YouTube Ranter Zack James on the Site’s Biggest Problem: The Networks

Zack James, aka OutbackZack, was one of many hopeful stars who found a loyal audience on YouTube. But his frustration with its multi-channel networks culminated in an expletive-laden tirade, and James deleted his videos altogether. Below, part encore, part explanation.

YouTube Ranter Zack James on the Site’s Biggest Problem: The Networks
[Image: Flickr user Thebarrowboy]

A lot of these bigger networks were signing thousands of channels, and came at us with a promise of helping us grow an audience and create better content. The reality was that these networks couldn’t manage all of these channels. It became a rat race between all of them–who can scoop up whom the fastest? They got a lot of money for funding, and instead of using that to figure out how to better manage us, they put the smaller talent aside. They took an interest in the more prominent talent, and in creating better IP for themselves that they can own and operate. They didn’t create a proper network infrastructure that could really benefit the low-tier talent all the way up to the top-tier talent.

Zack JamesImage via YouTube

I was on YouTube before there were networks. I signed on with Machinima because they had a pretty decent deal at the time. Machinima was one of these networks that were signing thousands of channels. When I moved out to Los Angeles, Machinima–even though they’re known as a gaming network–wanted to create an entertainment vertical. To me, this was a bit vague. After being signed with them for a few months, they asked for a meeting with me and a few partners. They point-blank asked, “What can we do with you?” We looked at each other and said, “Why don’t we know this already? Why don’t you have a plan?”

There are smaller networks that only sign a few hundred partners and can actually manage them. Then there’s Fullscreen, who, even though they’ve signed thousands of channels, took the time before they got their funding to invest in technology to help us better track data and understand how much money we’re making. They also created a program that brought advertisers to us, and increased our monetary gains. But networks like Maker Studios never did that for us.

My idea of a perfect network is one that has different sub-categories that are managed and operated properly and can handle thousands of channels, such as a gaming vertical, beauty, animation, etc. These verticals should work with each other to get these channels cross-promoting and cross-collaborating. The larger networks have not tried doing this in a way that involves asking the content creators, the actual YouTubers, to create these categories. I’d think content creators would have more sense in doing this than employees that are hired right out of school. They won’t understand the lingo and how the website really works for the YouTubers who are actually using it to make a living. It’s the YouTubers who understand what it means to “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” They understand the mutual relationship and benefit.

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