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Hank Green of The Vlogbrothers discusses a topic that should really be discussed more often. What value to YouTube networks provide, what do you get out of working with them, and is it worth the money that you will be paying them.

These are really only questions that you can answer yourself, but I'm happy to share some thoughts to help you along on your decision.
Hello, this is VidThoughts, I'm Hank Green.

YouTube networks, what do they do? Why do they exist? What to avoid? What to consider when you're thinking about becoming a part of one? A conversation that frankly should be had more often, and should probably have been had long ago. So let's do it.

First, here's how YouTube works: You upload a video to YouTube and YouTube handles everything. Hosting and serving and encoding and caching, and yes selling advertisements on that video. YouTube, in exchange for doing all those things takes about 45%, not about, exactly 45% of the revenue generated by those advertisements. You, the creator, get 55%. 

YouTube networks, they take an additional percentage. So a percentage of the 55% that you get, they take a percentage of that in exchange for providing other value that YouTube does not provide. Now, what is that value? Well that in some ways depends on what kind of creator you are. If you're getting tens of millions of views on YouTube, networks will provide a set of services that we're not going to talk about because you're probably not watching this video if you get tens of millions of views.

Networks do a lot of stuff... For those top-tier creators. Lawyers and agents and managers and teams and production space; they're very valuable, and networks want them on the team. So yes, that is a separate thing. We're gonna talk about what networks give to like the little guy, not that little necessarily. You could be making substantial amounts of money on YouTube, but if you're not getting tens of millions of views a month, or even millions of views a month, this is more for you.

First, YouTube networks will partner you in exchange for that 30%. And the only real advantage left of being a Youtube partner, I think, and this might have even gone away- there used to be a bunch of other ones- the only one left I'm pretty sure is custom thumbnails. Now correct me if I am wrong on that, it is possible that everyone has custom thumbnails now but I'm pretty sure it's just Youtube partners. 

Second, this may be even more important. Networks will stand in between you and Youtube providing you support, and also being a kind of weird liability wall. Now Youtube really doesn't want any copyright violation to be on its shoulders, so Youtube has very weird, indiscriminate like angry super like crazy copyright policy. Video game footage, any kind of music, even if it's royalty-free like you've licensed it, that can be really hard to have on a YouTube channel that's like normal Youtube. They will flag you and you won't be able to monetize that.

So, YouTube networks will stand between you and YouTube and like accept the liability for your potential copyright infringement. And, so your videos will stop getting copyright flags. If you're having problems with copyright flags, then a YouTube network will stop that.

Networks might also help with support issues. YouTube support is terrible if you don't have millions of views a month. No offense, YouTube support people, it's just YouTube decided that it wasn't going to try and scale its support department along with the growth in creators on the site. Networks kind of fill that niche; they kind of provide that support that YouTube doesn't.

Third, YouTube networks may raise your ad rate. Now, they often will not because you're giving them a portion of your ad sales, but some YouTube networks do sell advertisements at a higher rate and thus are able to pass those higher rates on onto their people.

You should note that, if, um, if a YouTube network sells ads, YouTube still takes the 45% out. So they sell the ads, YouTube still takes its 45%, the network still takes its 30% or whatever it is, and then you get what's left over. But sometimes networks are able to sell at a high enough rate that they're actually able to increase your bottom line. Now if this is what's being promised to you, you should have a contingency contract that if your CPM goes down you can cancel in, you know, a year or you know, a month or two months or three months or six months or whatever.

Another thing I would say, just as an interjection here, I would never sign a YouTube contract with a YouTube network for more than a year. Uh, that's me, I've, you know, to each his own, but YouTube and online video changes so fast that a year is just an eternity. And two years, or three or four or five years, would just be such a long time to spend with one partner, getting into that agreement, not knowing anything really what that relationship is going to be like.

Networks also sometimes provide marketing support, but again, if this isn't built into your contract they might not provide it. Networks will also often say that they'll help you collaborate with some of their other network partners. I prefer, generally, for collaboration just to be spontaneous in between partners with a network arbitrating that deal, deciding who's going to collab with who. That seems weird to me. But, uh, I have seen that as an effective strategy and, some networks have done that effectively.

YouTube networks will also get you brand deals, which are separate from advertising that displays around your video because you actually talk about the product. You say, like, you know, iPhone! It's the bomb! And then Apple will pay you money. Not actually, because Apple doesn't do those. Yet, anyway.

Those are generally brokered by the network. YouTube doesn't get a cut since CPMs are much higher. CPMs being ad rates. It's cost per thousand, or as I like to say, cost per mousand because it's CPM. Don't ask, it's stupid.

As to the question of whether or not you should join a network. Let's break it right down here. You will be paying these people. They are basically your employee. That's what your doing. You are hiring a YouTube network to provide value for you. You need to understand what that value is when you're getting into that relationship so you're not disappointed. You need to communicate with the person that you're talking to, hopefully you are speaking to a person. There are some networks that partner people without ever actually talking. it's like a click process. You need to look at your contract, you need to be specific about what you hope to get out of this relationship, and you need to understand what it is that they will be providing you.

As networks are partnering, you know, tens of thousands, literally, of partners. And so, the marketing support and that kind of like, you know, providing people with, uh, you know, infrastructure is very difficult to scale. And that hasn't, that has not really scaled. So, mostly the, a lot of the marketing, and a lot of the, you know, logistical support and production support, that goes to the higher level top tier creators. Not to the people that I assume are the ones watching this video, if you're interested in this question.

Don't sign up with a network because you think it's prestigious or will make you sound cooler. It probably won't. You should sign up if it's going to provide you value that you think is worth the amount of money that you're going to be paying them. And do not forget that you are the one paying them. They work for you.

As a collective group, YouTube partners create a tremendous amount of value for the networks that they work with. Awesomeness TV has 55,000 low level YouTube partners and were, they were able to sell their network for 33 million dollars. Because they had, a, a broad group of small creators. You have to remember that those small creators provide a lot of value. You as a small creator provide a lot of value for networks. So you have to have that conversation and make sure that they are providing value for you as well.

That's my spiel, that's my suggestion. That's from, as you know, someone who's been involved in this for a long time. I, myself, have channels that are partnered, unpartnered. I run a small, very small, MCN myself (multi channel network) myself that has about twenty channels on it, most of them mine. So I, hopefully, have some perspective on how this all works.

It's really interesting and really cool and if you're thinking about joining with a network then I think that's great because it means
1. You're actually thinking about it, and
2. Hopefully that you're doing fairly well on YouTube, and, uh, and that you're considering it like the next step into becoming, you know, taking this more seriously as an endeavor. So if you're doing that, thank you, and if you're doing that you should also subscribe here at VidThoughts, which is at youtube.com/vidthoughts, to uh, continue learning here about this business, because, uh, I feel like people aren't talking about it enough. And I'm happy to uh, spend some time doing it every once in a while. So thanks, we'll see you next time.