Uncertainties around monetization remain among the most significant and challenging for content creators to overcome. Understanding the scale and complexity of those issues is critical for anyone operating in content creation today, which means also gaining an appreciation for what strategies and technologies are available to content creators looking to reduce uncertainty and exert more control over their creative and financial futures.
The Struggle is Real
Content creators are vulnerable to seeing their monetization options dry up overnight. A valued brand sponsor might reach the limit of their ad budget or decide to allocate dollars elsewhere. An algorithm change or policy shift on a social media platform can demonetize content in a manner that can feel arbitrary—and often happens without any warning.
Today, individuals and entities who have built respectable and profitable businesses on familiar platforms like YouTube find themselves worryingly vulnerable and at the whim of algorithms to determine whether or not their business will still have a viable revenue stream. The earning potential is lower when a creator’s content on YouTube is part of a larger pool of content that may or may not align with an advertiser’s brand.
Demonetization is a risk for any creator, big or small, but it’s not the only issue. While successful content creators amass large followings on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitch and others, they also do not own their audience – the platform does. If the creator ever leaves one platform in favor of another, they risk losing followers who don’t make the switch with them.
Another important and underappreciated monetization challenge facing content creators working outside of traditional media channels is the lack of systems to produce and distribute content efficiently. The costs of production and distribution can be high for smaller content creators who do not have a team of people to support every aspect of each project.
The question is, what options do creators have who are looking to overcome these obstacles and make the climb of monetization mountain?
The good news is, technology companies are actively working to provide meaningful solutions to mitigate or address these structural monetization challenges. Some of these tools make it possible for creators to crank out more quality content more efficiently and cost-effectively, even without a large production team. Others provide new ways to manage and leverage content, while reducing uncertainty and enabling creators to operate with more independence.
There are two basic strategies to leverage content: Creators with established audiences can utilize syndicated content, which will make less money, but is low-cost and very low-risk. The other is to deliver high-quality content through new channels and new audiences. A whole ecosystem of tech solutions has emerged to help creators do just that, with tools designed to speed up longer-form content cutting to create highlights, or add graphics and closed captioning with ease.
Other solutions are more comprehensive and much more than just digital streaming products or online video platforms; they are true asset management systems for hosting content and integrating with a Content Management System (CMS) dynamically, to automatically create and maintain web pages with video content. The best of these solutions have an open design that makes it easy to move around content, ensuring content creators are not limited to any one channel or format.
Building an Audience
Even with the right tech, the key to profitability for content creators is an audience who will tune in with every broadcast. It takes time to build an audience, but it’s not impossible. Instead of relying on one platform to drive revenue—the equivalent of choosing only one trail to summit a mountain peak—creators should look to diversify content across multiple dissemination points to reduce the risk of demonetization, increasing the number of ways revenue is generated.
A YouTube creator who wants to have more control (and ensure business tomorrow) can start driving their loyal audience to a web property they own. Unless the creator is fairly prominent or supported by an influential brand, this step isn’t easy, and it almost always takes considerable time, planning and action. However, it’s worth the effort.
Content creators can use one or more of a growing number of increasingly sophisticated and intuitive tech tools to help establish and grow an audience. These tools make it easier to manage the site, easily maintain pages, edit and post videos – every step of the process. It’s important to recognize the critical difference between linking to YouTube videos on a site and hosting those videos there independently, on tech architecture controlled by the creator. It’s the difference between controlling your audience—and potentially your future—and placing that control in someone else’s hands.
In the end, personalized channels tend to create a better viewing experience, leading to increased viewing times and improved monetization.
As new tools continue to emerge and improve, it will ultimately become easier to build and manage independent content and cultivate an audience in the process. But even as new tools and new platforms develop, and new levels of flexibility and control become available, uncertainty remains. Debates (and decisions) about how to manage the monetization issue on large platforms will continue to become more urgent and impassioned. Public and private pressures on brands like YouTube will increase. Today, a change in policy can essentially wipe out thousands of established businesses, and, as long as that unpredictability remains, the tension between established platforms and content creator independence and control will continue to be an issue.
Moving forward, thoughtful content creators will become more interested in cultivating their own audiences and controlling their content from start to finish, rather than simply posting it to a platform where they are beholden to an evolving set of rules and policies. Develop an owned web presence and ensure any content is in the right places on OTT services and apps. Consider syndicating content across a wide variety of channels.
Creators should avoid a worst-case scenario and proactively diversify their presence today. By taking this step, creators have more control of the content climb ahead of them, with a stable content management foundation to navigate the unpredictable environment of a turbulent media marketplace.