YouTube Success and the Brave New World of New Media

YouTube success infographic

The art of filmmaking is always evolving, but never has it experienced change on the magnitude of what we’re experiencing today. When the industry was born, only well-financed film studios could afford to make movies, as the costs of purchasing equipment and film, as well as the processing costs, were extremely restrictive. Furthermore, the editing process took skills and equipment that required the use of highly trained professionals. Today, anyone with a mobile phone can create their own videos.

We’re currently going through one of the most tumultuous times in the industry as the new media begins to overtake the old media as the preferred distribution method of audio-visual entertainment. What, exactly, is new media and how does it differ from the old media? We posed that to Susan Johnston, the director of the New Media Film Festival.

“New media is all media. Everything [including] films, artwork, poetry, and photographs. How it differs from old media is there are no rules and nothing is standard. Years ago you mostly shot on one format and output to different drive files for where it was going to be shown. In addition, there were set TRT (total running times). One of the beauties of new media is stories can now be the length they need to be vs. made longer or shorter to fit a window…”

It’s free, it’s easy to use, it allows you to upload lots of content, it gets billions of views and your content is safe on YouTube.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, is the current king of content distribution. Although that looks unlikely to change anytime soon, nobody knows what the future holds. After all, there was a time when MySpace looked as if it was going own the world of social media. There was also a time when the three major networks and six major studios looked as if they’d rule the world in perpetuity. As it stands, the best place to start in new media is YouTube. There are many other places to distribute your content, but definitely take advantage of YouTube as well. It’s free, it’s easy to use, it allows you to upload lots of content, it gets billions of views and your content is safe on YouTube.

YouTube and Google

YouTube, the second largest search engine behind only Google, is a place where you can upload practically any video content that you own, whether it’s a collection of photographs set to royalty-free music, a feature film or anything in between.

Here are some of its most viewed content types:

Comedy skits

  • Scripted
  • Unscripted

Dramatic clips

  • Games for kids and adults
  • Music videos
  • Features

Networks

Major Studios (Disney is number 1)

Independent Filmmakers

  • Shorts and Movie Trailers
  • Sports
  • Children’s Entertainment
  • Vloggers, Product demonstrators, Life coaching
  • More. New media is only limited to your imagination!

And let’s not forget all of those cat videos for which YouTube gained its early notoriety.

The Simple Formula for Success ;)

With nearly 10 million subscribers and growing, YouTube gamer JackSepticEye is certainly one of the most successful content providers on YouTube. A man with such a huge following certainly knows the formula for success. Right? Well, here is what he has to say about being a successful YouTuber: “First things first, you need a set of headphones. The next thing you’re going to need is a hat (any hat will do)… The third thing you’re going to need is an accent. The stupider and more obnoxious sounding it is, the better.” He’s from Ireland. “The last thing… is to scream at everything. Now you’re ready.”

Okay, so his advice was very tongue-in-cheek, but he actually makes a good point. First, there is no “formula” for YouTube success.  The accents and the screaming actually do keep young people entertained most of the time — although it may also account for the fact that he has lost over three million subscribers over the years.

In reality, Jack has a firm grip on what’s made him so successful, “A lot of people think they’re going to start YouTube and get a billion subscribers… The first year [I was] on YouTube, nothing happened – absolutely nothing. A sheer amount of luck is involved in [becoming successful].” He goes on to say that, “The audience who watches YouTube has no idea what they want.” Some older videos that were flops when he first ran them now have views in the millions.

Success in New Media

What are the keys to success in new media? We posed this question to YouTuber Rig_Saw_31. His channel is used for gaming, where he plays games including Minecraft, RoboCraft and Call of Duty. “Entertainment is key. You can play the most exciting games, but if your presentation is boring, then nobody’s going to watch you. You also need to strike a balance in your games. For instance, if you play only Space Engineers, you’re going to lose [subscribers] very quickly, so you need to present a variety of different games. And consistency is just as important. If you upload one video this week, skip a week, then upload three… YouTube’s algorithms will work against you, so if you upload two videos a week, you’ll do much better.”

