November 30, 2017
Hello everyone! We just posted our announcement video for YouTube Sponsorships, and I’d like to take the time here to talk about it a bit more, and to answer any questions you have. Money is always a difficult thing to talk about, especially when it comes to YouTube Creators. Some viewers are totally comfortable with the concept and understand that YouTube is how some people make a living, while others get upset when money is mentioned at all. I’d like to offer some clarity here so you can hopefully feel a little more informed, and a lot more comfortable with the idea of how we do what we do for a living. This is going to be long, but it’s going to be thorough, and you’ll maybe learn a thing or two about the world of online video, and our thoughts on it.
So let’s start with the basics: YouTube is a free platform for people to watch and post videos. You don’t have to pay to watch them, and we don’t have to pay to post them. It’s always been that way for the almost ten years that we’ve been on YouTube, and I think it’s always going to be that way. This Sponsorship Program isn’t changing that. There’s a lot more under the hood than that, though. I wish it were just that simple! So let’s unpack it a bit.
While YouTube videos are free for us to post online, they’re not free for us to make. As you might have gleaned from our Super Expensive Grapes video, you gotta spend money to make content. Of course, not everyone has to spend a lot of money to make videos. That’s not a prerequisite. Your videos aren’t banned from the platform if you haven’t shown your receipts for how much they cost to make. But as YouTube becomes more popular amongst creators, production values have to increase in order to keep up. The world of online video has changed, and shooting on a shaky point and shoot camera with the wind ruffling your audio just isn’t going to cut it for travel videos anymore. People aren’t putting up with poorly produced videos, and so videos need to look nicer, sound nicer, and they need better material for the content. If you’ve been watching YouTube for a few years now, you might have noticed how the quality of content online now is significantly better looking than the early days of people just talking to webcams in their bedrooms. I hope (I really hope!) you’ve noticed the same for us as well. Over the years we’ve really tried to up the quality of our videos, and we’ve also tried to change the content of our material, in the slim hopes that you don’t get bored.
The money that goes into making these videos isn’t your responsibility. You don’t have to pay a dime, and you never will be forced to. How your contribution helps us to afford to do these videos is through the weird relationship we all have with advertisements. Meaning, If you watch YouTube and see an ad, YouTube gets a portion of what advertisers paid to show that ad, and we get the rest of it. The more ads people watch, the better a video performs. So, going back to that Grape video, you might remember us joking about not skipping the ads. That’s…ahh….that’s important for us. So important!
Ad revenue is not consistent, however. It’s a very fickle thing. I’ll give a few examples, the first one being somewhat obvious. For starters – let’s face it: watching an ad sucks. I know. We all know. It sucks, and a lot of people don’t want to do it. Many people skip ads, or even put on ad blockers. There’s no way for us to guarantee that the work and cost we put into a video will pay off if people keep skipping ads. It’s a weird hesitant agreement that we all need to make so that viewers can keep watching videos, creators can keep making videos, and YouTube can keep hosting videos.
It gets a lot more complicated than that, though, with lots of nobs and fiddles along the way. Even if you do watch an ad, it’s not like 1 ad view = 1 dollar. Different companies bid for ads, depending on the content of the video, the popularity of the video, the location and age and gender of the viewer, and many more factors. The highest bidder for a set of criteria they want to display ads on wins. Different countries have different ads as well, and those all have different ad rates. Different times of year have different ad rates as well. December months are better than January months, for example, since more companies are bidding for Christmas time. The more companies are bidding for ad space, the better for Creators, the better for YouTube, and – in the end – the better for viewers.
