seeing the artists who create content while themselves remaining unseen and anonymous has made me consider doing a youtube channel, but I just never have the time to learn how to use the platform, or how to record something good enough that people can actually see what I'm doing. Some of the youtubers have such high production values that there must be a metric ton of money spent on equipment just to broadcast.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:05 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


My wife became an "online personality" in the early 2000's when she and her friends started the Craft Mafia movement and her online DIY shop sparklecraft.com became an example of "the DIY internet to come". She's been interviewed by countless magazines and been on I don't know how many TV appearances and co-hosted a TV show that ran for 2 years on the DIY network. In 2010 she totally abandoned her website and online "brand" because she saw where it was going and it was making her absolutely miserable even then.

Listening to her talk about her experiences I have learned that online "fame" is misery. It has been for a long damn time and now we're just gamifying that further in a way that serves capitalism and further fucks the content creators. It sucks to see gamification turn into a tool for fucking people over. But that's how capitalism rolls I suppose, and the internet has become completely in hock to it and there's no buying ourselves out of this virtual pawn shop we're mired in.

I listen to her talk about that time, and I see how it's gotten worse and my heart goes out to people who get starstruck by this. My son even has these notions and my wife and I try our damndest to explain to him that no, this is really not a way to enjoy life.
posted by nikaspark at 7:10 AM on September 12 [24 favorites]


Charge people.
If they won't pay then it's not a real job or a job you will be doing in the long term.
See also samurai sword makers, monocle polishers, hovercraft pilots. The tale of people with a previously higher income being stressed at their newer, lower and more precarious income as the world changes around them is as old as time.


The problem is that the reason that people won't pay is because they are being told that they shouldn't have to pay, by a major corporation that benefits monetarily from devaluing creative labor. This is why the current caterwailing from the usual suspects over Articles 11 and 13 is especially obnoxious - if you look at what both are doing, you can see that the EU is trying to force Alphabet to actually play fair with content creators, because right now it uses its power to control the relationship in its favor.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:23 AM on September 12 [14 favorites]


Last night my wife showed me one of the "suggestions for you" that popped up in her Instagram feed; it was one of those idealized family things with a dash of "sexy fitness mom" that exist only for product placements. It made me sad...sad for the couple who decided for whatever reason to try and monetize a simulacrum of their private lives, sad for the young children in the family who are being exploited in ways they don't understand and cannot consent to, sad for the people who actually find value (entertainment or otherwise) in Content like this, and sad for the society which gave rise to it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:24 AM on September 12 [7 favorites]


And then there's the DaddyOFive saga, in which they had some of their kids taken away from them, and are STILL trying to game the YouTube system to make money.
Good fucking grief.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 7:36 AM on September 12 [6 favorites]


There is an undercurrent running through these stories that I’d like to see highlighted a little more: The supposedly meritocratic[1] market of attention that is YouTube does not actually optimize for merit. Natural selection selects for “engagement” and growth at all costs, and the qualities that attracted a small initial audience may well be selected against later.

More and more of the stuff on YouTube looks more and more like commercial TV, and less and less worth wasting time on.

Not an Earth-shattering revelation. But the state of YouTube today may be a more-persuasive-than-usual example. The most popular stuff on YouTube is empty, pointless, time-sink trash; the most popular producers are miserable because they’re pressured not to do their best work.

So all this human misery and disappointment isn’t even happening in the service of something worthy of the sacrifice, mostly. Markets are useful mechanisms in a lot of ways, but they are only mechanisms and they shouldn’t be trusted to the extent that we collectively do.

[1] One might argue that YouTube doesn’t count as a free market because a channel’s success there is so closely tied to opaque algorithmic systems that the market participants barely understand. But I would argue that “real world” markets – especially intellectual property markets like entertainment and fashion – have always had such problems. This is in fact one of the arguments sometimes made in favor of markets: How else can resources be allocated when no one entity understands what’s happening in the whole system?
posted by Western Infidels at 7:51 AM on September 12 [7 favorites]


Natural selection selects for “engagement” and growth at all costs, and the qualities that attracted a small initial audience may well be selected against later.

There's nothing natural about the selection. Alphabet chooses to prioritize growth over audience development and engagement. This isn't a matter of a black box we don't understand, but a corporation putting the short term ahead of long term goals.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:04 AM on September 12 [5 favorites]


Part of me wants to do the Emperor Palpatine voice and just say "good, gooooood" to all of this, because YouTube is a swamp so polluted that it's just begging for someone to toss a lit road flare its way, and we can all sit back and watch the thing burn.