YouTube certainly backs up Rig_Saw’s claims. The reason for this, according to Google’s public relations department, is that people come to expect certain things to happen at certain times. For instance, fans of “Big Bang Theory” know exactly what day, time and channel their show comes on every week, almost without fail. Subsequently, fans of YouTube creators come to expect their shows at the same consistent pace at all times – or they may unsubscribe.

YouTube is not the only reason for the rapid advancement of new media. Although its distribution method has certainly been the springboard for success in the medium, the prime culprit in the democratization of new media is the digital process itself. Susan Johnston, the director of the New Media Film Festival explains, “The very cool thing about new media is since you are not paying for actual 70mm, 35mm or 16mm film and processing costs, you have a lot of room for trial and error. There are so many possibilities when just starting out. Try – Analyze – Adjust”

Building Your Audience

At the top of this article we mentioned how easy it is to get started on YouTube. That’s about where the “easy” ends and the “work” begins. Building your audience may be the hardest part of being a content creator in new media. If you’re planning to make money in any field, working for it is going to be necessary. With new media, the work starts when you decide to monetize. Frankly, you just can’t post videos of your cat to YouTube and expect them to simply go viral. Rig_Saw_31 advises that the most important factors, in order, are:

1. Entertainment
2. Variety
3. Consistency
4. Balance

“Keeping your subscribers entertained with a variety of programming that you upload consistently is very important. If you’re offering more than one type of game, then you want to keep them balanced. Look at what your favorite YouTubers are playing and getting lots of views with...”

Additionally, you’ll want to use captivating thumbnails whenever possible. Also, use tags and metadata to your advantage; get keywords in your title that will tell potential viewers what they can expect if they click on your video. In today’s connected world, engagement is everything. You need to use your social media contacts as much as possible. Engage your audience, whether it’s through live-blogging, answering fan mail on your channel or engaging them through Twitter and Facebook. Making them feel like you care about them as individuals will do wonders for your views, as well as your all-important reputation.

It’s All About the Genre

The most important thing to consider when starting your YouTube channel is choosing your genre. Once you start moving in a direction, dedicate yourself to it. If you decide later on that you want to go in a different direction but also keep your thousands of subs, it would be best to open a new channel and to let your subs know of its existence. This way, you keep your hits coming on your first channel and get a leg-up on subscribers for your second channel. Don’t start your second channel just because you want to double your income; only open a new channel that you plan to give as much attention as your first channel. Remember that if you’re doing this to make a living, it is a job and should be treated as such.

Look for variety within your genre. One of YouTube’s most popular gaming sites is The Yogscast. The guys from Yogscast love playing war games so much that they’ve been known to do live action war games and even rent tanks to play them! They not only did something fun within their genre, but expanded the definition of their genre, all the while keeping their fans entertained — and getting some exercise, as well.

Branding

In the film industry, branding, whether as a producer, director, actor or something else, is of great importance, but you don’t need to stick to a single subject in new media, as long as you properly separate your varied endeavors.

Michelle Glavan’s site, which has garnered over 30 million views since she began, does sketch comedy, parodies and music, although most of her music is in her “Ladies of Rap” parodies. She also states that one of her goals is “to film a high-concept series that I have created, written and starred in. Ideally it would air on TV or another digital platform with a big audience...” As you may have noticed, Michelle’s music on her site is also comedic, so she’s not stepping out of her genre by singing. If she were to go into making original music that isn’t intended to be funny, then she may do best by opening a separate channel for her music.

Multi-Channel Networks

To maximize your pageviews, it helps to partner with other content providers that provide similar content. But that’s not as easy to do as it is to write about. You can’t waltz into new media as a complete newbie and expect top content providers to partner with you. Once you have your channel headed in the right direction — and don’t fret if this takes quite a bit of time — you may want to consider joining a multi-channel network (MCN). An MCN is a company that puts together multiple like-minded creators and does much — and sometimes all — of the channel’s business dealings.

