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Let's be honest, YouTube is becoming more businesy...more corporate even. I'm a part of this, not only because I run a business in which I work with other people to produce content that I (and not they) own. But also because I run VidCon, a place where we have a track specifically designed for people who are in the business of YouTube to talk about the business of YouTube. I do /some/ things to influence that conversation, but actually try pretty hard not to do too much of that because I recognize that my view of the world is not the only valid one.

YouTube is going to keep changing, but there will always be fascinating, interesting, weird, independent stuff happening on this platform. But it will likely never again be the thing at the top of the YouTube Mountain, and I definitely feel weird about that.

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Good morning, John.

Online video has always been about relatable, authentic, even independent content. That's the fascinating part, right, that anybody can do this. But can they?

It has gotten much harder and the perception of it has gotten much more mainstream. To be both authentic and relatable becomes very hard when you're doing this professionally. 

(0:17) There's not much less relatable than being the CEO of a media company, and I'm the CEO of a media company now. I don't really know how that happened. With VidCon and SciShow and CrashCourse and DFTBA Records and all of our other productions, we have like thirty employees now! Now this is still solidly a small business, like we have fewer employees than the average McDonald's.

But I've had a lot of problems in the last year that are super unrelatable that I'm not going to talk about in videos. Nobody wants to hear me, like, whine about how complicated it is to figure out how to properly classify employment insurance for CrashCourse freelancers.

 Getting Attention

(0:49) I love YouTube- I love all of YouTube- but I really the independent, weird stuff where someone finds a niche or a format that's just perfect for their skills and their style. The Super Carlin Brothers, after years of making content for a very small audience, recently found a format that has become hugely successful, and Bill Wurtz's 'History of Japan' is a weird art piece from a creator that came out of nowhere that I think everybody should watch.

(1:15) But when we started, there was a lot of attention and next to no content, so it was really easy to get noticed. Now, it could hardly be more crowded, and the number one thing you need to get attention is attention, and most of the people and companies who have attention want to turn that attention back on themselves or to sell it to advertisers. 

If you're making great content and nobody's seeing it, it's harder and harder to get a leg up. We do some of that, with things like The Financial Diet and Health Care Triage and Sexplanations and Animal Wonders, and of course we've got the Vlogbrothers' ad revenue grants. This month we sent money to Science With Tom, Eternally Curious, Simon Oxfizz and Unacademy, which is India's largest free education initiative.

(1:48) But it's always easiest to turn attention and money to new things that we are doing, like NerdCon or DearHankAndJohn or SciShow and CrashCourse, and of course we love those things! We think they're good for the world, and we love doing them, and that they're things we do with this community, but they are businesses They're more traditional productions, you know? Like there's a management structure, and people work together to create something, rather than, like, Vlogbrothers which is just I write some stuff and then I talk some stuff and then I edit some stuff and upload some stuff.

(2:17) That seems like the spirit of YouTube to me, and it seems maybe a little bit unfair that someone like me can use the money and attention that I have to launch new projects and to bring people together- talented, awesome people- to help me create new things, when the vast majority of people don't have access to those resources, so they can't compete with that.

The pure meritocracy that is maybe part of the mythology of YouTube is long gone, and one has to wonder whether that is: one, creating frustration, and two, decreasing the number of people who are taking chances to do weird, amazing, wonderful things on this platform.

 Music and YouTube

(2:52) Now, nobody really knows what YouTube is, but I think that the best analogy, at least for the creative personality driven parts, is the music industry. You're going to have at the top, like, a rotating cast of really well known people and a few different, really big genres. They're going to make great content; it's going to be polished and appealing and lots of people are going to love it, but it's going to be maybe a tiny bit bland.

And then there will be cascading levels down of people who have smaller but more dedicated audiences who perform in sub-genres or genres you might have never heard of, or just outside of any genre, and they'll be doing the really weird, creative, interesting stuff, that will, sometimes, I'm sure, bubble up to the top and affect everything. Usually they won't, and that's why I think it's so important that we use tools like Patreon to support creators like that.


(3:36) For you and me, John, I just think it's important that even though not everything in our lives has remained normal and super relatable and we have pretty weird lives now, that we nonetheless remain authentic and maybe we lose a little bit of our relatability because of that, but that's reality.

I want to be open with the people of this community, and this video is part of that. John, I'll see you on Tuesday.