It’s 3:30am and I’m writing about YouTube, so you know this should be good. Actually, no. I’m going to spill my thoughts on the page and hopefully I come somewhat close to making sense. Earlier tonight I tweeted the following:
Let me clarify what I was trying to say here. The shitty thing about Twitter is the fact that you’ve only got 140 characters to get your point across, and even when posting multiple tweets you’re still probably barely getting across what you actually meant to say.
This is going to be covering the “adpocalypse” as it applies to the YouTube horror community. Yes, people of the internet, I am aware that the issue has hit everyone and isn’t exclusive to horror or crime content. This is my thing, so it only seems appropriate that I talk about what I know rather than trying to speak for the whole site.
First, and most obviously–people are still freaked out. The boycott hit in April and four months later we’re still pretty screwed and not much has changed. It sucks, yes–but this is just the reality we have to deal with. I may be out of the loop, but it seems most horror creators are looking to pack up and leave to another site. Be Busta recently made the switch to Twich and he seems happy so far–he’s found something that works for him.
Note how “works for him” is in bold letters. The thing is–and I’m going to have to be real here for a second–the horror community on YouTube is terribly codependent. Before we go forward, there is nothing wrong with being an active member in a community, not one bit. Compared to other pockets of YouTube we seem to interact with each other a lot more. It’s way less difficult to get in contact with someone at the top here than it is anywhere else. On top of that, I believe horror creators tend to collaborate amongst themselves a great deal more.
These aren’t necessarily bad things, but back to the issue of codependency. Sure, being a tight-knit community can help boost creativity and offer smaller creators more exposure–but relying on one another too much is never a good idea. Now, before you shoot back at me with a list of reasons why I’m wrong, please consider what I just said: too much. There is such thing as too much of a good thing, no?
My point is this: YouTube horror creators are very hive minded. A lot of them become friends, share ideas, and morally support one another, so it isn’t surprising how things ended up this way. When the ad boycott hit and YouTube began cracking down on things the horror community was hit hard. You saw some of the top names take insane revenue cuts and content restrictions. Given the nature of the community, this hit to the bigger names obviously left the smaller ones scared and rather demoralized. This was the whole reason I decided to have my horror showcase involving 71 of you. It was really meant to be something to get your spirits up.
Naturally, when this happened we all began exploring other options and alternatives to what we were already doing. To many the answer was Patreon. Because of it, things like Seriously Strange still exist. The fans were able to come in and offer us support when we needed it most. Ok, so the fans helped, but what has YouTube been up to? Well, we should know at this point that they’ll never tell us–that’s just reality. Because of this silence more alternatives have been discussed and explored, mainly sites like Twitch, Vid.me and Minds.
Here’s where I get into what I was tweeting about. I don’t know how these sites work, so I’m not saying I’m against them, but this is something to take into consideration. If these sites are also ad-based (excluding Twitch, I know that’s a bit different) then you may still run into the same issues that we have with YouTube. YouTube isn’t a being–it’s a business. It’s not out to get you, or to personally shut down your channel. YouTube, although incredibly frustrating at times, is just trying to do what it takes to survive. Their communication sucks, sure, but us yelling at them endlessly about the same things won’t get them to budge. With all that said, sites like the ones I just mentioned are also businesses, and if they depend on advertising then they need to keep those advertisers happy. Think about that.
Ok, so let’s say there’s an alternative site where they’re more like pre-adpocalypse YouTube where they aren’t as strict. That’s great, but based on CPM/traffic rates and how these things work you’re still not going to be fixing your problem. Why? The issue is money, right? I know “money” is basically a swear word in the creative field, but let’s be real. That’s what demonetization and ads deal in–money. So, if you’re a small creator and you hop over to an alternative site, you’re definitely barely going to be making anything. If you’re a larger channel and you hop over, you’re still not going to be making what you did on YouTube. Not all of your fans will follow you over. It’s unfortunate, but true. YouTube simply has the highest traffic rates. Again, I’m absolutely not saying you shouldn’t switch if it’s what you want. Be Busta did it, and hey, he’s happy. Of course, he did have to make a slight adjustment and is doing more live streams now–but that’s the nature of Twitch. If you move over, you’ll have to learn the new site’s game.
