Right now is a scary time for YouTube creators. Everyday, YouTube seems to be dramatically evolving their interface, mobile applications and overall content strategies. The constant evolution of YouTube seems to be in the name of pushing the video-sharing site towards more network-style branded entertainment. With major celebrities like Wayne Brady, Madonna and Amy Poehler allegedly getting partnership deals with YouTube, it has left many digitally-grown creators wondering if they’ll fit in with YouTube’s dynamic programming shift.
Looking at standard network operations, one can see how original “non-traditional” YouTube talent could be feeling a little nervous. Back in August, I wrote that “Since YouTube is reaching towards network-style programming, they are going to want to control what you can and cannot see” in response to a Wired article in which YouTube product manager Noam Lovinksy explained that creators would “live and die” by the recommended video bar on YouTube’s homepage.
Those recommended videos are the uploads that YouTube will be promoting the most, which by my logic, will be products that YouTube funded with their premium channel program. In the same vein of thought, if YouTube is reaching towards network programming, they will want to bring out their biggest stars. So where will that leave all the amateur non-celebrity YouTube creators? Will there be any place in the future for YouTube creators who were not part of the premium channel program?
The Future For YouTube Creators
I caught up with YouTube’s global creator development and management lead, Bing Chen, to talk about the suggested channel bar. Chen told me, “The suggested channel is just one of a million places that we are going to be promoting various creators.” Chen went on to add, “At the end of the day, it is really about having really great content. As long as you have that, you should never ever have to worry on this platform, ever.”
“Great content” is subjective, however, and one persons’ idea of what is great could vary differently from what YouTube believes should be featured in this holy grail of promotional placement. When asked how YouTube decides what is really deserving of getting that coveted suggested video spot, Chen said:
“We try to do our best to see overall what is subjectively good with the algorithm, and that is what is promoted. If someone feels like they have great content that isn’t promoted, as I mentioned, we have a host of other ways that people can get promoted.”
Of course, there is a huge rift between the promotional power of YouTube’s suggested video bar and a shout-out on their Google+ page. So, the question of whether YouTube will be promoting their premium channels over regular creators still exists. “We are a company that is guided by what we were founded by. We are founded by the ability to broadcast yourself and the fact that this is a level playing field for everybody,” Chen said when asked if YouTube promotes their premium channels over other channels.
But regardless of YouTube trying to maintain a level playing field, giving millions of dollars to some channels will naturally shift the balance in those creators’ favor. A creator doing comedy skits independently can never hope to keep up with premium channels like YOMYOMF. Chen answers, “Let’s say you start out on YouTube and you do really, really, really well. You don’t need to be coached on how to promote yourself on YouTube. You don’t need as much money because, frankly, you know how to use the platform.” He added, “Look less at the money and look more at what people need and how we are serving them.”
Chen is of course talking about the hundreds of partner programs that YouTube has recently launched, including the NextUp program. “We are focusing on everybody. We have a host of products and programs for creators and have had a lot of success with them,” Chen said.
Chen and his team are conscious of creator concerns, and in fact, those concerns play a huge part in the company’s partner strategies. “We do listen to community feedback and take it really seriously, and I can tell you right now, as one of these people who builds a lot of these initiatives, 99.9% of what we do is informed based on what the community says,“ Chen said