YouTube to face creators as Instagram, Twitch loom as rivals - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

After year of crisis, YouTube to mollify creators sought by rival Instagram

Posted: Updated: Jul 4, 2018 9:02 AM
YouTube chief product officer Neal Mohan in the bright YouTube headquarters lobby in San Bruno, CA. YouTube chief product officer Neal Mohan in the bright YouTube headquarters lobby in San Bruno, CA.
CEO of YouTube Susan Wojcicki speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 at Pier 48 on September 14, 2016 CEO of YouTube Susan Wojcicki speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 at Pier 48 on September 14, 2016
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.at VidCon YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.at VidCon
The VidCon convention at the Anaheim Convention Center The VidCon convention at the Anaheim Convention Center
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LOS ANGELES - Rafi Fine has been uploading videos to YouTube since shortly after it started 13 years ago. He looks on with wonderment at the year the No. 1 video network has just had.

Advertiser boycotts over predatory kids videos. A star creator - Logan Paul - penalized after he filmed a suicide victim. Sexual and violent videos masquerading as kids cartoons. Conspiracy theorists crowding its "trending" module.

On top of it all: new rules designed to weed out the worst offenders that also made it harder for smaller creators, the band of video bloggers that provide the lifeblood of this Google-owned platform, to make a dime.

YouTube's intentions are good, and the network is headed in the right direction, says Fine, co-founder of the Los Angeles-based FBE media company and half of the Fine Bros. duo with brother Benny, whose channels have pulled in more than 10 billion views.

"But there's no way to satisfy everybody, and there's no way to be perfect," he said.

Now, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch and the other video networks are gunning for its audience and the creators disappointed by YouTube's recent changes.

On Thursday, YouTube meets with the creator community for the first time since many of these issues erupted, hosting sessions and get-togethers at the VidCon convention in Anaheim, California, which attracts more than 30,000 attendees.

At VidCon, YouTube needs to "remind creators that they built this industry, are on their side and have steps to restore trust,' says Drew Baldwin , CEO and publisher of TubeFilter, a blog that covers online video.

One day before, Facebook-owned Instagram is staging a press event in New York and San Francisco where it's expected to announce a major assault on YouTube by unveiling a platform for some creators to show videos longer than 60 seconds, plus a way to get compensated. Instagram declined to comment.

Facebook in the past has made similar announcements but never went through with opening the platform for compensation beyond a handful of creators.

"YouTube isn't the only game in town anymore,' says Reza Izad, CEO of Studio71, which represents more than 1,000 YouTubers in a digital management company. "The more platforms we can put our content in, the happier we are.'

With 400 hours of new video uploaded every minute - ranging from "Saturday Night Live" clips and music videos to homegrown fare such as the FBE channels, Logan Paul and Dude Perfect, a comedy troupe that does sports tricks - YouTube has soaked up an increasing share of Americans' video watching time.

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults use the platform, and it's even more popular with young viewers: 94 percent of 18 to 24 year olds use YouTube, estimates the Pew Research Center, which cites it as the No. 1 app for young people, ahead of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

The platform became a force by sharing a portion of the revenues from ads that run on the videos with the creators, enabling a generation of entertainers to earn a living - and in some cases, tens of millions of dollars - with channels focused on gaming reviews, beauty tips, comedy or commentary.

But that financial payout came with a dark side: It encouraged creators all over the world to game-search algorithms and one-up themselves to exploit public interest in a national event, such as a mass shooting, or attract more subscribers with pranks and stunts that were dangerous to themselves and their millions of young fans.

More: Logan Paul suicide video: Is YouTube not safe for kids?

More: Got a kid who loves YouTube? Take these steps to bar them from the worst

More: 7 days from fringe to mainstream: How a conspiracy theory ricocheted around the web

"I've seen how some bad actors are exploiting our openness to mislead, manipulate, harass or even harm," YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in a blog post.

New, tighter controls over what creators could post and how they get to share in ad revenues were announced in January, along with a promise of more human oversight of submitted videos.

Many smaller creators complained that the changes resulted in lower views and compensation, or more drastically, YouTube pulling back on allowing them to share in any revenues.

One distraught creator burst into YouTube's San Bruno, California, headquarters with a gun in April, injuring three employees and killing herself. Wojcicki, responding to the attack, acknowledged the "last year has not been easy" for video creators.

Against this backdrop, YouTube's rivals in video streaming are expected to make their own bids for the lucrative, top tier of creators.

According to marketing firm Mediakix, the highly coveted "influencer' market, folks with large online followings, will be worth $2 billion yearly by 2019. Studio71's Izad says some 55 percent of the money spent by marketers with influencers goes to creators who post photos on Instagram, with the other 45 percent to traditional YouTube videos and the ads that run on those channels.

Still, Mary Ermitanio, a consultant with the Manatt Digital firm, says Instagram is in for a tough ride with higher-end video. "People aren't going to Instagram to see professionally produced videos," she says. "Getting people to watch will be a challenge."

But at VidCon, rivals will be trying to convince creators otherwise. The convention floor will go beyond YouTube, to have Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and Twitch, alongside others.

Chris Williams, founder of kid video brand pocket.watch, says the platform to "watch out for" is Twitch, the live-streaming gaming channel owned by Amazon.

Like YouTube, it rewards creators with a cut of the ad revenues. And despite its history as a channel devoted just to watching other people play games, Williams sees Twitch expanding to a broader audience.

"If there's anyone who could compete with YouTube today, it's not Facebook or Instagram, it's Twitch," Williams said.

Amazon bought Twitch in 2014 for nearly $1 billion. "Amazon started as just a place to sell books online, and look at it now," he said. "Will Twitch remain just an e-sports platform? I doubt it."

Twitch noted that it already has expanded beyond gaming, pointing to shows about food, art and wrestling.

Meanwhile, from YouTube chief product officer Neal Mohan, who will address attendees Thursday, video creators need to hear specifics about changes that can help them make more money, Izad says.

"When you make less than you made the year before, you're not happy," Izad adds.

That didn't happen for all. YouTube cleaned out lower-viewed channels and videos that disobeyed community guidelines on violent, sexual and suggestive content. But YouTube says channels earning five figures annually grew more than 35 percent, while channels earning six figures annually grew more than 40 percent. YouTube is expected to announce several new tools for creators to help them grow their businesses at VidCon.

Chris Raney, who runs the family friendly Yellow Productions travel channel on YouTube, saw his revenues increase 30 percent in 2018, which he attributes to the algorithm changes.

"One side of the coin says free speech is important," he says. "But I also think YouTube spending time trying to make YouTube a better, friendlier place is good."

Follow USA TODAY's Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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