But there is good content on YT. I've learned a lot from watching various wood- and metal-working videos, for instance, and you can pretty much learn how to do any type of car repair or maintenance you want if you put in the right search terms. (Haynes manuals, eat your heart out. "Refitting is the reversal of removal" my ass.)

You can watch, on many users' "channels", a totally predictable slide from a documentary-like focus on a labor of love, to monetizing their videos, adding awful "branding" bumpers and overlays, then the endless begging to "like and subscribe!!", so they can take on sponsors and starting to hawk random products, followed by running out of material and starting to rehash old projects and ideas, and finally to more and more 'meta' content focusing on themselves or the production of the videos (presumably because it's taking up so much of their time).

And then, typically, the videos just stop, because at some point they must have realized that they aren't having fun anymore (or had a nervous breakdown, or their family staged an intervention, or something—I always wonder how exactly that goes).

I don't think that YouTube has to be used that way, but the platform seems to be designed around some "dark patterns" that encourage it. They want you to think of yourself not just as a person posting cool videos of your projects, but as a "content creator" and budding advertising mogul, because that's how YouTube gets paid.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:11 AM on September 12 [14 favorites]


It also seems (from secondhand YT exposure) that some people quite talented behind the camera are feeling pressured (self, or the requirements of fame) to put themselves in front. There's one YTer who wears sunglasses all the time, apparently because his eyes darting to the side to check camera/monitor/etc. would otherwise be distracting. I guess just narrating his topic from out of frame, David Attenborough-style, wouldn't work in that medium. He has to be on screen. (Now I'm imagining all the BBC documentaries redone YouTube-style)
posted by kurumi at 8:33 AM on September 12


"This is all I’ve ever wanted. Why am I so unhappy?"

A therapist may be able to help.


I thought this was where we blamed Capitalism.
posted by philip-random at 8:35 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


"This is all I’ve ever wanted. Why am I so unhappy?"

If this is your thinking, someone else is likely in control of your time. you should be in control of your time.

capitalism has been a very good system for hiding who or what is in control behind false naturalisms. It's not rich people making decisions, it's "the market." It's not youtube executives making decisions, it's "the algorithm." sorry, kids, i guess you'll just have to continue to give me lots and lots of labor so i can make lots of money.
posted by eustatic at 8:41 AM on September 12 [14 favorites]


Yes, that. I have no problem with algorithms so long as there are still actual people who are accountable for their effects. Somehow tech giants have managed to play dumb and powerless this whole time and no one has called them on it. It’s fucking ridiculous, and if I were benevolent dictator, they’d probably be in prison.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:45 AM on September 12 [7 favorites]


Reading all the actual articles, what seems to be a common thread more then the fan interactions, is the constant schedule. It tries to get people to post a 10 minute plus video EVERY DAY. Not five days a week, not fifty weeks a year, every day. No wonder people are burning out. One of those people talks about taking two weeks off for the first time in five years, when she had not taken anything so much as a long weekend during that time.

Can we talk less about how fame will destroy anyone, and how there are some fairly simple changes youtube could make to help with this? (Set a maximum on how much it rewards frequent uploads and publish this; give a boost to popular channels that return after a short break to not penalize people for taking vacations)
posted by Canageek at 8:48 AM on September 12 [9 favorites]


The high production value Youtube channels are like television shows made in an environment without any labor protections. You could make the argument that Youtube's business model is to undercut labor market regulations established by the entertainment industry employee and performer's unions. Hurray disruption!
posted by peeedro at 9:04 AM on September 12 [18 favorites]


Turns out that things that seem to good to be true (get "rich" at home making videos about your hobby!) really are (too good to be true).
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:11 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


Turns out that things that seem to good to be true (get "rich" at home making videos about your hobby!) really are (too good to be true).

This attitude is part of the problem. As has been pointed out, the issue is because Alphabet has created a model that grinds content creators down by forcing them to constantly be putting content out, without stop, lest they drop in the rankings. They do this because to Alphabet, content creators are fungible, and they can always get more. And they rely on comments like this to get away with this abuse.

Don't enable Alphabet's abuses. Be on the side of people.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:18 AM on September 12 [19 favorites]


This isn't a matter of a black box we don't understand, but a corporation putting the short term ahead of long term goals.

More like a corporation putting its short and long term goals ahead of everyone else’s.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:22 AM on September 12 [1 favorite]


>> "This is all I’ve ever wanted. Why am I so unhappy?"
>
>A therapist may be able to help.

I thought this was where we blamed Capitalism.

Why? The system is providing an excellent stable supply of new therapy patients.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:26 AM on September 12 [7 favorites]


Now I'm imagining all the BBC documentaries redone YouTube-style

The problem is that the algorithm always demands more engagement. The result is a channel like Brave Wilderness where the host has animals sting and bite him for likes and subscribes. It's a cross between a nature documentary and "Ow My Balls!"
posted by peeedro at 9:34 AM on September 12 [5 favorites]


Turns out that things that seem to good to be true (get "rich" at home making videos about your hobby!) really are (too good to be true).

I think that in fact the shocking thing is that you can produce an hour or more of video content every day--and one hour of video is not one hour of labor--for 365 days a year, have that being viewed by hundreds of thousands of people if not millions, and people will still question whether that ought to be worthy of making a middle-class living off of, much less any more than that.
posted by Sequence at 9:36 AM on September 12 [22 favorites]


I have a Patreon (where I earn, currently USD$25/month for doing various short writings around the Internet), and if I hit $50, I've promised myself and my patrons that I'll set up a wiki specifically for cataloging and organizing various activist resources for quick access and reuse as needed (but that will likely be a personal project more than a big info base like geek feminism - but who knows?).

I've certainly toyed with the idea of becoming some sort of Personality, but I don't think I have the right psychology to either cultivate or handle it well. I also despise the "gig economy" and haven't participated in it yet though I remain otherwise unemployed (except for applying for jobs). I think I may just go back to temping and hoping the organic demonstration of my talents in that way will net me some kind of job soonish.

And I think ad-revenue-based economies like YouTube, and to some extent the writing we do here, even on MetaFilter, kind of suck. It would be better for the workers if co-owning and profit sharing existed, but I suspect the revenue pie is just not big enough to share, so it's better from a capitalist point of view to profit off the microtransactions cultivated by individual contributors, and make bigger profits from economies of scale for the owners/runners of the platform itself. Not that it does the workers any favors, but the USA really isn't about treating workers and content producers well, or really, profit sharing of any kind. We thrive best on exploitation, content producer altruism (cultivated through community), and "meritocracy" (which turns out to be more like "lottery-ocracy" in the end).
posted by kalessin at 9:36 AM on September 12 [5 favorites]


I think that in fact the shocking thing is that you can produce an hour or more of video content every day--and one hour of video is not one hour of labor--for 365 days a year, have that being viewed by hundreds of thousands of people if not millions, and people will still question whether that ought to be worthy of making a middle-class living off of, much less any more than that.

We have a culture where creative labor is routinely devalued, where we tell creators that they should be thankful for the scraps they're given, and where creators sticking up for the value of their labor is treated as an offense. I do think that, with the growth of the pool of creators, things are beginning to change - but at the same time, corporations that benefit from the devaluing of creative labor like Alphabet are going to keep pushing the "moral argument" for devaluing creative labor.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:03 AM on September 12 [8 favorites]


Alphabet, content creators are fungible, and they can always get more

But that's true init? The creators do it because hey, it's "easy to do" right from your living room, all it takes is gumption, not a production company, paid talent and a platform you've built yourself, so yeah, if anybody can do it then anybody will and there's lots of competition.

So, like any competitive labor market, you've got the choices that laborers have. This is a stark reality, but it's the reality for my job too.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:06 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


I hate the internet and imma tell you why. I like cooking blogs and to a lesser extent cooking YouTube channels. But I really like blogs. My issue is when they change. An example, there was a great blog about Vietnamese street food. It was wonderful and fascinating. Then it changed into a blog about what it’s like to write a blog about food. I understand things changing but hey, did you forget why I was reading your blog in the first place? Another one about canning was Greg, until it turned into a blog about her cookbook and contests, all the reader contests thanks to all her sudden great sponsors. I get it, people want to turn their passion into a career but there is no quicker way to get me to stop reading than to change your focus and start talking about about your sponsors.

Old man rant over.

PS I’m still waiting to become an influencer in the native flower photography Instagram landscape. Hmu Big Flower.
posted by misterpatrick at 10:09 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


and to some extent the writing we do here, even on MetaFilter,

I was wondering when someone would bring up that elephant.

Particularly AskMe fits the form of a service making money for a company but entirely staffed by volunteers. People giving answers are treated as fungible and their sole benefits are a two tier scoring system (likes and best answers) and personal satisfaction.