While on the topic of alternative sites, I wanted to add this: It seems that a good chunk of the horror community is in favor of leaving YouTube en masse as a form of protest. The idea is to have everyone, including the big guys, drop everything and move over to a site like Vid.me, for example. Ok, look–I’m not saying we don’t have enough spirit to do this or that we should let YouTube step all over us, but there is a huge flaw in this approach. I already mentioned how not all fans will follow you over, so that’s one thing. Another issue here is the fact that each creator is an individual. Sure, we all cover the darker things in life, but no two channels are identical, and the same can be said for the creators behind them. This is why I emphasized Be Busta. He did what works for him–not what the community said, not what other YouTubers in general said, not what his fans demanded. He did what he thought was the best move to keep his content alive. Some may disagree, but you gotta do what you gotta do–even if it isn’t what everyone else had in mind.
We tried. We (everyone on YT, not just us) complained and spoke out, and YouTube is clearly not going to change things back. At some point there needs to be less talk and more action. The more time and energy we spend angry at YouTube the less time we’re spending actually trying to figure out a solution.
So, what is the solution?
Fuck if I know, but what I do know is that there is no blanket solution here. The nature of online video in general is changing. Think of the music industry. When is the last time you actually paid for music? How do you think musicians handled the industry shift? No, I’m not saying they’re similar to us–we’re in a completely different world from them, but my point is that industries and times change. If you want to survive you need to be smart enough to think fast and adapt. We can’t solve this as one “YouTube horror” entity because we’re all different. Some channels just tell scary stories over stock footage. Some tell true stories in the same way but may be more graphic. Some people focus on crime or the paranormal. There really isn’t a way to wrap that all up together and ask advertisers to pick out which ones are ok. “Horror” is such a broad term. Think of the many, many subgenres of horror movies there are. You simply can’t lump us all together under one label.
Yes, it would be infinitely helpful if we had clear guidelines from YouTube about what is and isn’t acceptable, but we can’t sit around and wait until that happens. I also retweeted a post from Rob Dyke that basically said that horror creators need to reinvent themselves. This is true. If YouTube won’t change, then it’s your responsibility to adapt in order to save your content. Yes, it sucks–don’t think for a second that I’m saying it doesn’t. At this point you either sink or swim, that’s just reality. You can’t keep YouTube creepy if videos aren’t being made.
This isn’t something that can be handled as a community. It’s time for everyone to put down the pitchforks and go back to the drawing board–alone. Now, I’m not saying to abandon the community, I’m simply saying that if you want to see change then you’re going to have to start making it happen instead of using all your energy protesting. Consider options you may not have in the past. Diversify your revenue streams. Look for sponsors and brand deals. Try selling merch. Maybe Twitch steams playing horror games? I don’t know. Be creative and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Switch sites if you need to. Don’t depend solely on advertisers to keep you floating. Find ways to supplement your income. Also remember to keep an eye on your analytics each day. You may find a loophole that can help everyone.
If you’re a bigger creator then you probably already know of everything I just said. If you’re a smaller one, my advice is to keep pushing on. You’re at a stage where you were never depending on YouTube for money anyway, so don’t sweat it. Keep doing what you’re doing and when the time comes you’ll be able to figure out a way to do this full-time. I know how demoralizing this can be. Maybe your goal this year was to become a full-time creator and now it got shot down. If you want this bad enough then think about what you need to do to get your videos in front of as many people as possible. Along the way make sure to remember what I said about not putting all your eggs in one basket.
As I said on Twitter, if you’re in any creative field then you need to adapt to survive. You can’t expect stability. What you’re able to get really depends on how badly you want it.
And now to wait for the hate mail.