More platforms, more challenges for YouTubers

For a long time, if you were a YouTube star or multi-channel network, distribution meant YouTube. Sure, there were a few other options such as Dailymotion and Justin.tv, but none could offer the same reach as the world’s biggest open video site.

That has changed. Competitors such as Vessel and Vimeo are actively courting YouTubers for their content with attractive revenue-sharing agreements. Social networks such as Facebook, Vine, Snapchat and even Instagram are rapidly becoming important destinations to build and engage with audiences. And for those who want to make more traditional films and TV shows, streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hulu have become viable outlets.

In other words, it’s a good time to be an online video creator. But more options doesn’t translate to greater simplicity. If anything, the new distribution landscape has birthed a new set of challenges for creators and MCNs, influencing everything from how they plan and produce videos to how they measure their reach and performance.

Here is how a wide variety of creators and MCNs at VidCon — the “Super Bowl” for this growing ecosystem — are approaching the new platforms, and why many believe YouTube is still the only true “hub” for a native Web video creator.

Colin Decker, gm of Discovery Digital Networks:
“The big challenges today for creators and businesses is prioritization without spreading yourself too thin. You have to pick your priorities, go in hard and then look to the data to set the next turn.”

Beth Greve, COO, AwesomenessTV:
“You can’t program the same for every platform. The content can be similar, but there have to be differences. On Facebook, we find on average people watch for 90 seconds. If they want more, it’s better to direct them to another platform.”

“For branded content, the struggle is in the tracking. Trying to track performance for an execution has become very cumbersome. It’s a bit like filling out your expenses and later realizing you’ve forgotten a couple items. There are definitely views and impressions we are still leaving on the table.”

Matthew Santoro, YouTube and Periscope star:
“I don’t think it’s a challenge. I’m a YouTuber, that’s what I identify as. I think there is some pride that goes along with that. It’s an established community that has been around for nearly a decade now. These other platforms — no disrespect to them — but I would never say I’m a ‘Vesseler.’ That said, you need to respect each platform and upload what is expected on each. For Periscope, I’m not going to sit there and just play a piece of my YouTube video. I’ll let them know that I have a new clip up, but after I have that out of the way I focus on what I’m doing at the time.

Brodie Smith, YouTube and Vine star:
“Say I do a trick shot: On Vine, I have to get straight to the point, maybe with a good song behind it; on Instagram, I’ll add a bit more and talk about what the trick is beforehand and show the celebration or an alternate angle afterward; Facebook is a good place to post teasers to get people excited about the video; and YouTube, obviously, is where the full version exists. That’s changed how I plan and produce a video. Before it was just, let’s come up with an idea and shoot it. Now we need to make sure we film it the right way so it can be cut for YouTube, Vine, Instagram, Flipagram, Facebook — it’s definitely slowed the production process.”

“To be fair, while it’s a little more work, I think the more platforms the better. Now I have brands coming to me and saying, we need something for YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, etc. Now there are more forms of content that I charge for.”

Reza Izad, CEO of Collective Digital Studio:
“One-off content sales, which is selling a show to a platform like what we did with ‘Video Game High School’ and Netflix, that is just one part of the [Web video] universe, and it has no complexity. The complexity is in the organic YouTube content. Google is still the only one that pays when it comes to things like [copyright] management, which doesn’t exist anywhere else so the liability is much more real.”

Fred Seibert, CEO, Frederator Networks:
“Facebook has expertly made the press their shills in believing there is a battle between Facebook and YouTube, where a view on Facebook is treated the same as a view on YouTube. An autoplay view is not the same thing as a chosen view. The real issue underlying all of this is what programming works on YouTube vs. Facebook vs. Snapchat vs. Twitch and so on. I come from a scripted background. In our first couple of years, we put up a lot of scripted content on YouTube. Now we are putting more ‘listicle’ kind of programming because YouTube as a platform [with its algorithms] likes listicles more than scripted. By the same token, vlogs won’t work on Netflix… We have to be driven by consumer behavior. Every decision, from creative to production to programming to monetization, has to be driven by our audience and not through our immediate business needs.”

Meghan Camarena, YouTube star:
“You have to constantly be evolving. It requires building a team and finding a balance between the traditional business models and the not-so-traditional ones, because they can’t stay the same.”

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