Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The rise of the unofficial YouTube MCN

Want to start an MCN? Why? Lots of channel owners hate them and, if you are in a specialist consumer area such as hunting (which is where we are), you would need almost all the top hunting channels as members to meet the minimum eligible viewcount.

That has not stopped a new class of MCN from stepping up to the plate. It's the Website Curated Network. I'm calling it the WCN. Yup, you saw it here first.

It's a website that curates a lot of videos and even other posts from different sources. It operates outside the permission but with the encouragement of YouTube. It adds editorial value around each video with the aim of becoming a one-stop-shop for viewers - it offers links to useful stuff - and then it takes all that to advertisers in its market and to Google Adsense. And if YouTube bans any of the content, well the website can swap the video element over to Vimeo, Facebook or any of the other TV-embedding social media. The page URL on the website for that content remains the same.

Take WeShoot. It started out as a pure social media website and app based on the look and feel of Facebook. Since GDPR, it has become a hybrid news/social media site. Its main thrust is clayshooting but it covers all shooting sports. It views the world from a user point of view, asking what do you like? You can post your shooting/hunting related content, either directly to WeShoot or via a link from existing site. It even allows you to post via an RSS feed, so you can maintain your presence on YouTube or Facebook and post automatically on WeShoot at the same time. And it fills in the gaps with posts from established media such as the ISSF YouTube channel, which provides excellent coverage of the trapshooting scene. WeShoot was founded and remains funded by clay pigeon trap manufacturer Laporte. It has taken a while to get to where it is, but we believe at Fieldsports Channel that it has a bright future.

Another good one is HuntMag.eu. As well as original content, it's a place to curate what's going on in hunting across Europe, which gives it a pan-European campaigning edge. There is enough original content to make it a destination in its own right, and enough curated content to give it critical mass as an authoritative source. It is a pure news site and curates other, suitable videos and posts to reflect its editorial 'promise'. It is produced from Malta in multiple languages.

In Germany, our favourite is Geartester.de. Its editorial promise is good quality, honest tests of outdoor/hunting/shooting gear, which again comes from curated content as well as direct posts to the site.

These three websites provide 'honesty of basis'. From a consumer point of view, they have clear editorial direction, and from a subscriber point of view, they hold nothing back from the user. There are no secret password-protected areas that break the sense of trust a viewer has to have with a website.

This is where we are going with FieldsportsChannel.tv. We produce enough content every week to make us a destination in our own right, but we also have news programmes that call on videos and pictures from across the web and help give us 'news currency'.

There are plenty of new websites with one foot in the past, reflecting the 1990s when scheduled TV was normal and viewing figures opaque. New from the USA, GEN7 Outdoors streams scheduled outdoor programming 24/7 in 1080 HD using Streamotor.com and on to outlets suck as Roku. Each episode is aired three times a week, morning, afternoon and prime-time. All show’s past episodes are available on demand for 12 months. As the TV business shows again and again, the tactics of the past continue to make money. Audiences are slow to change their viewing habits.

GEN7 consists of TV shows such as Camo Crusade and Real Outdoors USA. At time of writing it claims 6.6m web-based views, 4.4m via TV apps and 2.1m elsewhere. This level of popularity is not borne out by its YouTube presence, which currently has just 86 subscribers, but I'll leave GEN7 to back up its claims.

The trend towards WCNs is not all carrot. There is stick, too. Hunters and shooters have a strong belief that YouTube is anti-hunting/shooting. After a flurry of community strikes earlier in 2018, there is little evidence of that now. But that's why Sootch00 went to GetZone.com, which currently hosts films using just JWPlayer.

So how do these WCNs make money? The answer is off-YouTube deals.

Formerly against YouTube's terms of service, throughout 2018, YouTube has been more and more happy to allow channels to make off-YouTube deals. The bosses at Google, which owns YouTube, realise that encouraging channels to talk to advertisers produces greater engagement from advertisers with YouTube. Fieldsports Channel makes almost all of its income from product placement deals.

There was a time when that would have had an impact on our editorial integrity. I ran the theatre at the Game Fair this year (2018) and asked the audience for a show of hands on this one: does it bother you that our videos are funded by product placement? They said no. They are quite capable of ignoring the products and enjoying the narrative anyway.

There are problems for being a WCN over a pure YouTube channel. When competing for ad dollars, it is a significant problem for these new websites that they have no standardised or believable method of viewcounting in the way Google/YouTube provides. The best they can do is aggregate the views they get on their member YouTube channels. Our viewcount on YouTube is more than 100 million and only 4% of those are em­bed­ded in ex­tern­al web­sites and apps, so we know we are a long way from making our website the core of our business.

