Hank Green Shares Lessons Learned From Being An Original Content Funding Recipient

More than a year ago, Google invested $300 million into original content on YouTube and the mainstream presses went wild. So did the YouTube community, too, with many either freaking out at the growing corporate atmosphere or rolling their eyes at what many saw as a misguided attempt at producing content online.

Earlier this week, Original Channel funds recipient Hank Green confirmed what many of us already knew in a Tumblr post titled “Lessons Learned from YouTube’s $300M Hole.”


Green used his funds to create Crash Course and SciShow, and noted that while some recipients received checks as high as $5 million, he was not one of them. Out of all the 114 channels funded, Green speculates only SourceFed has repaid its advance, and it will probably take him 3 years to repay back his.

“YouTube doesn’t work like TV…and funding it that way is daft,” he writes.

The lessons:

  1. “Spending more money to produce the same number of minutes of content does not increase viewership. Online video isn’t about how good it looks, it’s about how good it is.”
  2. “People who make online video are much better at making online video than people who make TV shows. This probably seems obvious to you (it certainly is to me) but it apparently was not obvious to the people originally distributing this money.”
  3. “When advertising agencies tell you they want something (higher quality content, long-form content, specific demographics, lean-back content, stuff that looks like tv) it’s not our job to attempt to deliver those things. In a world where the user really does get to choose, the content created to satisfy the needs and wants of viewers (not advertisers) will always reign supreme (thankfully.)”

Green elaborates on lesson 3 by noting YouTube as a young company does not “need to convert 100% of its value to dollars. Please, let the advertisers figure out for themselves how to tackle this very new medium instead of trying to shape the medium to meet their needs.”

If Green’s lessons sound familiar, that’s because they are. Last May, we reasoned 90% of the Original Channels would fail because they’re trying to “mimic the TV model too closely.” Different strokes for different mediums, Google.

Not only was Google trying to mimic the TV model without providing funds that rival traditional networks budgets, the lack of engagement and the tapping of non-internet celebrities proved Google didn’t understand the YouTube space as well as it should have.

In an interview with me at the Daily Dot last year, once-YouTube-sheriff William Hyde called some of the Original Channel numbers “embarrassing” before echoing Green’s second lesson by noting those that were doing well “are people who have been in the game a long time and know how to play it.”

About the author: Fruzsina Eördögh is a freelance digital culture writer whose work has appeared in VICE magazine, The Guardian, Slate, xoJane and ReadWrite, among others. She defined the Daily Dot’s YouTube, Anonymous and Internet community coverage in their first year, but besides the Internet, this Hungarian immigrant and transplanted New Yorker is also passionate about hyperlocal coverage and neighborhood activism. Oh, and her cat.