MCNs are not affiliated with YouTube or any other domain and you will sign a separate contract with the MCN. There are two main advantages to this partnership. First, assuming the MCN is operated by competent people, the channel owner can concentrate on making content and not having to worry about business decisions, such as ads or building a subscriber base. The second advantage is that the content creator won’t have to worry about finding any other partners.

Once you find a Multi-Channel Network that’s appropriate for your content, they will be able to partner you up with other like-minded content providers with a similar subscriber base. In other words, if your channel is all about food, you won’t be signing with VEVO because they’re all about music.

However, you need to do your homework. Getting involved with the wrong MCN is equivalent to getting involved with the wrong producer, agent or business manager, and it can get ugly. Once your channel is fairly successful, start checking out several MCNs and let them make their proposals to you. Before entering into a contract with a MCN, consult a business attorney. Multiple MCNs have been known to include language in their contracts that make it extremely difficult and/or expensive for a content provider to leave them. Your attorney can also advise you on what is expected of you under the terms of our contract and what you can expect to get paid.

A few MCNs are very successful. VEVO, which is the MCN preferred by many of the top musical acts, had 14 channels in the Top 50 YouTube channels in March of this year. The second most successful MCN is Maker Studios, for which Disney paid between $500 million and $950 million dollars. This should demonstrate just how important new media has become to the Old Media companies. They’re not dropping the ball on new media because they understand its worth.

Building an audience and Making Money in New Media

Unlike the old Hollywood structure, where you could only find success from working with studios or being a hugely successful independent movie maker, there are myriad roads to success in new media. YouTube is currently one fast track to new media success, but mistakes will be made. YouTuber 5everGaming, a relative YouTewbie (YouTube newbie) said that his biggest mistake was not monetizing his videos at the beginning. “After my first fifty views, I realized I would’ve gotten my first YouTube penny, but then I learned that I had to monetize all of my videos in order for them to count toward that penny. I’ve gone back and set them up to monetize them, but now I lose all the views that I had – and I’ll never get that penny.”

Investopedia agrees with 5ever, stating that, “The first two steps in earning online revenue with YouTube [are] to open an account and turn on account monetization. Enabling monetization requires accepting YouTube’s advertising guidelines and connecting to an AdSense account for payment. Enabling ads on your YouTube videos requires agreeing to Google’s ad revenue share for YouTube. There is a 55/45 split for all content creators, so Google keeps 45 percent of all YouTube advertising on your videos, and you get the remaining 55 percent.”

Success has its Perks

One of the perks of gaining a big audience is — assuming you live in Los Angeles, New York, London, Berlin, Paris, Tokyo, São Paulo or Mumbai — access to YouTube Spaces. YouTube Spaces are massive soundstage and production facilities that are available to YouTube channel owners with a minimum of 10,000 subscribers who are actively uploading content, have no copyright claims against them and meet a few other requirements including going through an orientation. Although it takes only 10,000 subscribers to access YouTube Space, you don’t get full access until you’ve hit 1,000,000 subs, a feat that’s been achieved by over 2,000 channels so far.

YouTube Spaces have all the latest gear, including 4K and spherical video cameras to make content creation as advanced as possible. YouTube needs content creators to use the new tech and produce content with it.

“Our job is to make it easy to use. You need to do it in a way that makes it feel relatively easy and seamless,” explains Google Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan. “It’s a necessity to make content available across multiple screens and platforms.”

Other Revenue Streams

Once you have your channel headed in the right direction, you can now consider your revenue streams. As stated above, you need to monetize every video, especially since there’s no way to know which videos will go viral. This means agreeing to Google’s Partner Program. The revenue share program overview can be found here and the YouTube partner earnings overview can be found here. But if you choose not to look at other revenue streams, you’re doing yourself a disservice. As you look around, you’ll see more and more people walking around with hats and t-shirts from their favorite YouTube channel. Not only does this provide the channel owner with money from the sale of the merchandise, it also serves as an advertisement that your subs paid you for. Of course it’s not limited to hats and t-shirts. As we said earlier – push the boundaries!

