Recently, Brendan Bradley (Squatters) started posting a new series (Brief Coverage) on his channel. Of the six videos currently posted, thumbnails show the female host in various sexy underwear. Two of the thumbnails include her face. The thumbnail for one of these videos recently prompted the question on Facebook, “is this porn?” A heated discussion followed. For me, it became an opportunity to share some recent observations on the state of sexy.
For a long time, the going thinking regarding YouTube was that success was all about numbers, specifically numbers of views. Since hot-sexy (however that was defined by viewers) has tended to drive the highest number of views, videos with those subjects have driven views and notoriety. The flip-side of that coin is that the YouTube community (in some instances) and the YouTube advertisers (in other instances) have prevented material that some find offensive (in either category) from receiving monetization. In some instances, videos (like at least one in #BriefCoverage) have been completely removed from the site.
The impact can be broken down into two basic categories:
- Stuff that gets removed from the website or sent to the purgatory of 18+ content
- Stuff that doesn’t receive monetization or gets low CPMs…
My sense with #1 is that you’re on your own, it’s community driven and you’re videos remain posted at the mercy of the viewers (and YouTube internal reviewers, which number in the far-too-few). However, with #2 you are at the mercy of the advertisers and the demand for content in certain categories. We have two shows in the Ziz Comedy Network that each received monetization over the past month. One show goes after the thriving male-interested-in-slightly-sexy-content. That episode (The Largest Penis in the World) received something in the neighborhood of 22K views over a thirty-day period and made somewhere in the neighborhood of $26 – $30. The other video (Bun in the Oven) received approximately 2K (yes, two thousand) views during the same period and made virtually the same amount of money. What was the difference? This second video is aimed at new moms with a comedic message of women empowerment consistently targeting this audience with content, title, tags, etc. The other difference is that the first video captures the same audience as a gazillion (that’s the literal number) other videos on youtube while the second is doing something that is a lot more unique (relatively speaking).
You can define success in a number of ways. There are great reasons to go after high view counts or high cpm rates (or both). YouTube (though often thought of like a utility) is first and foremost a business that needs advertisers to sustain itself and needs to grow beyond its reputation outside of the webseries community: as the place that you don’t want your 13 y.o. to go alone. In that context, it’s easy to understand why and how certain things happen on YouTube. Unfortunately, for now there are three basic categories for YouTube videos with anything that a user or advertiser might find objectionable: undiscovered, adult, and removed. My sense is that as the broader community of online video viewers evolve so will the rating system and the ways that certain kinds of content finds its way to users. As that happens, it will make room for a much broader range of high quality content that, while not necessarily perfect for the Disney set certainly might be perfect for a differentiated, intelligent, and discerning audience.
Whether or not Brief Coverage is designed to do more than showcase the assets of Liz Katz, I leave to the viewer to decide. But, the conversation it fostered on Facebook reminds me of a question our start-up consultant asked me when we were first forming as an organization: “Are you planning to do porn?” Perplexed and surprised by the question we answered with a resounding: no. “Good,” came an immediate response from our smiling consultant. “There’s just too much competition.”