Online Video IS Mainstream

“YouTube, online video, the internet is mainstream, its not a stepping stone, its the finish line”

“On YouTube nobody gives a sh*t who you know, they just care if the content is good.”

Casey Neistat.

John Green’s VidCon 2015 Keynote Speech

I’m literally kicking myself for not going to VidCon this year. VidCon co-founder / author / YouTuber John Green always kills it with his opening speeches. I highlighted a couple of quotes that ring very true to my beliefs.

“Hi I’m John Green. I’m a novelist and videoblogger and I’m so excited to welcome you to Vidcon, which was created by my brother Hank and has been run entirely by him and his amazing team ever since, but because I was on a conference call in 2009, I am technically Vidcon’s cofounder. So if you have a great weekend, you’re welcome, and if anything goes wrong, it is Hank’s fault.

So I was a writer before I ever made videos; my first novel Looking for Alaska came out in 2005, one month before the first video was uploaded to YouTube. The intervening 10 years have been very good for online video of course; it’s also been very good for me. My book The Fault in Our Stars has spent 187 consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was adapted into a successful film last year. The movie adaptation of my book Paper Towns comes out in theaters around the country tomorrow, which if I seem a bit tired…well that’s why.

None of this would’ve happened without YouTube. My brother and I have been making videos back and forth to each other since 2007, and since then the biggest lesson I have learned is that I suck at predicting the future. I could never have imagined, for instance, that our crash course videos would be used in tens of thousands of schools around the world. I couldn’t have imagined that YouTubers would be turning down traditional TV opportunities because, as a friend of mine recently said, “Why would I take a pay cut for the privilege of not owning my intellectual property?” And I could never have imagined that the phrase “online video” would be rendered redundant by the onlineness of all video, or that 20,000 people would show up to a conference about YouTube run by my brother.

The future—especially the future of technology and media—is completely impossible to predict, and whenever I’ve tried to do it I’ve ended up looking like an idiot. It’s hard enough just to try to understand the present, so I’m just gonna focus on that. Here is the present as I understand it: Great video is being made off television—video about global poverty and about BASE jumping and about how coffee gets decaffeinated and why Mark Rothko is a good painter; videos about makeup and fashion and video games and we are even starting to figure out how to adapt the conventions of scripted video to the online world. But most of the people engaged in these viewing communities are young, and I’m sure you’re familiar with the narrative that young people are distracted and self-involved and disengaged.

Like, makeup is so superficial and silly, and who would watch other people play video games, and so on. But of course we know the truth—that while everyone talks about young people’s disinterest and solipsism, they are building communities through makeup tutorials and learning about selfacceptance and selfcare. Like, watch Ingrid Nilsen or Louise Pentland. And they’re building communities through gaming—pewdiepie’s viewers are not just watching him play video games; they’re also working with him to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Save the Children.

While my generation has been watching The Blacklist and congratulating ourselves on our intellectual sophistication, young people are building a vast and complex world of deep engagement online and off, in which they are not just passive viewers or listeners or readers but active community members creating comments and fanfiction and artwork that is pushing culture toward listening to traditionally marginalized voices, toward a more just and open social order—toward what I think of as engagement. So one of the reasons I watch YouTube—really, one of the reasons I do anything—is that I want to be distracted. I want to be distracted from my anxieties, from my responsibilities, from my real life. I like distractions, and I think they are important, but online video is not only about distractions; it’s also about engagement, and there’s the rub when it comes to our business, which has traditionally been funded primarily by advertising.

Advertising is really good at funding the distraction business, because the number of eyeballs a distraction attracts is a good way of judging its effectiveness as a diversion. But advertising sucks at valuing engagement, which is why ad rates on many online videos have never reflected the real value being created. Distraction is a good and noble business, but I think deep down most of us—creators, marketers, investors, agents—don’t really want to be just in the distraction business—especially now that we can see the value and awesomeness of being in the engagement business. It’s good to distract people from their problems; but it’s better to help solve those problems, whether it’s the problem of finding meaning in life or the problem of being unsure how to tie a bowtie.

So the kinds of video that mean the most to us online—the ones that help us to lead fuller and better connected lives—are dramatically undervalued by advertising. Hank and I have tried to address that by building a business that doesn’t rely much upon ads: Our educational channels crash course and scishow are funded mainly by viewers who voluntarily support the shows through Patreon, and selling posters and tshirts through DFTBA Records provides more revenue from merch than we’ve ever made from ads. Advertising still provides around 20% of our company’s revenue, but it’s shrinking every year. That’s true for many creators—they’re doing live events and publishing books; they’re crowdfunding and producing albums and selling tshirts and getting grants from nonprofits. In short, they’re building a world where they don’t have to depend on advertising.

