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Get a Calendar!

I don't know if you'll be surprised by this, but even though I'm, like, constantly in the weeds of the budget, some things still surprise me when we zoom, specifically that YouTube rev-share is still such a huge part of our business (it used to be like 90% I guess it just feels smaller because it's been shrinking.)

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Good morning John! So as you know, I run a YouTube company that makes educational videos, and then gives them away. It's not- a super great business model, but it does work, most times. The company continues to slowly grow, making more things, doing more stuff. We have around 50 employees now. You might find yourself asking, "How does that work?" And, that's a great question. I imagine Complexly to be a project of Nerdfighteria. This is very much where Complexly started, and so, if you are curious, I would like to share how we make ends meet in this very new weird world.

First, YouTubers make 55% of the money that is made by the ads running on our content. YouTube also shares 55% of the money made from YouTube Premium after their record labels take their cuts. Which, if you are curious, turns out to be significantly more than an ad-supported view. But most people aren't signed up for premium, so that's around 3% of Complexly's revenue, while YouTube ads are around 28%.

Number two, grants! A lot of people recognize that our content, specifically Crash Course, just generates a whole lot more value than it could ever capture, like maybe millions of times more, and some of those people are wealthy, or they work for wealthy people or institutions. They want people to have access to great resources and so they give us money to make them. Now, grants do have strings attached. Some are extra stringy, but we always make it very clear that they can give us ideas and inputs, but we are in charge of what gets created. Now this can fluctuate a ton from year to year, but last year, grants were responsible for about the same amount of revenue as YouTube was, at 29%.

Coming in at just under 20% is crowdfunding! So because people know that basically everything we do is not sustainable given the current business models of internet content, they give us money, either through our Patreons or through the Crash Course coin. I think everybody supports things for different reasons, but I think there's like a mix of like a selfish thing where like, I want this content to exist so I will pay for it, and more of a selfless thing, which is that like, I will pay for so that all people can have access to it. Now crowdfunding does not come with any strings at all, where advertising or grants could. So not only does it make our stuff possible, I think it makes it better because we get to make all the choices.

Fourth, at 14%, we also sell our own ads, so like Policy Genius on Dear Hank and John, or Curiosity Stream on SciShow. That comes out of our internal sales team. It's more of a pain in the butt, but the ad rates are high and we don't have to split it with anybody.

Number five, we also license our content to various platforms. Like it's all available for free, but some people want our content, like Curiosity Stream has a lot of Crash Course on it, and we get paid for that. Altogether, our licensing last year was about 5% of the company's revenue.

And last, at 2%, which is not nothing, but it is 2%, is physical product. Just bringing high-quality things that provide value into people's lives, like the Microcosmos Telescope, which I'm looking at but you can't see. And we'd like to do more stuff like that, which is why, get this, we are selling 5 calendars for 5 of our shows, the Eons and Bizarre Beasts calendars, which features the best of the original art created for those shows. The Microcosmos calendar features the microphotography of James Weiss, our master of microscopes and the SciShow and SciShow Scape calendars just showcase the variety of and beauty of our world, and of worlds in our solar system. Every calendar is printed on high-quality paper in the US. They ship everywhere, and they feature not just beautiful images, but also lots of interesting facts about those images because we cannot stop ourselves from sharing how cool the world is.

Every show at Complexly has a really different mix of how it makes itself sustainable, some of our shows don't break even for a pretty long time, some of them never do, and we end up canceling them, and it's hard, and it's weird, and it often feels like we don't know what we're doing, but there's a reason for that, which is that no one's done this before. Like companies like this didn't exist 10 years ago, when Complexly started. We're just very busy trying things out, seeing what works. Just using the talents and skills of people on the team to make things that are great and that we think people will like. 

So how about this. I come back next year, and I tell you whether or not that 2% percent changed because maybe you needed a calendar, and we made some great ones. And they are available at John, I'll see you on Tuesday.