Grateful to YouTube?

Having posted my “I Left YouTube” video yesterday one of the arguments I have been receiving is that I should be “grateful” to YouTube and should not complain about them being a retched business partner. Apparently YouTube has been generous and I am biting the hand that fed me… To be clear I AM grateful for having had the experience, but that’s not exactly the same thing as being grateful to YouTube.

One of the reasons for this disconnect in views between myself and so many YouTube viewers is that I came to YouTube in a bit ass backwards fashion. When I came to YouTube I was dumping the scraps of a failed startup into the trash bin. I did not come to YouTube to be famous. I did not spend hours, days, and weeks of my life trying to figure out what content would do the best on the platform. I did not conspire with fellow creators to game the system and try to boost my stats. Basically I had 100 long form videos that it was too expensive to bother paying hosting services for, and right at that moment YouTube sent me an email saying I could upload long form content. I uploaded the content, and went back to consulting. 11 months later my revenue was taking off so I figured I’d see how far I could ride the wave.

To be clear within 11 months of uploading videos to YouTube my take home revenue was over $1000 per month which means YouTube was keeping close to that amount for themselves, and the revenue kept growing to an amount that made YouTube competitive with my open market rates.

I never found a community on YouTube. YouTube did not give me a “purpose” other than a good way to pay the bills. I came to YouTube as a highly skilled professional who simply did the math and decided yabbering into a camera was better than having to worry about systems crashing at midnight on Christmas Eve.

I have watched enough “draw my life” videos to know that a huge number of successful creators found not just a way to pay the bills, but rather a purpose to lives that were darn miserable before they uploaded to the platform. I in no way wish to denigrate those creators, but I am simply not one of them. I did cool things before YouTube, I will do cool things after YouTube. YouTube has been interesting, but in 2011 if the checks hadn’t started coming in I would have found something else to do with my time.

I fear that folks like me are not being spoken for loudly enough in the YouTube community and in the company. People like me don’t just write business plans, but we also do things like research H.264 licensing. I haven’t had to worry about copyright issues on YouTube to any great extent because a year before I started uploading to YouTube I had spent a week fully researching the topic. BEFORE I uploaded to my own video servers I made sure I was in the clear since as a business person I did not think being sued was something akin to spotting a unicorn.

It’s people like me that talk about YouTube to CEO’s and professionals that still it see it as a place for kids. It’s people like me who explain the ROI of YouTube to people that can “play” with $1 million for new experiments. It’s people like me who can be the bridge between people with real resources, and the whole YouTube community. People like me don’t do this out of some false idea of loyalty. It’s for the betterment of all of us. If I can explain why a company should invest in YouTube content, I can also bring up the idea that they should think about sponsoring folks like me. We all work together to build something so that we can all profit.

Sadly this mindset in an anathema on YouTube. Creators should create content for the “love” of it. We should be beholden to the platform in thanks for what they have graciously “given” us. We should labor away for the viewers appreciation.

YouTube as a company doesn’t even seem to think much about the creators. YouTube’s cut has been hundreds of thousands of dollars at this point, and yet all I get from them is a contact I can email if a video is falsely flagged. They change the algorithms and don’t bother to explain anything to creators like me. The CPM’s have sunk through the floor with not so much as a notice as to what’s happening at the industry level. It’s obvious that more or less they are under the same belief as the viewers. We’re not partners. I should be thankful for their generosity.

A few years ago that barely made sense. With the loyal viewers new found willingness to pay for content they care about, and the rise of cheap video distribution the baubles YouTube offers creators are looking more and more like the cheap plastic jewels that they are. For $100 per month I have control of my business, vs. saving some money and being at the whim people that don’t respect creators in the least?

I will forever be grateful to the Irish guy that paid my tram fare and walked me to my hostel when I arrived on the ferry from Wales and had no Euros. I will be indebted till my final breath to the Aussies that patched me up when I was beat half to death in Thailand. I will always speak with reverence about Adolpho showing me how to become a tech consultant. These are people that helped me out of kindness with no other payment than for me to offer the same care forward.



  1. If there’s any consolation… since there’s no Mr. You Tube, part of the money they kept on their side might have been paid to techs that keep servers running and some people working for wages to raise families and maintain households. You’re a good guy Eli. You fed some You Tube Ducks.

  2. Well, I figured you deserve the $5 a month for all your knowledge you willingly gave to me for free (on my end). I hope you let go of some of that weight you seem to be carrying. Remember if you’re brilliant, you’re dam near guaranteed to be miserable in some manner elsewhere. Balance! and best of luck.

  3. Nicely written, Eli. I look forward to the changes you make on Failed Normal and as a Technology Professional who is an entrepreneur I like owning the infrastructure that my business survives on especially at a cost as low as $100 a month.

  4. How can anyone defend YouTube? Google have complete contempt for their users. They actively resent that their platforms are driven by human beings. I don’t understand how there isn’t a content creators union yet, like the Screen Actors Guild. The structures of power in that operation are truly horrifying, and something really needs to be done to bring some of that power back to the creators.

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