And yet it has persisted for years with no talk of unionization or hand-wringing about Capital thriving off the backs of Labor. No one makes smug commentary about people answering AskMe questions "being the product". The whole thing seems to exist outside of the capitalist bubble, in a place where people of good will do something they enjoy and don’t particularly worry about who is making a buck off it.

One wonders if it is the lack of personal payment that keeps Metafilter relatively clear of the ills of YouTube. When it’s clear up front that everyone is here for personal enjoyment it avoids a lot of buzzkilling venality.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:13 AM on September 12 [8 favorites]


So, like any competitive labor market, you've got the choices that laborers have. This is a stark reality, but it's the reality for my job too

It's definitely a problem across many (all?) industries, but that doesn't make it ok.

Also, I question whether it really is something anyone can do. Maybe it's more accessible than most jobs, but I think it does take a certain amount of ability, and it definitely takes a lot of time and effort.

There's plenty of 'failed' channels out there, they just don't get the attention.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 10:15 AM on September 12 [1 favorite]


it'd be hilarious to monetize AskMe, just watch all the usernames that consist entirely of actual names and professional credentials suddenly appear to Quora up the joint

anyway I'm pretty sure we're on the cusp of figuring out how to create an economy based on everybody just making art and entertaining each other all the time

definitely getting the people who scream at video games on YouTube to unionize is an important first step
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:18 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


But that's true init? The creators do it because hey, it's "easy to do" right from your living room, all it takes is gumption, not a production company, paid talent and a platform you've built yourself, so yeah, if anybody can do it then anybody will and there's lots of competition.

This is so wrong-headed that it's comical. No, not "anybody" can do it, because to be successful requires developing a number of skills related to video production. In fact, most of the successful YouTube creators run (either openly or de facto) production companies, because that's how you actually get video that looks professional.

You really should put down the Google branded bucket.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:31 AM on September 12 [4 favorites]


Youtube creators are like the ultimate expression of the post-2008 economy: you have to keep running and running to stand still, keep churning out stuff for the machine until you burn down and get replaced by the next warm body with the right smile. A lucky few get paid a lot for their efforts, but it still pales in comparision with what the machine rakes in itself and for most there's only the dream of being able to make a middle class living when "real" jobs seem no longer able to.

It used to be, not so long ago, that if you were creative and not particularly fitted for a "proper" job that you could feck off and do your thing, that there was enough of a social safety net that you could try and fail, that you didn't immediately needed to make money off it just to survive.

But those days are gone almost anywhere and so everybody has a patreon while the majority of funding requests on the interwebs are for medical bills...
posted by MartinWisse at 10:35 AM on September 12 [12 favorites]


as far metafilter being the elephant in the room, in my experience metafilter has done a pretty good job of examining itself in terms of who is doing what labor for free and how we can make that more equitable. We have been having that discussion for at least 5 years now, and perhaps longer, and I believe the emotional labor thread serves as a pretty stellar example of what labor discussions look like here.

There's a far far far cry from "doing it for the likes on Mefi" and "doing for the google algorithm".
posted by nikaspark at 10:35 AM on September 12 [15 favorites]


But the Emotional Labor threads were deeply problematic on a number of frequencies. The very act of producing such a good set of resources and changing MetaFilter culture so profoundly splintered a part of our community and used up trust, good intentions, and good graces for a number of the volunteer participants from different contributing communities.
posted by kalessin at 10:53 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


No one makes smug commentary about people answering AskMe questions "being the product"

This tells me that actually no one reads such commentary because it is deleted or ignored. Or that it exists but is not "smug".

Cuz I've made a couple. Maybe I was being too subtle tho.
posted by some loser at 10:58 AM on September 12


Particularly AskMe fits the form of a service making money for a company but entirely staffed by volunteers.

When Google becomes a non-profit, this comparison might almost make sense.
posted by straight at 11:07 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


The problem is that the reason that people won't pay is because they are being told that they shouldn't have to pay, by a major corporation that benefits monetarily from devaluing creative labor.

To be fair, the whole Information Wants To Be Free line was not a major corporation thing. Quite the contrary. Nobody (present company excluded) likes to pay for content if they think they can avoid doing so. Just ask any busker.

Major Corporation's role in this mindset goes back to the introduction of radio. What began as a technical curiosity needed content to justify its place in the family living room. Problem was, how to pay for that content? Subscription wasn't going to work. What to do?

So in 1922, the Queensboro Corporation bought air time to promote a new housing project in Jackson Heights. A new age dawned.

Bottom line, you wanted soap operas, you had to listen to adverts for soap flakes. And so also with pre-cable television. And so with YouTube, though I see that now, if you really want, you can get subscription base no-ad Youtube.