Here’s where the Adpocalypse comes in. I’ll add a little more detail now than we did in our video, but I can’t cover it all because it’s just too damned big of a topic. Keep in mind the customization I mentioned above at how advertisers can bid on placing their ads on videos. Well, after some advertisers found their ads placed on unsavoury videos, they were very pissed off, so advertisers started pulling their ads from YouTube. And when that happened, YouTube lost a lot of money, which meant Creators lost a lot of money. It’s not YouTube’s charity that Creators are dependent on, but on advertisements, and if an advertiser doesn’t like your content, YouTube can’t force them to display an ad on it. A lot of sweeping reform happened with the way ads were displayed, and Creators were in many ways screwed. Some Creators are having their videos deemed ineligible for advertisements for reasons that are unclear and many times just unfair. It’s not the best solution. It’s not even a good solution. But it’s some kind of solution, at least, to keep advertisers on YouTube, because without them, there’s no money to be made, and without money, most of your favorite content on YouTube won’t be made either.
The safe thing to do, from a Creator’s perspective, is to find other ways to stay afloat. This is where you’ll see product placements come into videos, which is when a company pays a YouTuber to make a video to promote their product or service. And product placements are suuuuuuch a mixed bag. Many YouTubers promote products they don’t care about for a quick buck, and many of those YouTubers don’t disclose these relations, either, which I don’t like at all. So here’s where we stand on product placements:
1) We won’t promote something we don’t believe in. We were offered lots of money before by companies we don’t like and turned them down. We won’t jeopardize our trust with you, which is worth more than a quick buck.
2) If we like the product or service, we’ll only make a video for a product we like if we think the video will be something you enjoy. I don’t want to make a boring video. I don’t want to change my voice or tone. I want to be as natural as I can be, and as honest with you as we always are.
3) If we do a product placement, we’ll disclose that it’s a product placement. You’ll sometimes see that in the bottom left corner of our YouTube videos, or we’ll talk about it in our posts. Even though the first two points should be, we hope, enough to keep your trust, we still want you to know. I’m not sure why yet we want you to know, but we’ll tell you anyways. I learned at a young age that I’m horrible at lying and it’s just easier to be as honest with everyone as possible.
That’s not enough for some people, and I’m not sure what more we can do. When we do a product placement video, we sometimes see angry comments questioning our integrity, but godddaaaaaammnn I can’t emphasize enough how selective we are in this. We’ve turned down a lot more money in offers than we’ve received. Really, a lot more. And that won’t change. You having a positive experience with our videos is something we want above all. If you can think of a way for us to do things better please let us know. Not everybody holds themselves to the standards we set for ourselves. I wish they would.
The point is, product placements supplement ad revenue, but it’s not a consistent solution or a fully viable one for many. Which is why I think the next option is going to be big.
Thank you for making it this far into this post, by the way. It’s a long one, but I hope you’ve learned something about what we do for a living.
So, with ad revenue always being shaky – even moreso lately – and product placements being an ethical conundrum, Sponsorships are an option that some Creators have already been exploring. Meaning, Viewers can show their support for Creators by donating to them, either directly or indirectly. For people that choose to be Sponsors, they receive perks as a thank you for their support. And this part is where things get tricky. Some people will argue that it’s not that Viewers are being thanked for their support; some will argue that it’s Creators putting content behind a paywall, and that it goes against the very foundation of YouTube that was stated at the top of this blog post. Where you stand on that is something we’d like to hear. And that’s not me being facetious. This is something we’re deeply considering.
Why would we agree to start with the Sponsorship program, then, if we’re not too sure about it? Many reasons. For starters, it’s something that is going to roll out on YouTube sitewide. We’re beta-testing it now. There will be some kinks. But its release is inevitable, and it will change the game for a lot of Creators. With us beta-testing it, we can let YouTube know what’s good about it, and what needs to be changed. And from the thousands of you that we’ve spoken with, both online and in person, we know that you’re all brilliant and thoughtful people. With your feedback we can make changes on the YouTube platform as a whole in a direction that we all can believe in. I’d rather have your input in shaping YouTube’s future than another community steering the wheel.
