This is a guest post by one of the most well known and Proud-to-be-a-Geek Vlogger, Affiliate Rockstar and overall Techie Evangelist, Chris Pirillo. Get some coffee (preferrably from a Lockergnome.com Mug), grab your favorite sci-fi stress toy and possibly a Harvard English Major to help you through this awesome look at content, production, the value of quality content and yourself all tied into Economics. Not to mention that the post wraps up with a great ending and gives you an Ahhhh Haaaa moment. The trick is to read through the whole thing. Thank you again Chris for contributing this monster piece on Content Production.
Why content producers could be failing and what you can do as a content producer to be worth more value in the market.
I’m a “content consumer.”
We’re accused of having short-attention spans, but it’s not that “stuff” is losing our attention quickly – it’s that we’re losing our attention on more things more frequently when faced with a constant onslaught of “stuff” worthy of our attention.
I’m also an independent “content producer.” This means I don’t have millions in external funding, I don’t have experts at my beck-and-call, and I don’t have near-unlimited (stable) resources to keep producing as my supporters might expect me to produce.
Sounds great, right? Well, not when you’re expected to compete on a playing field of producers who are better funded, better staffed, better sourced, better ranked, better whatever – and our mutual competitor remains the attention that everybody doesn’t have enough of.
And “better content” isn’t a comprehensive answer, unfortunately. To put it to you another way: just how much “good stuff” are you missing out on right now simply because you don’t have enough time in your day to consume it? You may not even know that a piece of “good stuff” exists in the first place – but that’s a different problem I really don’t care to cover.
how much “good stuff” are you missing out on right now simply because you don’t have enough time in your day to consume it?
So what is the value of Content?
The free content ride is not quite over (and it may never end), but it’s slowing down substantially. To this point, consumers could get content for free because producers had a solid way of offsetting costs (through mechanisms like advertising). But, just as advertising budgets are increasing, so are productions against which those ads might be run. And therein lies the rub.
The value of a piece of content is likely measured per thousand views. If you have a high value for an advertiser, the cost per thousand (CPM) is higher – right? Well, what happens when there’s more producers creating things of equally-important value? What happens when you are producing at the same levels and are no longer receiving the traffic you once did because of uncontrollable, external factors? Same pie, smaller slices all around. Pay attention.
A content consumer still likely values the produced content equally.
And that’s the disparity which is giving rise to a scenario that seems to be unpalatable for the average consumer, but absolutely necessary for the producer if they truly expect to continue producing for the consumer.
And the average content consumer, mind you, is largely ignorant to the reason that changes are coming – because they’ve never faced these stressors as a producer.
A content consumer’s knee-jerk reaction to a content producer who might look to more direct options for monetization is to suggest that the producer is “doing it wrong.” The consumer’s course of action may be to find a producer that better suits their whims (and budget), but this still may not diminish the value the consumer holds for the content that doesn’t come to them “for free.” Enter dissatisfaction, all around.
Consumers have long been whining about ads (and some of them, blocking ads outright and demanding that the world continues to spin on their terms); these are not your supporters, and they are not people you want around you. Do not take their feedback with any degree of seriousness, as they’re probably the same people who don’t vote and complain about everything they had the opportunity to change during the last election.
If I walked into a coffee shop and tried to haggle with the Barista and suggest that the triple espresso they made isn’t worth anything because I’ll just take my business elsewhere (to where I can get a free triple espresso)… uh, yeah. Right. What am I paying for? The coffee drink itself? The expertise to make a coffee drink that I enjoy? The electricity for the machine to help make my coffee drink?
If I went to get a book that offered something of value to me, what am I paying for? Am I paying for pages, or am I paying for whatever it was I wanted (which isn’t necessarily a printed volume)? Are all books free? Do all books need to be free? Is information free for everybody? Well, I suppose in Utopia… but we don’t live there. I can’t pay for my triple espressos with nothing, and I can’t produce content without offsetting my costs. Obviously, I am not a communist – nor is anybody who bothered to read this far.
Producers have to work twice as hard to drive half as much revenue from ads anymore. That’s an overly-generalized statement, but its premise stands. Don’t turn to an impersonal study for data – just ask any one of your favorite content producers directly. Forget about SEO & SEM (and other miscellany that most content producers don’t understand or care about) for just a moment.
How are we going to keep doing what we do without having to find a “real job” (because most content consumers simply do not understand or appreciate the amount of work that goes into making something look easy)? How are we going to increase stability while increasing longevity accordingly? There’s really only one answer on the table for everybody involved.
We find patrons and cater to them above the masses.
What are the Patrons looking for? Quality Content, display it and keep them coming back.
YouTube has been a fantastic platform for independent video content producers – the likes of which have not been rivaled by any other entity for any other form of content to date. It’s an unfortunate anomaly, but its no less a victim of reality. YouTube has experimented with the pay per view model, but that only works well for well-known one-offs. I’m not trying to bring up the subject of charging for content, either (at least, not likely in the way you’ve experienced it before).
I’m talking about better enabling a relationship that facilitate value where it matters most – between the content producer and the content consumer.