I only hope the YouTubers are getting a cut.
posted by BWA at 11:08 AM on September 12


On one hand you have the 'I love (restoring lawnmowers/breeding geckos/sculpting anthropomorphic teapots)' crowd, and then you have the 'I make my living through YouTube talking about X' people.

Oh what I would give to get a look at the internet in the mirror universe where advertising was never allowed.
posted by straight at 11:09 AM on September 12 [6 favorites]


Caduceus: I probably won't ever finish it if I can't figure out how to start devoting more time and energy to it, and thus correspondingly less time and energy to other things, like my shitty dayjob.

A patreon bringing in a little cash would make it so much easier to justify putting the time and energy into the story...


I hear you. It is not easy to be a writer with a day job that pushes your self-driven work into the margins of your life. I know that territory all too well. I used to have a Patreon that brought in a little cash for my writing; at its peak I was earning $100/mo. Even at that level it became like an additional job of its own, unfortunately, so I closed it down because what I actually wanted was more time away from wage labor to write. I didn't get that through Patreon.

It sounds like your project might lend itself to starting a subscription publication on the Substack platform, which offers a way for your readers to pay you directly. No advertising anywhere. I'm impressed enough with it that it lured me away from Patreon. I publish two newsletters there now. (I don't want to spam more self-links or make this sound like a commercial appeal in any way; it's merely a recommendation. See my profile for more links if interested.) One of the founders of Substack wrote:
Becoming an independent writer has a chicken-and-egg problem: until your writing can pay the bills, you can’t focus on it full-time, but if you’re not focused on it full-time, it’s hard to get to the point where it can pay your bills. Ads don’t work unless you’re at a giant scale, and even then it creates a distraction that pulls your attention away from serving your audience and towards serving the advertisers. It might work for a big media company with an ad sales department, but it’s tough to make it work as an independent writer. That’s why Walt recommends charging your readers for full access your writing.
Sounds similar to Jack Conte's motives for starting Patreon. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that the overhead of sending subscription emails to 50 subscribers on Substack is not much different from sending emails to 100 or 1,000 or even 10,000 subscribers, so it's much more workable for me even with a day job. I'll still be doing the same amount of work to write and publish the newsletters even as I continue to attract more paid subscribers.

More creator-friendly platforms like this, please! Seems like Substack's business model could be adapted for video, too, and might give some of those YouTube burnout victims a chance at a sustainable way to make a living with their creative work.
posted by velvet winter at 11:22 AM on September 12 [7 favorites]


YouTube is now blocked at the network level in my house. It has more ads than TV, and so much horrible clickbait that it makes cable TV look good
posted by benzenedream at 11:25 AM on September 12 [1 favorite]


"Nobody (present company excluded) likes to pay for content if they think they can avoid doing so. Just ask any busker."

Ask someone who makes at least part of their living off voluntary tips from strangers whether people will pay for something when they think (or know, in this case) they can avoid it? Er?
posted by thoroughburro at 11:25 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


Nobody (present company excluded) likes to pay for content if they think they can avoid doing so. Just ask any busker.

Again, this is one of those arguments that I don't think holds up under scrutiny. Chris Ruen, in his book Freeloading, talks about how opening up the conversation and pointing out that creative labor is labor and should be compensated for is actually received well. Jaron Lanier made a good point in an interview on internet politics - what fueled the current Golden Age of television wasn't content being produced freely by unpaid creative talent, but premium and cable networks giving creative workers the latitude and funding to really execute.

People will pay for content, and when shown how systems are inequitable, they will push for equity.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:35 AM on September 12 [7 favorites]


There's a far far far cry from "doing it for the likes on Mefi" and "doing for the google algorithm".

Is there, though? Either way you're comporting to expected expectations.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:41 AM on September 12


When Google becomes a non-profit, this comparison might almost make sense.

I wasn’t aware Metafilter was a non-profit (other than the fact that it occasionally fails to turn a profit.)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:46 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


One of the deciding factors in my abandonment of freelance illustration as a serious avenue of pursuit was the apparent necessity of social media presence, which I Don't Do Well generally. What wound up giving me the heebie-jeebies early on was the replacement of any discreet craft with the term "content." How quickly artists and musicians and actors all become content creators and see their creative pursuits through the lens of the social media platform they're using to attract and maintain attention, and building personal branding around themselves, rather than their work. It's not universally true by any means, but I felt a lot of pressure in that direction.

