When The Algorithm Owns You, Rhythm Is Not A Dancer
Relentless creation in the blind hope that you’ll find a reward squeezes more than effort out of you.
However, let us not let this first sentence be a negative one.
You can create something meaningful, for someone else, when they want your narrative. The interaction becomes one to one, rather than the narrative solely sitting on someone else’s turf.
This article is about making time for someone else, rather than thinking that it is everyone that needs your time.
YouTube Taking Its Toll On Creators
If a goal to build an income stream resides solely in creating content in a place not yours, it is now becoming documented that the pace is taking the strain on people.
Burn out is leading to creators leaving YouTube.
The overall lesson from what you are reading, is that building your presence on just one platform, where ownership is not yours, you become a slave to whoever welcomed you with open arms in the first place. Then they locked the doors.
If you spend a life chasing the algorithm, you dance to someone else’s tune.
Fake cheery and successful personas are taking their toll. Rather than standing back and a schadenfreude sense of gratification, this is something that is very real.
An article in The Observer (Sunday 12th August) highlighted YouTubers crumbling under the pressure to produce relentless new content.
The piece highlights the increasing complexity of achieving popularity/notoriety whilst second guessing the nature of the algorithm.
According to a PhD researcher conducting a digital ethnography of YouTube creators at the London School of Economics, “YouTube’s algorithms prefer channels that have regular uploads and a narrow content focus.”
In order to keep viewing numbers high, creators are keeping things safe. Charlie O’Connell (who had the first UK channel to reach 1 million subscribers) said, “People are worried about taking risks, so a lot of the content feels quite similar.”
There is the belief that taking a break from creation, numbers fall. There is a relentless obsession whereby more, equates to success (and more money).
Breaking Necks, Cashing Cheques
The reward is when creators make the majority of their money from AdSense on YouTube.
AdSense is the means by which Google ‘pays out.’ Creators make money on YouTube through advertising. Once they upload a video on YouTube and tell Google to start running ads on their content, this is how they make money via advertising revenues. The less traffic you have to a YouTube page, the fewer sales you make.
There are over 400 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute (so that’s 576,000 hours of content per day). When you walk into the wild west, everyone wants to be a sheriff.
Creators are now stepping forwards and highlighting the state of their mental health where there is the pressure to continuous produce for a network that isn’t theirs. Stopping creation, means fewer views, means less money.
Dan Willis from Why Digital, is a vocal source when it comes to mental health. He is an ambassador for Dorset Mind and ran the successful Do It Day events in 2017 and will be also this autumn.
I asked Dan if this blurring of our personal and professional lives is becoming a problem with our health. Dan didn’t necessarily agree, “I think the real issue here is the feeling the need to produce content for the sake of fear of losing engagement. However, when the audience is real and genuine, you should be able to be honest with that audience when you’re feeling the pressure.
“In fact, people blurring these lines between their personal, business and online personas is creating a lot more of an authentic and human voice online. In my experience, I have seen that it’s no longer about multiple personas, and different social platforms carefully crafted to show off a different aspect of you. It’s about having a genuine presence that is consistent across all platforms – which is actually more likely to take off the pressure on people’s mental health.”
“By being an ‘open book’ you sow a pretty strong piece of thread that’ll actually get you through your journey a lot easier. You may wobble a bit (when things go wrong); but, because you are being more authentic and human, you have a lower chance of burning out when under pressure.”
Who Cares If It’s Any Good?
It now looks like if your only job is to produce and make money from it, who cares if it is any good, as long as you are getting paid.
As Logan Paul (the famous YouTuber who went into a Japanese forest renowned for suicide and filmed someone who had taken their own life), said to Casey Neistat in an interview during July (2018) he stated, “We got so caught up in creating that we did not stop to think about what we were making and whether or not it was right. We were on auto pilot. It was create content, create content, create content.”
Press play below where Logan Paul states this (it goes straight to the point I want to share with you):
What About You?
Rather than this being a purely anecdotal article, let’s bring you into the picture.
The narrative you create for others (written, audio, video), there is a more productive and worthwhile framework you can work to:
It is better to steal audience away from anywhere your narrative resides, rather than living a life on someone else’s terms (in this case YouTube)
If your only job is to produce where numbers become the main form of measurement, who care cares if it’s any good
There is a better and healthier way to spend your time rather than the endless algorithmic drive, where you make content for a robot’s life, not yours (credit to Timo Peach for that)
There is a real opportunity to encourage people to subscribe to something that you have control of, not someone else ie. leave their email in exchange for ongoing value
There is enough of us to go round to make a living from, rather than sticking to one space
Back in 2006, Chris Anderson wrote the book The Long Tail. The premise is this, when you give people a choice they take what they agree with even when there is unlimited shelf space. As shelf space gets longer (more people creating in a variety of platforms) there will always be hits, but there are plenty of titles on the long tail that apply to a smaller group.