And to be frank, I believe an Internet that answers to its users is healthier than an Internet that answers to brands. This year has seen the emergence of a big conversation about how to fund online video in the future: Should we build the future of online video around paid subscriptions, or advertising, or voluntary payments, or some hybrid model, or something I haven’t heard of yet?

I believe in advertising, but I also believe that to remain relevant it must change. The real opportunity for brands—which I don’t think marketers can find on TV or anywhere offline—is to help creators to build and foster better communities, so that those communities can bring better and more interesting stuff into the world. if brands interact with those communities authentically and don’t impose their values or messaging on them, they’ll win over those passionate and engaged communities—not for a quarter or for a campaign but for life. If a brand makes the minutephysics video that helps me to understand relativity possible, I’m not going to forget the gift that company has given me. But advertisers must learn that in the world of the engaged Internet, the less obtrusive they are, the more successful they’ll be. I also believe in voluntary payments—I think if you’re transparent with your viewers and they really care about your work, they’ll support it and help it grow. I’ve seen that in my own career.  And I believe in the promise of subscriptions, too. Although I’ve never seen a paywall grow anyone’s audience, I’d gladly pay to watch my favorite creators adfree.

In short, I have no idea what the answer is to the problem of monetization. But I hope that as we discuss it together, we’ll consider not just what will bring in the most immediate revenue, but also what kind of online video world we want to live in. How can we foster community, and grow the Internet of engagement? What business models will best allow the free flow of ideas and content between viewers and creators? What will help us to build a broader creator base that includes more diverse voices? I know those don’t seem like business questions, but I believe ultimately they are, because while we all must think month to month and year to year, my favorite thing about making original content online is that in the long run, what’s good for your community is always— always —good for your business. Thanks. “

Source: VidCon 2015: Online Video is Changing the World

A Video Creator’s Guide to Facebook vs. YouTube

I originally wrote this article for Canada Media Fund’s Trends blog. The original post is found here

Facebook now boasts more video views per month than YouTube, but is it the best way for creators to get their content noticed? Here’s a quick guide to the pros and cons of posting videos on either platform.


If you’re a regular Facebook user, you’ve probably noticed an increase in the number of native videos posted on your newsfeed. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and founder, said that video is actually a big priority for Facebook in 2015.

Experts believe Facebook is starting to really compete against YouTube. Data from comScore (see below) indicates that Facebook is surpassing YouTube in terms of desktop video views per month. With Facebook providing a default video autoplay function, it’s not surprising that the number of views has exploded.


Both services conjure up lots of debate, but there are important differences that creators should look out for when using each platform. Here’s a quick look at them.

Storytelling vs. marketing

Let’s face it, both platforms are marketing vehicles at their core. From the content to the ads that you see before, during and after videos, it’s all about building awareness of your brand, web series or personal profile.

From a pure storytelling standpoint, YouTube allows creators to build a narrative; if done well, it can help the channel and its views grow organically. Its subscribe feature also provides strong customer contact that makes fans feel like they can follow a creator’s story.

By following the tips and strategies offered on YouTube’s Playbook, creators can build up engaged audiences that come back for more.

Storytelling can be harder to create on Facebook. The social platform currently delivers videos in our feed through its sharing algorithm, enabling a higher reach for video content than images or text updates. This means self-contained pieces of content—such as Buzzfeed sketches—get lots of attention.

Facebook’s newsfeed does a good job at amplifying specific videos, but it doesn’t do so well in terms of building sustained audiences. A hit video doesn’t necessarily garner page likes or repeated viewings on a follow-up upload.

The social network has the edge over YouTube in terms of views for now, but as history teaches us, Facebook is notorious for changing the algorithm that dictates who sees the content you post. This means the current boom in the number of views could translate into diminishing returns as time goes.


Not only is YouTube the second-largest search engine, it is also owned by Google. This means you can easily find YouTube content on both YouTube and Google. In the long run, the ability to search for older content becomes extremely powerful.

With this in mind, it’s in the interest of creators to make content that is sharable and easy to find, but also that can also bubble up on future search trends.

As for Facebook, its limitations are obvious. You only see videos that appear at the top of your newsfeed. Once the hype dies down, they are lost in Facebook’s black hole of content. It’s very difficult to search and find videos posted in the past.

Compelling viewers to watch content

On YouTube, the key to making people watch is to include a thumbnail and title that grab the viewer’s attention.

On Facebook, creators have to focus on the first three seconds of content. This is due to Facebook’s default setting: native video autoplay muted content. This obviously skews the views, but it’s also something creators need to be aware of. The first seconds of muted content are what make the viewer stop, watch and share.

Creators and monetization

For the past few years YouTube has done an admiral job of encouraging creators on its platform. The revenue generated by the partner program, their studios and creator training have made huge strides to improve the platform’s content. Despite this, it’s clear that it takes years of dedication and a very lean machine to make any real money with YouTube’s partner program.