The newest revenue stream available is called Fan Funding. This is a way for you to receive free donations from your fans without you providing anything other than the entertainment to which they’ve become accustomed. Google describes Fan Funding as “a new way to make voluntary payments to support the YouTube Creators you love. If a Creator has Fan Funding enabled, you'll see a Support button on their channel. You may also see a Support message in the corner of some videos.”

Then there are the corporate sponsors who are looking to get their products out there. This revenue stream isn’t limited to product review sites. Is there a company whose products you love? Is it going to hurt you to ask them for products that your channel uses? You may get free gear and possibly cash by talking about their equipment or by displaying it in your videos, an ages-old practice known as product placement.

The Future

New media takes on many roles in society. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki explained to CNN Money that YouTube sees itself as more than just an entertainment provider and feels that YouTube has a place in society where it can help people in developing countries, stating, “We do think about YouTube and the impact that it has on society we take that very seriously.”

Spherical video live streaming is a very new feature that’s already making a splash on YouTube and other forms of new media. Google Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan states that one of the key benefits of spherical live streaming is the ability to “open up the world’s experiences to everyone. We’ve all had that experience of wanting to be at that… event — and now with 360-degree live streaming, we’re getting you one step closer to actually being there… In addition to being bigger, better and faster, we’re now focused on being smarter, immersive and seamless.”

YouTube is always pushing the envelope on new technologies and now has, according to Mohan, over one million videos in 4K. However, as anyone who keeps up with Videomaker knows, 4K is just the next step to even higher definition videos, such as 8K and beyond.

Gamer Rig_Saw_31 notes that, “As long as YouTube doesn’t try to make radical changes, but continues to evolve with the times, there’s really no way anyone can undermine their success.” And 5everGaming left us with this bit of foresight, “There are a lot of content creators, so YouTube doesn’t have to rely on a couple of writers who can start getting things wrong, so they can always have new games, new ideas and new videos. They’re not likely to get stale in the future.” Consumers want to access video where they want and when they want. As Mohan explained, “YouTube’s been known to push the envelope [technologically], so we’ll continue to do this over the next few months, years, with things like 360-degree video [and] spatial audio.”

Beyond YouTube

Other sites that are an important, but often overlooked, aspect of new media are crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe and IndieGoGo. In today’s democratized video world, these bring products to market before they’re even created. Whether it’s smartwatches, three-wheel cars or even feature-length movies, people have been turning to these crowdfunding sites to procure the funds that they need to bring their dreams to life.

Kickstarter itself is the subject of a new media film called “Kickstarted,” a film whose producer, Kim Sherrell, describes as “a beautiful documentary about this awesome phenomenon that's occurring right in front of our eyes.” She goes on to explain that “‘Kickstarted’ follows the experiences of a musician, a filmmaker and an inventor, all of whom use crowdfunding to pursue their lifelong dreams.” More important, “There is not a single element in the film that does not owe to startup culture and network building.”

As a type of new media, Kickstarter videos also qualify to enter the New Media Film Festival, one of the methods of getting your media the exposure that you need. Its director, Susan Johnston, coined the term “Sniplers” for the 30-second clips that producers use to gain funding for their films. The Fest believes in this new art form enough that “Sniplers” is one of the categories in their 2016 edition. This is just one example of the many types of new media that are being produced currently.

If you plan to produce many videos over a long period of time, you might also look into the subscription-based creative funding site, Patreon, which allows patrons to contribute a specified amount per video published. This is a great way to secure more consistent support for your creative endeavours.

Want to see more? Try Vine, which is the art of making a six-second film using video clips and/or stills. Spherical video, movie trailers and web series are also excellent examples of short-form new media content. This year, the New Media Film Festival is premiering an Artificial Intelligence-chosen film. A million pictures, as well as the audio, were ingested into a computer and the computer chose the images. Again, new media is all about experimenting, trying new things and letting the audience determine worthiness.

John McCabe is a Los Angeles based Scriptwriter and Director. He is also the founder of Never Say Cut Productions. Tina Hoffman is a Freelance Producer and Graphic Artist.

Issue: 

John McCabe & Tina
Hoffman
Thu, 05/19/2016 - 9:17am