Feb 02

Internet Content Producers – Part One

Earlier today while on Facebook I saw a post that Chris Pirillo made on the site. In his status he talked a little about content producers on the internet, so thought that tonight I would share his words with you and in a day or two I will be posting part two with my thoughts on the subject.

This post is taken verbatim from his status:

I don’t know where I’m going with this post yet.

Ryan Matthew Pierson pointed something out to me this afternoon; Tom Merritt (recently of TWiT) and Cali Lewis (leader of a full-on video production team) are both producing tech videos on YouTube and supporting their efforts through Patreon.

Tom has an astounding 1,489 supporters offering him $5k a month to do what he does for them. Cali has a conservative 180 supporters backing their goals at the same amount ($5k a month). To some, this is “too much” – but to people who produce content and a million other things for the people who watch the content they produce, it’s a drop in the bucket.

It’s not my job to educate people on the stresses of being self-employed and running your own business, but I’ve been running LockerGnome through industry twists & turns for the greater part of 15 years – almost half of my life.

Nothing twists me more than hearing that the job I’m doing for someone (or the job they expect me to do) is not worth what a bottle of water is. Always makes me wanna quit doing something for them altogether.

When someone makes something look easy, it’s because they’ve spent countless hours making it look like it was easy.

The casual viewer assumes (perhaps not you) that if ads are being run or sponsors are making placement… that everything is hunky-dory and as-it-should-be. The reality of the situation, however, is insanely more complex. The value of content is still valuable, but it’s not necessarily free for everybody – and that value (if contingent on sponsors or ads) is a wild variable that can (and does) change at a moment’s notice.

I’m NOT complaining – I’m telling you my reality, as well as the reality of every person out there who spends time doing something that may appear to be cost-free to you. There’s always a cost. Always.

Your attention is becoming increasingly most valuable in this proposition, too. Why are many YouTubers finding their traffic numbers dwindling? Because more people are producing rather amazing videos. Why are bloggers finding themselves not doing half as well as they used to do? Because more people are blogging and they were counting on Google to send a majority of their traffic via search (which isn’t happening as much anymore).

[As an aside, the reason I’m posting this here is because I know it won’t get seen on a domain that I actually own – and I believe the value of what I’m saying far outweighs where it sits. Half of you wouldn’t know where to find it and you’re probably not looking, anyway. I understand, and do not judge.]

The value of an advertisement that’s run against content is dropping with every passing year, while budgets may be conversely increasing. Sponsorships are much more fruitful for all involved, but inconsistent in a completely different way. That’s an oversimplification. What I’m about to say, however, isn’t.

The value of the content you love, despite the value an advertiser places on it, hasn’t necessarily changed. REMEMBER THAT. IT IS ABSOLUTELY KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE PLIGHT OF SOMEONE WHO LOVES MAKING CONTENT FOR YOU.

Do you see the problem here? Imagine the responsibilities at your current job (if you are lucky to have one) stay the same or increase, but management cuts your salary by x%? Are you going to continue to do what you do, or look for another position at another company? Self-employed content producers simply do not have that luxury, so they have to adjust and figure out how to make the situation work as best they can.

I know you could point at a thousand different people and suggest that they’re doing a lot of things for free, but… trust me… they’re getting their bills paid somehow. You may not be privy to how those bills are being paid, but they have a financial stability that MOST people who are creating things for you do NOT have. Either that, or they’re constantly seeking that stability in whatever way they can.

To me, the Patreon platform provides an opportunity to add a great degree of stability to something that has been impossible to predict. I also believe that this kind of incremental/individual financial support is going to quickly become the norm in relation to helping keep your favorite things going-and-going. I may have helped save Family Guy by buying every DVD I could before Fox reversed its decision. I became a member of TMBG’s Instant Fan Club (Super-Presidents Level) when they asked without blinking. I’m willing to do whatever I can to make sure I can continue to appreciate the things I appreciate – especially when the option is more than reasonable compared to not having something I appreciate not exist at some point.

Some people look at the value of their own time and expertise and expect that every person they connect with is equal to them. That’s not the case (isn’t now, and never will be). They see a number that is completely out of their own reach and their first reaction is to eliminate it as a possibility for someone else. That’s not just misguided, it’s… out of touch with reality. If you see no value in something, that’s exactly what it’s worth to you – nothing. And, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with anybody not valuing something that another person values.

The most valuable thing I have is time; I can’t get it back, and I can’t afford to waste it. The most valuable thing the casual viewer might have is attention; you can’t do everything all at once, and there are an increasing amount of options for you to choose from. I’m a producer and a consumer, myself – I get it.

Who am I to say what’s valuable to you? Who am I to say what kind of value you should place on something? The only thing *I* can do is place a value on something that I do – and accept that people may or may not accept that.

I love free stuff as much as the next person, but I also recognize that there are things I find far more valuable than a couple of bucks.

Some people want things from me for free. And, yes, some things I’m able to give them for free based on conditions that I can manage. But for someone to come out and claim that content which they find valuable isn’t worth more than free is asinine – advertisements or sponsors be damned. If I’m a commodity in someone’s eyes, then my value is already less-than-zero.

Hey, I’m not a nameless/faceless corporation hiding behind a PR team (obviously) – nor do I have management to contend with. I’m just trying to figure out how to make you happy, make my family happy, and make a business happy.

FWIW, Ryan Matthew Pierson (the person who indirectly inspired me to ramble through this tonight) was once being paid directly by me to help me deliver value to you. The market shifted, and I could no longer afford to keep him writing blog posts that were incredibly valuable above-and-beyond his rate (or have him on hand to help me out of a bind). He’s one of the few I’ve had the privilege to work with over the years. I feel I failed him as someone who wasn’t able to maneuver around industry changes well enough or quickly enough. I feel I failed him because I lacked the expertise (or team) needed to maintain our then-trajectory. I simply cannot pay someone with money that isn’t there. I’m not a startup with external funding; I’m a stillup that continues to create value every day.

But this post isn’t about Ryan or me, necessarily. It’s about others possibly realizing that there’s more value to the content you love than the going lowball CPM (an industry term, ‘cost per mil,’ or going rate for every 1,000 visitors/viewers).

So, yeah. http://patreon.com/ChrisPirillo was created for a reason; I am attempting to add a layer of stability to a foundation that has already been laid and proven to be valuable in the eyes of certain supporters. It is my hope that with it, I’ll be able to offer the same kinds of content for free to everybody while giving bonuses to those who are helping make that happen.

The only number I’d care to pay attention to is the amount of patrons backing my ongoing plan. The other number makes it possible for me to figure out how to bring people like Ryan back into an idea that he still cares about even after I failed him.

This wasn’t a rant. Honestly. Just trying to give perspective in relation to endeavors and course corrections I’ve recently instituted.

$2 a month is more than reasonable if it’s benefiting something you love (or appreciate at a “Like” level): http://patreon.com/ChrisPirillo

What did you think? Did you agree with what Chris Pirillo wrote? Let us know in the comments what you think and remember tomorrow or the following day I will be posting an accompanying piece with my opinion on the subject.

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