The next step is for the WCNs to wake up to their position as, each one of them, a mini Netflix. Currently, TV viewers may construct their evening's viewing around cruising around YouTube or Netflix or the new website content curators. As WCNs and top quality channels now count their videos in the 1000s, viewers will learn to spend an evening on just one of them.

A quick word about subscription sites

Many video publishers look at this market and decide that viewer subscription is the way to deal with it. They don't need to initiate and maintain personal relationships with advertisers. It's a nice, clean, mass-market ad proposition: put €1 into the advertising machine and take €9.99 subscriptions out of the tray at the bottom.

Bearplay.tv is a new one, which serves the Scandinavian hunting market. Made up of broadcasters including Rasmus Boström and his dogs, the Bravader Brothers and Kristoffer Clausen, it collaborates closely with some of Nordic’s largest hunting magazines, such as Jaktjournalen+Jägare, Jaktmarker+Fiskevatten and the online magazine Vildmarken. You pay US$4.99/month to view. It goes up against Jaktflix.se which charges SKr42/month for its subscription TV.

Kristoffer Clauser also runs his own subscription TV site at Clausentv.com. Other subscription sites include Jaeger TV in Germany and MOTV in the USA. MOTV, which recently merged with DVD producer Hunters Video, charges US$9.99 a month and does not release viewing figures. Jaeger TV comes as part of a magazine subscription and claims 13,000 users. That's tiny compared to the audience YouTube hunting/shooting channels achieve but it provides an income that not far short of what the YouTube channels are making when they successfully leverage their WCN appeal.

Subscription works for Netflix and Amazon but we believe that, long term, it will not work in specialist consumer markets. Too many people in subscription TV are pointing to the good old days, pre-YouTube, when you could expect 20,000 people to pay you €15/month. YouTube has removed that market.

We hope to be proved wrong. If we are right, it remains to be seen whether these subscription channels will be able to make the jump to being ad-funded channels. But they are certainly well-placed to aggregate content from a number of YouTube and other TV producers, and make that pitch to advertisers.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Age restriction on YouTube - what to do

Our YouTube channel covers hunting and shooting, so our videos are often age-restricted - and some videos we age-restrict ourselves.

Our advice is don't appeal them. We find they don't last forever - unless you appeal against them. Here's a screen shot of the analytics from one of our films.

You can see the times it has been age-restricted (almost no views) and the times that restriction has been lifted. In its life so far, it has been age-restricted three times and has achieved nearly 5m views.

I have asked YouTube about this. Tey have no idea how or why the restriction is lifted - but, in the films where we appeal, the restrictions are not lifted.

What about doing the age-restriction yourself? in the short term, it slows down the chance of that video getting a big audience. Age restriction means the video has no chance of appearing in the crucial Suggested Videos column on the right of the YouTube screen. However, it is not disastrous. 

Here is the graph for a video we age-restricted ourselves. 

Where it has done well is where someone on another social media platform - usually Twitter - has shared the  video. Age restriction is chic! This film has still achieved 1.25m views.

Monday, 8 February 2016

How I hate emphatics

The motto of the modern media reader or viewer is "I'll be the judge of that". It may lead them to death by natural disaster as they ignore warning signs but they stay true to it. And perhaps truest when it comes to the use of emphatics in newspaper copy.

In his book My Trade, Andrew Marr points out that the number of noughts in a statistics is in inverse proportion to its veracity. He also says that you should answer any headline that starts 'Is this...?' with the answer 'No'. To these, I would like to add rules about emphatics, which have spread like disease into press releases, and from there into the media itself. We know that words such as 'some' and 'very' mean nothing. There's a new breed of word, led by the iniquitous 'stunning'. I hate stunning. I do not feel stunned when I read the word 'stunning'. I am sure I do not want to feel 'stunned'.

Not only are these words worthless, they are overused. Nearly 30% of the emphatics I come across are the words 'luxury' and 'luxurious'. That is followed by 'excellent' on 20% and 'perfect' on 12%. Imagine that. 12% of everything I read about is perfect. How happy my life must be.

Press releases fulfill a valuable function for me. They are a source of facts - of numbers, of descriptions, of amounts. I use them for that. I can see that sneaking the word 'stunning' into a press release that eventually makes it out as broadcast or news copy gives a sense of third-party endorsement from the media. But I believe that is now knocked out by the numbness that readers feel towards these words. They look at something which is 'stunning' and they say "I'll be the judge of that".

Here is an example of a proper reaction to an emphatic. The WCs in trains used to carry the message 'Do not flush in any station', to which wags could add the words 'except Yeovil', 'except Doncaster' or 'except Paisley' depending on which part of the country they were. The train companies have cleverly spotted that this graffiti is due to a wayward emphatic: the tawdry 'any'. The signs now correctly and efficiently read 'Do not flush in station'.

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