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In which John takes an unexpected visit to the gray speckled walls of America's airports to mull the role that advertising plays in shaping (and funding) online video content, at times incentivizing the popular over the significant.

Also I just had dental surgery, so I'm in a great mood.
Good morning Hank; it's Tuesday.

So yesterday I had one of my teeth forcefully removed from my skull, and I'm in a lot of pain, and frankly, kind of in a bad... [looks around] What... What... am I in an airport?

[Announcement over speakers]

All right, I'm going to throw this out, if you've boarded all customers, then why... why do you need to brag on it?

Pro tip: never make a video about how you're not going to be in an airport for six months, because then the Fates will conspire against you. So in addition to being in considerable physical pain, Hank, there's also the psychic pain of being in an airport unexpectedly, and on my way to Los Angeles to do... things [on-screen: "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson"].

But Hank, let us not dwell on our various miseries, instead let's discuss advertising. Now Hank, I realize that you and I are like the only two people in Nerdfighteria who are bothered by advertising, but I'm still bothered by it, so... I'm just going to make this video for you, I guess.

Now, it's not like I'm inherently bothered by like corporate sponsorship of art or whatever; here's what bothers me: Imagine you watch a one-minute video of an adorable kitten riding a Rumba. And then, you watch a one-minute video of Minute Physics explaining like special relativity or something.

The advertisers on both those videos care you as the viewer are, like they care about how old you are, and how much money you make, they probably care about what your favorite pony is...

Who your favorite pony is? I hope I didn't just alienate the entire brony community by calling ponies "what"'s.

But anyway, the advertisers don't really care about the difference between a kitten on a Rumba and Minute Physics; what they want is for you to lean back, and enjoy content, so that you are also leaning back and enjoying yourself when you watch their ad. You hear this all the time when you talk to television people; they're constantly bragging about how they make "lean-back" entertainment.

Now, Hank, it's true that there are a lot of excellent shows on television, although most of them are on cable, which is funded in part by like crowd-sourcing, but I would argue it's no coincidence that the TV shows with the strongest communities right now are not funded by advertisers. I'm looking at you, Doctor Who. And also you, Mr. Handsome-batch.

So Hank, to me the problem with advertising is that it doesn't incentivize the best views; it incentivizes the most views. It says what's ultimately valuable about YouTube communities is not their passions or their achievements, but just their sizes.

Like back in 2007, Hank, when we only had a few hundred regular viewers, the Nerdfighter community was still doing really interest stuff together. Nerdfighters made their first $1000 in Kiva loans when we had fewer than 100 subscribers.

So how to you make projects that are interesting and important, but don't get a million views a video, sustainable? Okay, so the comments of your last video basically saw five models:

One, the pay wall. You know, you don't get to watch a video unless and until you've paid to be a member. My problem with the pay wall is that I don't think it strengthens a community to have it consist entirely of people who can afford to pay to watch stuff.

Option two, Kickstartering. Kickstarting; they probably call it Kickstarting. Kickstarter is awesome, but it mostly makes sense for something that has an end, you know, like a movie, or an album, or a game, something that you will make and then ship.

You can't really have a Kickstarter for a YouTube channel, because hopefully it will last like forever. Eh, no, probably not forever. Forever is an incorrect concept.

Option three, everybody volunteers so the budget is zero. I like this option - it's basically what we did with Brotherhood 2.0, but it's often impractical. The thing is, people - particularly proper grown-up people, like myself, who sit around in airports pointing cameras at themselves, making everyone around them uncomfortable - like to eat, and pay rent, and stuff.

Option four, sell merchandise, so people can support the thing they love, while also bragging about the thing they love. Now that's a good idea. Speaking of which, Brain Scoop merchandise? I have no involvement with the Brain Scoop, by the way, except loving it.

And then there's option five, the public radio model. Public radio has fundraising campaigns, they have membership options, where you could donate like $3 a month or whatever, they also get some money from corporate underwriting, they sell an ass-ton of tote bags, and then they get some grant money, and some public money.

In short, the money comes from many different places. They don't require listeners to give, but they ask listeners to give, and then they explain where that money will go. And I, at least, am always happy to be a member of my public radio station, even though I understand that I don't have to be a member in order to listen.

Hank, the truth, at least for me, is that if I'm part of a community that I really value, I'm not going to support it because I get like secret perks that aren't available to other people; I'm going to support because I like it, and I want it to grow and thrive!

Whether it's Ze Frank, or WheezyWaiter, or Hannah Hart, or the South African Nerdfighter SSondiyazi, I want to find a way to say "Thank you for making me lean forward." And I just don't think advertising alone can do that - all right, I got to get on my plane.

Hank, DFTBA, I'll see you on Friday.