Think about what a never-ending IndieGoGo for content would look like. Now, I use IndieGoGo as a brand reference instead of KickStarter intentionally – because with KickStarter you must reach your financial goals in order to produce something. IndieGoGo doesn’t impose such a restriction; all funds raised in IndieGoGo are available the project to use.
I learned about a service a few months ago that would help enable content producers to engage their “biggest fans” – but it took me a while to set up my own profile and launch a campaign for the thousands of people who claim to have been missing something I used to produce for them.
http://patreon.com/ChrisPirillo was borne, and it’s not likely to disappear anytime soon. It’s not a limited engagement – it’s an opportunity to address most of the issues that have plagued me as a content producer from the very beginning.
Are content consumers ready to donate to their favorite producers on an ongoing basis? I believe so. Though it’s not a very popular idea with most producers or consumers today, I’m confident that it will eventually be accepted as the best way to make everybody happy.
If someone suggests that the value of my time or content is worth nothing to them, then they (in turn) mean nothing to me. What’s the point of them watching something I do versus watching something that anybody does? I’d rather support 3,000 people who are supporting me doing something for them that they want instead of dealing with 300,000 people who don’t care whether I produce or not.
Traffic is irrelevant. Subscriber or follower count is irrelevant. Existing production and consumption models are untenable for every party.
Some producers are upset that Facebook is now charging to help you improve coverage of any given status update – but how else would you expect that what you had to share is going to rise above the 100s of other things that other people are sharing in a user’s feed for the day? It’s no better or no worse than having an email newsletter and watching your open rates decline as more people are turning to more places to get more stuff.
If you set up a system where you’ve given your supporters an opportunity to give you what’s tantamount to the monetary value of a bottle of water on a monthly or one-off basis – and you don’t have to worry about maintaining the system for transactions – and you can offer as little or as much as you might want to those supporters – and you can start concentrating on what you might want to do and stop wasting your time on things you’re not good at – and if you can stop worrying about market forces beyond your control… what’s stopping you from pursuing the model?
Pushback? Some people complain if you do anything or if you don’t do anything – so, either way, you’re going to lose if you don’t give yourself a chance to win. Stop caring about the people who don’t care about you – and if they have the means to support you but refuse to do it on principle, then you (again) can’t count them as true supporters.
I’ve had to do a lot of explaining to consumers who see the goals on my Patreon profile. They’re looking at the wrong number, really – and Patreon still has a long way to go in educating the would-be supporter. Some detractors see how much is being accrued by a producer and may believe that the producer is asking for “too much.”
What I have to explain (over and over) is that I do not limit the reach of my content. Would someone begrudge a book author who crafted “valuable” content simply because the author sold more copies? That a movie with actors achieved more box office sales? I’d hope not. The value to that individual remains constant.
Same goes here, folks. If you don’t value something, nobody is here to tell you that you should value it. However, if you value something, you must not make gross assumptions in how the sausage is being made (if you will). If you don’t like that the barista’s manager wants to charge you $3 for a triple espresso, it’s your right not to buy into it. However, if you want that triple espresso, then you must also be willing to exchange your money for receiving the product.
And if someone tells me that they don’t think the value of what I have done for them in the past (or am aiming to do for them in the future) is worth $2 a month, then I’m not so sure I’d ever have risen above the din of content they’re consuming in the first place.
In the past, I’ve sold eBooks and services – intangible, but still valuable to the person who is looking to have what I have to give. I’ve learned what has worked well (and what hasn’t), and I’ve learned that the most valuable thing any of us have is NOT money, but time. Could you set up this kind of system on your own? Possibly. Is it easier to work with people who do what they do well so that you can continue to do what you do well? Absolutely.
Again, time is more precious than money. Attention is more valuable than money. You can’t earn time or attention back by any means.
Is Patreon the only game in town for such services? Doubtful, but it was founded by a YouTube content creator and is already being supported by known producers. I’m quite nervous about placing such an important part of my enterprise in someone else’s hands (What happens if they get acquired? What happens if they can’t make it work? What happens if something else happens?). I was equally as nervous about putting my videos on YouTube in 2006, and that turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.
The reward, I do believe, outweighs the risk – and I know that if tomorrow, everything else gets wiped out, I can count on that growing number of patrons to keep doing “my thing” for them anywhere I can possibly get things done.
As an independent content producer, I have a greater possibility of achieving platform independence without being shackled to increasingly-difficult production paradigms. Holy Grail? No. Meaning of Life? No. Something completely different? No.
The “patron model” is just a better way of making the people who truly matter happy.
They say that money can’t buy happiness, but you just see how many triple espressos you can buy without any money next time you walk into your favorite coffee shop. Don’t drink coffee? Cool. Try buying a book (sans discount) without dropping a dime the next time you need or want one. Let’s see how far you get. Even if these scenarios don’t fit your lifestyle, just don’t gloss over my reality because it doesn’t match yours.
By the way, I wrote this guest post “for free.” I figured I might find a few more patrons by writing it – damn any other perceived value. 😉
You can find and follow Chris Pirillo at the following places. (and don’t forget to donate the $2 if you’re a Chris Pirillo supporter on his Patron. http://patreon.com/ChrisPirillo).