I wish I had more developed thoughts on the matter to share, because I think there's a lot to unpack there, but it just generally seemed warped and unhealthy for the crafts and unhealthy for the people and not a place I wanted to be.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 11:55 AM on September 12 [5 favorites]


Mefi isn't a nonprofit. It's a for-profit whose income from ads and affiliate links doesn't quite pay our staff costs anymore. We talked a lot about the finances etc in the MeTas from earlier in the summer (here's the second one) if people want to dig into that.

Mefi is also very different -- in so many respects that it ends up sounding silly if I enumerate them -- from a gigantic publicly-held corp like Youtube, that has hundreds of millions of users and can basically make its own weather. Please don't try to drum up some fight about Mefi in here; the thread's about Youtube, and its scale is a core part of the problem.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:57 AM on September 12 [16 favorites]


Imagine a hypothetical manager who tells you "Put the users first, write the best code that you can, revenue and promotions will follow" who is bullied into quitting, replaced by a manager who tells you "Either you likemaking revenue and engagement metrics your top priority, or maybe this is not the best place for you to work".

Imagine a culture going to shit when self directed teams who liked to put the users (creators and watchers) first were decapitated and the head replaced with MBA graduates with binders full of metric$.

I still don't feel safe talking about my looong tenure at YT and why I left, but by the end my email signature was a link to Mitchell and Webb's "Are we the baddies" video.

I don't want YT to crash and burn, I want it to take a long look in the mirror and remember the "don't be evil" times.
posted by Dr. Curare at 12:26 PM on September 12 [28 favorites]


Getting paid based on how much Youtube's opaque and constantly shifting algorithm deigns to give you views is not controlling the means of production in its purest form.
posted by ckape at 12:48 PM on September 12 [4 favorites]


Chris Ruen, in his book Freeloading, talks about how opening up the conversation and pointing out that creative labor is labor and should be compensated for is actually received well.

Thank you for mentioning that book, NoxAeternum. I looked it up and read an excerpt, and I'm impressed. As it happens, I'm currently writing an article in which I painstakingly unpack several different meanings of the idea that "art should be free," examine the ways these meanings are conflated, and explain how all this fuzzy-headed thinking enables structural exploitation of artists in niche music scenes (including music writers like me). It's a complicated thicket to sort through. I'm going to read more of his work and cite him in my piece. Much appreciated.
posted by velvet winter at 12:53 PM on September 12 [3 favorites]


We have a culture where creative labor is routinely devalued, where we tell creators that they should be thankful for the scraps they're given, and where creators sticking up for the value of their labor is treated as an offense. I do think that, with the growth of the pool of creators, things are beginning to change

As in, you think the growing pool of "content creators" means things will get better? Because wow, that is not what happened with musicians over the last half century, and in failing to see why this should be different...
posted by Dysk at 1:13 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]


No, not "anybody" can do it, because to be successful requires developing a number of skills related to video production. In fact, most of the successful YouTube creators run (either openly or de facto) production companies, because that's how you actually get video that looks professional.

Sure, that's true. Until all the pros quit. Then the better amateurish stuff will be top of the pile, and that'll be what youtube pushes, and what gets all the views. Anyone can do it. Not anyone can be successful at current levels of competition, but anyone can do it.
posted by Dysk at 1:15 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


Because wow, that is not what happened with musicians over the last half century, and in failing to see why this should be different...

What happened to musicians was the push of the cult of the amateur, much like other creative workers have seen as well. This is why I detest the term "sell out" - it's an attempt to shame people into not getting paid for their labor. The growth of creative labor will improve things in my opinion, because it will get more people to understand that creative labor is labor,and thus help push back on the cult of the amateur.

In short, amateurism is class warfare, and creative laborers of the world, unite!
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:21 PM on September 12 [13 favorites]


What happened to musicians was the push of the cult of the amateur, much like other creative workers have seen as well. This is why I detest the term "sell out" - it's an attempt to shame people into not getting paid for their labor.

Ehhh, I really fail to agree on the sell out thing - selling out isn't becoming too professional, it's becoming too bland or safe. I don't see it as part of the cult of amateurism (which I do think is awful!) so much as a parallel to complaining when a physical product gets worse (fewer hazelnuts and more palm oil in your Nutella, for example) in pursuit of bigger profit margins.
posted by Dysk at 1:34 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]


Anyone can do it. Not anyone can be successful at current levels of competition, but anyone can do it.

