YouTube, and the tail wagging the dog

YouTube, and the tail wagging the dog

It's time for me to make a change and re-focus my work. I hope you come along for the ride.

One of my favorite "YouTubers" (gag, I hate that term) is Mary Spender. She's a singer/songwriter who posts thoughtful, insightful videos about the life of an independent musician in an ever changing music industry. Through her channel, I've learned a number of interesting things about the music industry, and how hard it is for musicians today to not only get their music heard, but be fairly compensated for it.

From afar, Spender appears to be very successful at what she's doing, with nearly 3/4 of a million subscribers at the time of this writing. But when you look at Spender's channel analytics, there's a surprising wrinkle. Only a small number of her subscribers seem to care about her original music.

Spender explains why in her recent video, "How Much YouTube Paid Me for 4,700,000 Views and Why...". The whole video is worth watching (check it out below), but I'll quickly summarize it. Spender claims that one video (containing her first impressions of a new carbon fiber guitar) has received 5.3 million views and has earned her nearly $9,941 (so far) in Google AdSense revenue.

Spender then compares that video's performance against the 66 videos she's uploaded about her music. Altogether, those 66 videos have received 4.7 million views and earned $5,969 (so far) in AdSense revenue.

That's a staggering difference. To make this difference even clearer, those 66 videos about her original music have earned $90 each on average in AdSense revenue, compared to a single product review video which has earned nearly twice as much money for considerably less effort.

Spender's analytics perfectly reflect the weirdness with YouTube and most social media content these days. Everyone who posts "content" (what an awful term) has felt the same pressure. More views equal more advertising revenue, which leads to more subscribers, more visibility, more affiliate revenue, more sponsorships, and more brand collaboration opportunities.

I'm not complaining by any means, but the pressure to keep a YouTube channel active by continually uploading videos can be tiresome, especially when creators find themselves creating videos they aren't proud of. This leads to wasting valuable time that could be better spent on developing their work further.

A recent example of this is Nigel Danson. No introduction necessary for most people reading this, but for the unfamiliar, Danson is a popular landscape photographer with nearly half a million YouTube subscribers. Danson recently posted a raw and honest video (embedded below) about the pressure of YouTube, and the effect it has had on his personal life and creative energy. Like Spender, I felt every word in his video.

Which brings me to my own channel. Granted, I haven't been maintaining a YouTube channel for as long as Spender or Danson, and I don't have anywhere near the same number of subscribers. But I've seen similar patterns with my own analytics, and have become increasingly conscious of my time and how I spend it. I never thought about time when I was younger (a normal thing, I'd imagine), but now that I'm over 50, well...I think about it a lot.

And when I look back at how I've been spending the majority of my time these past few years when producing videos, I see mostly product reviews. I've put in the effort to create a number of landscape and outdoor images I'm proud of, but I've created more product reviews than anything else.

If the goal of my YouTube channel was to be a definitive resource for the latest camera gear and accessories, investing all my time and energy into product reviews would make sense, for every uploaded video would be building equity towards that future goal.

But I'm not Gordon from Camera Labs, or Chris and Jordan from PetaPixel, who are so good at what they do there's little point, I think, in me producing the same type of content. I've been doing a poor job, I believe, of investing my time responsibly and making real, tangible progress towards my goal of producing a body of photographic work I'm proud of. That's hard to do when I'm shooting b-roll of a backpack, testing the color accuracy of a filter, or whatever else I happen to be reviewing.

So here's my pledge to you.

From this point forward, I plan to produce fewer product reviews. I'm going to scale my reviews way back. If I do produce a review, it will be for a product or service I've had a positive experience with and feel you would benefit from as well. In other words, if a product isn't worth buying or talking about, you won't hear about it from me. I believe that would be a waste of everyone's time and attention.

This change may mean fewer uploaded videos from me in the future, but I'd rather do that than spend my time chasing views or trying to satisfy YouTube's algorithm. I realize a fair number of people may subscribe to my YouTube channel and my email newsletter to see and read product reviews, so I apologize if that's what you're mostly interested in from me.

But for my own sake, I need to refocus my creative energy and spend more time planning new types of videos and opportunities that I hope will engage your interest just as much, if not more.

More to come in the future. ✌️

Video version of this: