Sunday, 27 July 2014

Manifesto for a better YouTube

These are our demands:

Everyone is their own MCN
MCNs change hands for $100s of millions, yet their business model hangs by a thread. The only thing they do that nobody else can do is sell ads on to specific channels. Everything else they offer, like magical lines in to YouTube management is flimflam. So you want to be seen exclusively by the LisaNova audience? you place your ad through Maker/Disney. (1) This is not the democratisation of content+cash we YouTubers signed up for and (2) we at Fieldsports Channel - prevented from placing ads on our own channel - have to resort to product placement within our films to place the $350,000 of annual adspend that comes our way. We would like to spend it on YouTube but we can't. Wake up YouTube - we could make you rich!

Content ID matches for everyone
Stop the Content ID civil war on YouTube, and use this software to crack down on other video sites that rip off honest YouTubers' films. Yeah - talking to you MailOnline and LiveLeak. What bugs us at Fieldsports Channel is that MailOnline, for example, will rip off a film, run their own ads in front of it and credit it YouTube / FieldsportsChannel. As a former magazine editor, I know that the advantage of a double credit is when one side rings up to complain, you say you got permission from the other. Well, YouTube, stand up for us. You trawl these websites with your content ID match software and you say to them: 'Either produce the written permission from the YouTube channel concerned, or take down the film, or, best of all, swap it for a film embedded from YouTube'. Last time I had to ring MailOnline to ask politely to swap their version of my film for my version of my film, the Mail wonk got aggressive and said: 'Are you threatening us?'. No - you are bullying us.

Everyone can have an EPG
YouTube is king of VOD but in a way which denies that scheduled programming takes place. The market for VOD is driven by lean-forward, mouth-shut, clicky-click viewers. Scheduled programme viewers come home from work, slump on to sofas, their mouths open, and switch on the TV as a kind of voluntary tinnitus. A lot of them do this with terrestrial and satellite TV who could be watching YouTube if they thought they could get scheduled programmes there. Why doesn't YouTube introduce an EPG function for playlists? As well as being available as VOD, playlists play on a loop, with a TV guide style list of what's coming up and when, taking the decision of what to watch and when out of the hands of people who would rather not make those decisions.

Look after the little guy
YouTube has become a sharkpool of channels that have sophisticated alarm systems for trending films. Anyone whose video races up to a few thousand views in a few minutes gets the call: sell your film to us for $150. Who are they to trust? The nice man on the phone or the faceless black, white and red organisation? So, YouTube, celebrate these trending films, and remind them that they will make more money from YouTube. And stop your silly habit of making one channel the only YouTube search result on Google Search. Get those Googlers to develop a lighter touch about what's trending on YouTube.

Playlists - sort them out
Here's our thing: Fieldsports Channel puts out three long-form magazine programmes a week, each consisting of several short items. We used to upload them as standalone long-form films (15-40 minutes), then reupload the individual items as short-form standalones (1-15 minutes). That means we uploaded all our films twice. And due to what passes for broadband in the UK, it took us 100 hours of not going out to upload the long-form films alone. Now we upload everything as shortform, including the links between the items, and bundle the items together as a playlist to make a programme - see - but... playlists fall a long way short of YouTube's promise. Some of our viewers bought 'smart' TVs just to watch our programmes, they tell us. Playlists don't work on smart TVs. A lot of our viewers watch us on iPhones and iPads. We lost the iPhone viewers overnight and the iPad viewers tell us they are only comfortable watching the playlist when it's embedded in a website. And why does a playlist need to buffer between items? Is it such a surprise to YouTube that someone watching one item on a playlist will want to watch the next item seamlessly? Doh!

Flagging - keep it proportional
Nobody knows how many flags a video needs before YouTube age-restricts it. But we at Fieldsports Channel know it is definitely a number and not a percentage of a film's likes. Here's how we know. Our films are about hunting, shooting and fishing. Not everyone like us for it. Read the comments - we get about a dozen death threats a month. Most of our viewers, however, do like what we do. You can tell by the number of likes we get compared to the number of dislikes. Pro-hunting feeling is beating anti-hunting feeling on our channel by a factor of five. Sadly, any of our films that reaches a million views will - guaranteed - be age restricted because of the number of flags it has received. Age restriction kills a film's views. That means the maximum any of our films can earn is $2,000. If it weren't for product placement, that would have seriously limiting effect on what filming we could do. Make flags into a percentage of likes, YouTube. It will stop you being in the illogical position of waiting for a film to be seen by a million children before you decide children can't see it.

Life is more than 12 topics
YouTube splits the world into just a few subjects. Fieldsports Channel is a hunting/fishing channel. We are one of more than 500 channels devoted to hunting, fishing and shooting sports, generating 100s of millions of views a month between us. Yet we sit uncomfortably as a Sports channel next to weird channels about wrestling and the high jump. Sometimes we make a break for it and list our films as Pets & Wildlife, but then we get surrounded by cats and hamsters. Stop being hidebound by oldfashioned TV industry ideas about what people watch, YouTube. Take your inspiration from the specialist consumer magazine industry, which is much better at carving up the world into interests and other demographics. If you are going to pigeonhole special interests, do something clever like match the popular subreddits.

Fake views
Clamp down on this hard. Every few months, someone from Mountain View goes public and says that Something Must Be Done about Virool, viewbots and clickfarms. Well, do it. We're tired of waiting.

YouTube Pay / YouTube Shows
Great ideas. What went wrong? Don't get me started.

All of this adds up to one slogan: 'YouTube democracy'. YouTube is a wonderful platform - we YouTubers are completely cool about the money it makes for Google. But it only works because everyone gets the views and the revenue share they deserve.

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