Dude, you know that when people say "anyone can do it" in contexts like these they mean succeed, right? If they are doing it and not succeeding, they are not in fact "doing it" in the context of conversations like this. They are trying to do it and failing.
posted by Caduceus at 1:53 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


Thank you for the rec, velvet winter! That's an exciting alternative I was unaware of, and probably better than the other alternative I had in mind, which was WattPad, which I don't fucking know anything about because you can't barely look at their fucking website with already having an account, and I have as of yet not felt the need to get one because I don't really feel ready to go heavy into promotion yet anyway.
posted by Caduceus at 1:57 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


Dude, you know that when people say "anyone can do it" in contexts like these they mean succeed, right? If they are doing it and not succeeding, they are not in fact "doing it" in the context of conversations like this. They are trying to do it and failing.

Sure, but the context is that there's another person waiting in the wings who can do it. And there always is. The only reason they can't is because better people are currently on top. If they all quit, the next tier down who are currently failing will be top of the pile, and succeeding. They are only failing in the context of the current level of competition. That level falls if the current successes quit.

And don't fucking call me "dude".
posted by Dysk at 2:10 PM on September 12 [7 favorites]


In fact, you can see that effect in that earlier youtube successes didn't have the production values I'd the current darlings. If enough talented people call it quits, we'd just be back to that. Anyone can do it, as long as they're the best going. The floor for how long before the entire medium is abandoned is, I'd posit, very low indeed.
posted by Dysk at 2:15 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


But how does all this affect the

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posted by sfenders at 3:26 PM on September 12 [12 favorites]


Thank you for the rec, velvet winter! That's an exciting alternative I was unaware of, and probably better than the other alternative I had in mind...

I think it's pretty exciting too. It won't work for every writer, nor for every type of newsletter/periodical, but I find their writer-friendly business model very encouraging, and I think it could have far-reaching implications for the future of digital publishing.

The archive of writings by the founders on their On Substack page is excellent, so if you're considering reading up about their business model I'd recommend starting there, and then reading some of the media coverage. I wish they had a detailed FAQ linked on their main page to explain how it works, but they're still in beta so hopefully they're working on one. (Note: some of the writings linked in that archive are only visible to paid subscribers, but if you do start a newsletter there - even if it's a free one - then you get a free subscription and can read everything.)
posted by velvet winter at 3:32 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]


This is why I detest the term "sell out"

In the few times I've brought up "selling out" with my fellow long-term musicians over the last decade, it's been observed that almost nobody crows about the idea of selling out anymore. Ever since Nick Drake and VW, musicians saw the wind change and started lined up to have their music placed in ads, TV shows, you name it. The money is there and it's real, which is more than you can say for almost any other strata of the music industry now. One good placement (or even a half-decent one) can bring in more money than the entire commercial life cycle of an album for most artists. Sure, there's still some discretion about who you sell your music to, but it's not seen as the wholesale abandonment of principles that it was in the '80s or early '90s. It's almost hilarious how frothy and territorial we got about that concept back in the day, but the realities of the marketplace have tied our hands, and I feel like everybody knows it.
posted by mykescipark at 3:47 PM on September 12 [11 favorites]


A bunch of youtubers I like have been peppering their usual cheeriness with angst recently, usually in an jarringly off-brand way. Like talking about cartoons or videogames but finding a way to inject maudlin drama. I thought it was just a cynical audience engagement thing, but maybe it's widespread systematic youtube depression.

I've been meaning to do an FPP about the breakup of Cracked.com's AV team and the cobbled together, Patreon platforms that talent has been trying to float on. So many smart, funny people who's work has enriched my life for the past decade but are now struggling, even as they keep churning out great content.

A lot of my favorite artists are still finding ways to make a living and make great stuff, but it's clearly a haphazard business model. I hope Google and PBS keep putting money into educational material from folks like Lindsay Ellis. I hope the brothers Chap make some money off of their Trogdor board game. I hope the HAWP siblings keep working in gaming. I hope the Vlogbrothers keep selling books. I hope the Escapist succeeds in its second wind so that Yatzee and Moviebob don't have to eat dog food.
posted by es_de_bah at 4:31 PM on September 12 [4 favorites]


I think we should all have some feelings of solidarity with these folks since, after all, we're all content creators in our own way. No one should be expected to work for free. Commenters of the world, UNITE! Take back the means of content production!

Also hell yes I am gonna buy me some Trogdor board game! Burnination for the whole family! coming 2019 - i hope!
posted by some loser at 5:11 PM on September 12


So, like any competitive labor market, you've got the choices that laborers have. This is a stark reality, but it's the reality for my job too.

