UPDATE 07/12/13 17:53 PST: Calacanis, a consummate professional, even when I’m haranguing him, responded with “I’m too busy working on www.inside.com to focus on building a better YouTube. Also, I think a public dialogue around what are the five to ten features that would make YouTube perfect is enough to get either a) YouTube to offer a better deal to creators and/or b) a competitor like Yahoo, Twitter, AOL, Facebook or Hulu to take that advice and build a better mouse trap (and they have the traffic to do it).”
While I don’t let him off the hook entirely for being preoccupied — good ideas are worth too much to just give them away — I do happily concede that this is the best of all possible answers (especially if Inside.com is mindblowingly good).
Jason Calacanis is certainly making himself a name brand in new media. Having been a force in dot com since the early days of Silicon Valley, he’s certainly paid his dues, made some friends and ventured with some capital (despite apparently not wanting to be known as a venture capitalist in any capacity). But lately, it is his blog posts more than his investments that have been upping his profile.
Posting a YouTube “Bill of Rights” that he admits could just as easily be the spark for a competitor to unseat the video giant as it could be for YouTube to “save” itself, Calacanis has just fired an interesting shot across the new media bow.
The piece, posted to his Launch blog, is a follow-up to his massively read tirade “I Ain’t Gonna Work on YouTube’s Farm No More,” regarding his rejection of YouTube’s funding offers via their original channel initiative. After fielding criticisms over the piece, Calacanis has expanded on his original premise to discuss just how to fix YouTube from within (or, again, unseat them).
Without me going into too much detail (you really should look over Calacanis’ post), Calacanis offers up several strategies for keeping YouTube’s top tier talent on board instead of losing them to other media companies such as Ray William Johnson to Blip, Freddie Wong “to Kickstarter” and Philip DeFranco to Revision 3. Calacanis rightly makes the point that since YouTube has put in the “work” of growing these talents, they might as well not shoot themselves in the foot through stingy, overprotective micromanagement (or, in some cases, outright ignoring them). And he’s certainly right enough about that — YouTube does need to focus on keeping their celebrities happy. Brand management is a dangerous beast to neglect when YouTube essentially has no equity in a creator’s true asset: their personality. While it’s great that YouTube is taking steps to nurture up-and-coming talent, once that talent becomes established, there is very little incentive from YouTube currently to keep said talent from “taking its ball and going to play in a different park.”
The ideas that format Calacanis’ “Bill of Rights” are comprised of the same common sense-style standards that formulate the actual Bill of Rights — more accessibility to fans for creators, more accessibility to advertisers and a better standard of profit dispersing, but for whatever reason, they’ve been overlooked by YouTube. It will be interesting to see the point, if at all, when YouTube begins to realize that hemorrhaging top tier talent is really detrimental to long term profitability.
Of course, it’s also fascinating to me that someone of Calacanis’ means and initiative would simply offer up what he feels is golden advice that could sink or save YouTube. If he’s spent the majority of his post determining that established YouTubers have no reason to be especially loyal to the YouTube brand if it’s not in their best interest, I find it hard to believe that he would choose to be so benevolent himself. After all, why would somebody with the seeming know-how to upset the YouTube apple cart and, additionally, the funds at his availability, not simply do so? I can’t imagine that it’s a matter of no interest (“Profit by building a better YouTube? No thanks”). So there seems to be some unknown x factor in regards to what Calacanis is pitching — a reason that he doesn’t heed his own advice. I reached out to Calacanis for a comment, but he has not gotten back to me by press time and so we will have to resort to doing that thing where we update the piece when we hear back. The bottom line is I’m sure he’s got a great answer for why not, but the only relevant answer in this era of companies that, seeded by angels and VCs, spring up like mushrooms, is to put up or shut up. If you’ve got the means, everything else just comes across like idle whining.