It is part of our DNA, where we spend our lives looking for the hits (more PDF downloads, more visits, more listeners, more website viewers). Getting noticed has been what many people and businesses strive for.
If you flip it, produce something that delivers ongoing value to others (either video, audio or written) and get people to provide you their information (an email), so a face steps in and it becomes two-way. You have to understand the environment that you are within and the space that you are part of.
As Anderson says, “The long tail starts with a million niches, but it isn’t meaningful until those niches are populated with people who want them.”
You create something for people that they can’t get elsewhere. The long tail presents infinite choice, this means ultimate fragmentation and you to find a role within your marketplace that you can tap into. For instance, whilst there has always been the attention to the mainstream, such as the top 10 singles chart, you can break things down further into the top 10 charts based on genre. Have a look at the musicmap.info where genres form part of the long tail from country music, to rap, to house, to punk. For instance, I’d pick listening to Parquet Courts everyday over Coldplay.
This presents the opportunity where you can create standards of quality, on your terms that doesn’t bow to someone else or you are at the whim of burning out.
Granted, I highlighted a few months ago that I was suffering from burn-out, you can read it here. I am not being hypocritical, but in the run up to the You Are The Media Conference and the ongoing weekly writing and podcast, I made a choice to have a bit of a break, I was shattered. It was on my terms and not one where I ran the risk of numbers falling, so I felt a burden that was carried around with me. An important thing was that I told my audience, when I’d be back and we’d pick things up.
When you find the momentum with something that is yours, you don’t have to forever bow to the algorithm. You can build an audience that you have ownership of and not someone else. Here is what I have learned where momentum helps longevity of your message and thinking of throwing in the towel doesn’t enter any conversation.
Plan the week, plan the month. Rather than an unhealthy approach of just creating content in order to garner success, have a schedule. For my clients, we work to a calendar of activity every month and we have a rough idea of dates to collate, dates to create and dates to distribute. For myself, I begin formulating ideas on a Sunday (Evernote is the place where thoughts are emptied) and then pick up in a more detailed way on a Monday. You have to create a schedule that is manageable.
Realise you cannot do everything. This is a 2018 acknowledgement from myself. Working each week on a side project (You Are The Media) and the writing and recording I recognised that it was time to reach out and others to come on board. I highlighted last week that Chris Huskins will take a more direct role with the You Are The Media Podcast. Having people such as Kerrie Reeves support and manage You Are The Media also means it is enjoyable.
Make a date with your audience. No one can keep up with being continually relevant every day of the week. It is better for your audience to know when you are going to arrive, rather than start something with the best intentions, only to figure out that over time you started to lose interest ie. lack of interaction and low open rates.
If you are going to have a break, tell them. People appreciate that we can’t behave like robots. By deciding to take a two month break over the summer (the beach and World Cup this summer has been brilliant), I signed off on the day of the conference. To receive emails from people mentioning to have a good break and to enjoy the rest, meant a lot. It shown that other people were out there and felt a part of something, in my case it was being a part of the You Are The Media Community.
Find the balance between work and your side project. As seen with YouTube creators, there doesn’t seem to be a cut-off from living a life to living a life in front of a screen. When you live your life in front of others and expose the personal side, everything starts to blur, there has to be a cut-off. For instance, the majority of work that is associated with You Are The Media either takes place early in the morning or at the end of the day. The only exception is during a lunchtime with You Are The Media Lunch Club.
You have to find a way to disconnect. By having a two month break in 2018 was one of the best things I have done, in order to remain fresh. As the side project reached a peak (the conference), it was time to acknowledge where everything had come from and put the brakes on for a short while. The pressure to create content is very much with us all, but I now realise that creating content for the right people is what matters. That way there is a mutual respect between who sends and who receives.
Believe in what you are doing is for the greater good. Whether you are writing a blog, recording a podcast series or looking to highlight your narrative via video, nothing reignites you more than doing something that you believe in. This is what makes everything real and allows you to put a point across with conviction. I really hope that what you read from me, is centred on a belief that people and businesses have the ability to build a loyal audience via the narrative they create within the spaces they own.
The longer you are ‘in it’ the more reason to diversify. You grow and adapt alongside your business. For instance, towards the end of 2017, I took the decision to move away from just a content marketing led message, to one centred on how we can build loyalty and others to stick around with us, it just so happens that we can write, record and distribute to connect on a far deeper level than we ever have had before to create trust, empathy and someone else to commit.
Let’s Round Up
You can’t create at a pace for what a platform wants from you. If you set up an ecosystem where you are in control, it is better for your business, your health and your ability to grow.
Chris Anderson said in The Long Tail, “The fact that anyone can make content is only meaningful if others enjoy it.” It is unhealthy to presume that enjoyment is driven by quantity and collecting eyeballs.
Relentless creation that loses its sharpness is not the answer to standing out or being seen by more people. The real opportunity is to connect with others where you treat an audience as individuals as opposed to the widest reach to the biggest market.