The difference I perceive is that in the case of YT, hungry up-and-comers are obliged to perform the labor (i.e. create and post the content) before they are given an opportunity for compensation. Aside from perhaps internships, this strikes me as rather distinct from traditional labor markets.
posted by barrett caulk at 8:38 PM on September 12 [3 favorites]


That's how it works in all creative fields. It's the same deal for musicians, for painters, sculptors, etc, etc.
posted by Dysk at 11:09 PM on September 12 [6 favorites]


Also kind of increasingly true across the board (internships, etc.).
posted by en forme de poire at 12:40 AM on September 13


And then there's the DaddyOFive saga

By the way, what the actual fuck, this is so crazy. Against my better judgement I watched most of the Nerd City coverage of this right after the Jake Paul one. Saying it was "hard to watch" would be a massive understatement. The idea of someone not only abusing their kids but monetizing it on the largest public video platform we have (successfully, until very recently) is seriously some of the sickest shit I've personally seen on the modern internet.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:04 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


Hey, anybody got a good recipe for beans?

First, get one of those bean pots.

Second, prep your beans: rinse dried beans then soak them overnight. Use something reasonable like pinto beans, not gross red kidney beans.

Third, pre-heat your oven (or prep your wood stove fire so that it has toasty, even temperature coals).

Fourth, layer ingredients in your bean pot. Put about half the beans in, then half of a (peeled, of course) yellow onion, then the rest of your beans. Pour in water and molasses (can be mixed with a little maple syrup). I forget the exact quantities - apologies. On top, lay a slab of pork fat (for non-vegetarian beans, eg. the sort that I no longer eat; not sure what the best fat source would be for vegetarian beans).

Fifth, bake the beans for a nice long time, like six or eight hours.

Serve with brown bread and (real) maple syrup.

posted by eviemath at 5:16 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]


That's how it works in all creative fields. It's the same deal for musicians, for painters, sculptors, etc, etc.

A good point. I suppose it’s pretty similar to the gallery scene. Or the art fair scene.
posted by barrett caulk at 5:33 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


This is great for the company in the short term but not so great for the squishy little meatlings who provide it with money-making content in the any term.

I will let ProZD's unboxing videos run in the background while I do other stuff because (a) he has a very soothing voice and (b) I really want to subsidize his comic bits, which are usually less than a minute of tightly-edited comic perfection and so can't pay well on YouTube.
posted by praemunire at 9:17 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


Dysk, I apologize for calling you dude. It wasn't my intention to antagonize you with my choice of address, for which I'm sorry. I'm not really convinced by your personal definition of the phrase "anyone can do it" but it's also not actually any skin off my teeth, so you do you. Sorry again.
posted by Caduceus at 10:57 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]


And I figure that if I feel that way, there must be other people who want to watch videos that hit that middle ground between "over-excited idiot gibbering shit for 5 minutes" and "boring monotone being extremely knowledgeable for 1¾ hours"…)

Maybe but I wouldn't bet on it. Because isn't that middle ground what documentary TV does? Personally I go for the deep, deep dives that would never be made on TV or radio (eg Dan Carlin's Hardcore History) and there's obviously a place for the dopamine hit of the blipverts. I'm just not so sure about TV-grade learning.
posted by Leon at 1:23 PM on September 13


Anyone can create a video and upload it to Youtube. With some caveats that you need a computer, a camera, etc.

Getting someone to watch their videos, that's where a lot of people burn themselves out.
posted by RobotHero at 1:33 PM on September 13 [3 favorites]


It's anyone can do it in the sense that there will always be another person making videos ready to take your place. They might not have the skills or work ethic that you do, but youtube is not about to run out of new content to push at people. Someone will always be the best going, regardless of how they compare to what the best going was six months ago.
posted by Dysk at 1:51 PM on September 13


Not current, or YouTube specific, but maybe relevant, from Cosma Shalizi:
If everything goes well, there are of course several down-sides or costs to running a blog, over and above the time. One of them which is somewhat subtle is that a successful blog tends to develop an authorial voice, or perhaps better yet a persona. This is a natural part of all forms of social interaction (go read Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life) but that persona is a literary creation, a sustained act of rhetorical self-fashioning, and not your total personality. Readers, however, are very apt to mistake an authorial persona for the personality of the author; they use your words to paint a picture of someone in their minds, and then they think they know you. (Novelists face similar issues.) This is something that can be quite weird and disturbing to experience, or figure out how to deal with. It is also possible to mistake your own narrative persona for your real personality, but is I think less common.
posted by clew at 8:53 PM on September 13 [4 favorites]


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