Most creators resort to asking for help from their fans directly through Kickstarter or Patreon crowdfunding drives. They also use their online clout to launch money-making apps as well as to market books.

As for Facebook, it currently offers no partner program for creators. Consequently, all revenue generated by ads during or next to video content goes to Facebook.


Facebook is currently a hotbed of video piracy more commonly known as Facebook Freebooting. It’s the practice of taking a piece of content from another platform (in this case YouTube) and uploading it to Facebook without any attribution to the creator in the hopes of getting the views—despite the fact that it doesn’t generate any revenue. It accounts for a large number of the views Facebook is boasting and it’s a major issue for content creators and owners alike.

Unlike YouTube, Facebook currently has no content ID system, which makes it extremely easy to upload pirated content. It’s important that creators be aware of this so they can be on the lookout for freebooted content and report it.

The race to the top

Statistics don’t lie. Facebook is currently winning the online video race. It’s not hard to see why with its 1.3 billion users, its very powerful social algorithm and its autoplay feature.

Despite Facebook’s growing popularity, it has many weaknesses. While it’s currently an ideal platform to post bite-sized content that relies solely on social lift, such as BuzzFeed videos, it’s also a hotbed for piracy and a poor search engine.

For now, YouTube remains the ideal platform for uploading evergreen content and growing your brand’s following and awareness, despite the fact that it’s a very crowded platform, with 300 hours of video uploaded every minute, and that it is based on an inefficient social algorithm.

The Digital Media Addict’s Readling List – April 5th, 2014

Multi Screen At Home

Online Content and Video:

Girl Talk & Freeway  “Tolerated” Music Video by Maker Studios is Girl Talk‘s first ever video which is significant  itself but what caught my eye was that it’s produced by recently Disney acquired Maker Studios. Might not be the first but its the first that’s come to my attention. YouTube has become the go to place for music so it only make sence that artists us YouTube studios and talent to produce artists videos. Watch out Vevo!

With Disney Buying Maker do all Big Media Companites Need to up their YouTube Game?  by Dorothy Pomerantz on

Yep… sort of like Temple Street building Boat Rocker (shameless plug!)

MTV Chief Builds Video Network for the SnapChat Generation by Tim Peterson on 

Astronauts Wanted’s mission to tell stories via multiple touch points using the connected teen’s digital behaviour as different touch points for an overarching storyline. Now that’s digital storytelling!

The Web and Online Marketing: 

The Future of Advertising: Here’s what to expect by  on CNBC

Mobile and location are “the shit” in digital marketing. We’ve only been told that “The Year of Mobile” is here for last 10 years now. Also predicting consumer behaviour is borderline creepy.

How Canadians are Using the Internet Differently. by Susan Krashinsky on The Globe and Mail  

Following the same theme, mobile is taking over. Canada has a higher percentage of smart phone penetration yet investments in marketing on mobile platforms lags continuing the trend of Canadian marketers and brands playing it safe.

How Nielsen’s OCR Will Impact Digital Video Advertising by Chris Smith on MediaPost

Ever since I’ve been in digital media I’ve been annoyed by antiquated media measurement metrics forced into digital and not vice versa. Funny how nobody imposes digital metrics on TV, Out of Home and Radio.

Calm Down, Facebook is Not Screwing You by Michael Lazerow on Re/code 

The bashing of Facebook got old quick and I’ll fully admit to getting on that bandwagon. In hindsight the failure is on us as marketers and brands for taking the easy route by choosing to build castles on someone else’s sandbox and losing focus on the end goal.


TV Content Drives Multiplatform Viewing – Vubiquity Research Report

TV still the number one source for video watching but other platforms are gaining ground, especially with the under 35 crowd. The audience wants to consume content via multiple platforms and is willing to pay for it.

Older Adults and Technology UsePew Research Center 

Long report that basically says that the older population is adopting broadband, the web and technology into their lives with the more educated, affluent taking the lead. I’m already seeing older vloggers appearing on the scene!

What I’m Reading and Watching Today – April 4, 2014

Here’s a list of articles I’ve read and a few web videos I think you should check out – April 4, 2014

Europe in 8 Bits – Documentary Trailer from Javier Polo

EUROPE IN 8 BITS is a 2013 documentary exploring the world of chip music, a new musical trend that is growing exponentially throughout Europe. Available on Vimeo on Demand.

More than 70 Million People Watch eSports Worldwide by Rod ‘Slasher’ Breslau on

Tales from Millennials’ Sexual Revolution by Alex Morris on RollingStone

Millennials spend 48% More Time Watching Online Video than the Average Internet User by Amh Gensenhues on Marketing Land.