Secondly, some of you have asked for ways that you can support us. We literally got this message yesterday:
It’s not the only time we were asked this. There are some of you who want go out of your way to do more, and have the means chip in and support our videos financially. So, for those of you who want to buy us a drank, or for those of you who feel like we’ve helped you and you want to donate as a way to say thanks, here’s a way for you to do so.
Before I carry on with something heavier, let me just say thank you if you do want to be Sponsors. Really. We’ve already seen some people sign up for the Sponsorship program before we even posted this video. We’ve been doing this YouTube thing for ten years now, and the support you show is always touching. Deeply touching. We’re not confident in what we do, and I think you can hear that in our blog posts a lot of the time, so to see you go against our judgment of ourselves is a lot more moving for us than it is for some other Creators we know.
Now on to something heavier. This video makes us feel very icky. Why? Because we’re very worried that some of you will feel upset or angry or left out. I know some of you might not be in the situation to afford to be Sponsors. So please, for the love of all that is Spudgy, do not put yourself at financial discomfort or risk for us. Sweet mercy, please don’t. Your support is very much appreciated by us, in any way that you can give it. If you watch our videos, we’re already amazed. We’re profoundly touched that anyone wants to buy our merch, but we don’t think any less of those of you who can’t. I grew up embarrassingly poor. I wouldn’t be able to afford this when I was younger. And I keep thinking about how I would have felt if I saw this video back in those days. Making this video is something we’ve grappled with for a long time. YouTube asked us a while ago to start this Beta program and we’ve been unsure about this for a lot longer than expected. We’re wayyyy behind our agreed upon schedule. We really want this to be something that people can be happy about, but we’re also terribly worried that this program will make some people feel sad.
Sponsorship isn’t mandatory. It’s very much appreciated, but not mandatory. We’ll keep on making videos for as long as our health lets us. We’re not as sprightly as we once were, so we can’t make seven videos a week like we used to in Korea, and as our health wanes so does our production schedule, but – still – you don’t and won’t have to pay anything for the videos we produce.
Ok. Deep Catholic Guilt aside…actually….it’s not aside. Deep Catholic Guilt is still with us on this. But in an attempt to move forward with this discussion, let’s talk a bit more about the whole point of this video. For those of you lovely people who want to be Sponsors, here’s what you’ll get
The two big perks are special content that we’ll be sending you via the Community Tab in private posts, just for Sponsors. We really thought for a while about perks that would be worth it, and I hope you like what we have to offer.
The first is a special monthly vlog. We shoot lots of videos when we’re out, just on our iPhones, sometimes on our fancy cameras, and we don’t know what to do with them all. We used to post them in our Eatyoursushi segments, but since we can’t make Eatyoursushi anymore, we don’t have anywhere to post those clips. For our Sponsors, we’ll put those clips together in a little vlog. You’ll see more of Spudgy and Meemers, you’ll see some of the fun things we find around Tokyo and Japan, and some other random little insights into our lives. I hope you like them and they can add a few more smiles to your days!
The second perk is something that will be more useful for people that are planning a trip to Japan. We do a lot of traveling around Tokyo and a bit around the rest of Japan, and we take notes for most of the places we stop to eat at. We want to share some of these notes with you. We’ll be posting links to Google Maps of some cool places we go to, so that you can plan your trip to Japan with a little more confidence. This isn’t a Lonely Planet Travel guide. These are places that we dig that we want you to know about as well, so you can have a fulfilling and delicious time in Japan!
Otherwise, we also have badges that will show up by your name when you leave a comment on YouTube, and custom emojis for our LiveStreams on our Simon and Martina channel. I think the emojis will make their way over to regular videos as well, but that’s still being worked on!
You made it to the end of this post! Woohoo! It’s been quite an emotional journey. And now that we’re done talking, please let us know what you think. We’ll try to answer as much as we can, and if we can’t we’ll ask YouTube. If you’re a Creator and interested in signing up for the Sponsor program, it’s in a closed beta now, but you can click the link here and hopefully they can get you started as well.
I’m gonna go take a long bath and cry deeply in a towel now.