online video
Theft, Lies, and Facebook Video
Facebook says it’s now streaming more video than YouTube. To be able to make that claim, all they had to do was cheat, l…
By Hank Green

Facebook counts the “view” at the three second mark (whether or not the viewer has even turned on the sound) in the midst of a precipitous decline in retention. At that moment, 90% of people scrolling the page are still ‘watching’ this silent animated GIF. But by 30 seconds, when viewership actually could be claimed, only 20% are watching. 90% of people are being counted, but only 20% of people are actually “viewing” the video.


This might seem a little like this is a victimless crime, but it fundamentally devalues the #1 metric of online video. The view is the thing that everyone talks about and it’s the thing creators sell to advertisers in order to make a living. Applying that word to something far less valuable is going to be extremely disruptive to creators. Ad agencies and brands are confused enough without Facebook muddying the waters by calling something a view when it is in no way a measure of viewership.

When Facebook says it has roughly the same number of views as YouTube, what they really mean is that they have roughly 1/5th of YouTube’s views, since they’re intentionally and blatantly over-counting to the detriment of everyone except them.


According to a recent report from Ogilvy and Tubular Labs, of the 1000 most popular Facebook videos of Q1 2015, 725 were stolen re-uploads. Just these 725 “freebooted” videos were responsible for around 17 BILLION views last quarter. This is not insignificant, it’s the vast majority of Facebook’s high volume traffic. And no wonder, when embedding a YouTube video on your company’s Facebook page is a sure way to see it die a sudden death, we shouldn’t be surprised when they rip it off YouTube and upload it natively. Facebook’s algorithms encourage this theft.

What is Facebook doing about it?

They’ll take the video down a couple days after you let them know. Y’know, once it’s received 99.9% of the views it will ever receive.

A must read from edwardspoonhands (h/t johnman)

Online Video is Nothing Like TV (But it Will Be if We Can't Think Differently)


Everything about online video is different from television (aside from the fact that lots of images are displayed in sequence in order to create the illusion of movement.)

The way the content is made is different, the mindset of the audience is different, the way social structures and fandoms are built is different, the kind of engagement is different, the barrier to entry is non-existent, the rate of change is at least doubled.

But humans are not good at thinking about things differently. Something new exists and, unless we are very young, we attempt to put it in an existing box…or some combination of existing boxes. Online video looks like television, so let’s create “Networks.” Let’s call the page of each creator a “Channel.” Let’s call the thing they do a “Show.” And the people themselves are “Stars.”

Of course this is what we do…creating new words is a hassle, especially when you’re trying to convince existing structures (like your mom, Hollywood executives, and Madison Avenue) that this thing is legitimate and interesting. So you use those old boxes. 

The problem is, the more we use those old boxes, the more everything starts to look like the thing that came before it. 

If we call collections of YouTube channels “Networks” everyone thinks about them like they’re Networks (especially in legacy media.) Then eventually creators start thinking about them as “online TV networks” when really, the needs of online video creators are completely different from the needs of TV creators. 

Suddenly, online video starts looking more like TV not because it should or anyone wants it to, but just because we lack the collective imagination to think of it differently. 

This is an old problem…and not one that can be completely avoided. People aren’t very adaptable. It’s like complaining that it snows in Montana…it’s so expensive to plow the streets, and there are more car accidents, it’s a drain on the economy! But, like, you can’t make it SNOW LESS, that’s ridiculous. 

But to some extent (and maybe not a huge extent) you can change social structures and you can change people. Not to match precisely what online video would be in it’s purest state, but to let some of its unique properties shine through. This will happen no matter what, but I think it will happen /more/ if we’re conscious about it…AND if we put people who actually understand it in charge of some of its more influential structures (YouTube, MCNs, Awards Shows.)

But that’s not what we’re doing. For a few years, YouTube has been led by a guy from Hollywood…so has Maker Studios…so has AwesomenessTV. YouTube is now in the hands of a stronger CEO who is at least from the tech world, which has much less in common with online video than TV does.

That might seem like a bad thing, but I don’t think it is. I think coming at new media with fresh eyes is much better than coming at it with pre-defined boxes. Thinking, “Oh, I see, so this is kinda like a channel…but different in a few ways,” gives you a much less accurate picture than thinking, “This is like nothing I’ve ever seen before…what exactly is it?" 

I (and probably you) came at online video with entirely fresh eyes. I knew nothing about hollywood structures or the roles that networks or agents or awards or channels played in the creation of media. I knew media existed, but the structures that surrounded them were entirely unknown and opaque to me. 

But most people in the online video business did not enter with that innocence, and I think that’s too bad. There are very few people who understand online video solely within the framework of online video in this industry, especially people who have differentiated themselves and gained enough experience to not only /be/ experts, but to be recognized as experts (which are two very different things.)

We’re headed into a world where the people who really get it are getting old enough to differentiate themselves and bring both authenticity and expertise into this industry, but it’s a bit of a battle at the moment…especially because a lot of the bigger companies have already got it into their heads that TV and online video really are very similar. 

And if they think that for long enough, my fear is that eventually, it will become true. Not because it is, but simply because we lacked imagination. 

So if you’re into this…figure out ways to differentiate yourself as an expert who should be recognized as such…then please, send me your resume.

Q: I just read an article on Buzzfeed; in it, Shira Lazar suggests that Vlogbrothers could logically become a paid subscription channel because of the devotion of Nerdfighters. What are your thoughts on this? asked by bramtic

(Rebloggable by request.)

A. That’s nice of Shira to say, but why would we do that?

Let’s say that you’re a nerdfighter and you’re living in poverty. (Lots of nerdfighters are.) Why would I exclude you from the community just because you don’t have access to the same resources as someone who is wealthy? That would go against the inclusionism that’s the core of nerdfighteria.

(I’m not just saying this in a feel-good, altruistic way: It would also be a terrible business decision, because at some point in the future you will probably not be poor, and you will be able to support our work by contributing directly or buying a poster or a book or an album or whatever. But you will never know that you like the stuff I make if you were denied the opportunity to watch it in the first place.) 

What makes a lot more sense to me is going to the community and saying: Hey, some of you can pay for this and some of you can’t. That’s cool. If you can pay for it, please do, and in exchange we’ll be able to turn off ads for everyone, which is nice, because ads are gross and annoying and I hate them. If you can’t pay, that’s okay, too.

YouTube’s apparent forthcoming paid subscription model isn’t built like that at all: It’s built to be exclusive and paywalled, which I don’t think works for creators who want to build the awesomest possible audience.

Love online video and learning random, fun stuff? Here’s a list of some of my favorite content providers!


  1. vlogbrothers 
  2. CrashCourse
  3. SciShow
  4. Healthcare Triage
  5. How to Adult
  6. The Financial Diet
  7. Thought Cafe
  8. TED-Ed
  9. TEDxTalks
  10. TEDxYouth
  11. Philip DeFranco 
  13. AlanBecker Tutorials
  14. AsapSCIENCE
  15. AsapTHOUGHT
  16. coolipra
  17. Cute Life Hacks
  18. DIY Creators
  20. eHow
  21. Geneva Vanderzeil
  22. Google Science Fair
  23. Half Baked
  24. Howcast
  25. LittleTranscriber
  26. Maqaroon
  27. MidiMelody
  28. Mental Floss
  29. MidiMelody
  30. minutephysics
  31. Scientific American Space Lab
  32. sexplanations
  33. Skill:Draw
  34. studyign
  35. Tasty
  36. The Fitness Marshall
  37. blogilates
  38. The Game Theorists
  39. The School of Life
  40. thebrainscoop
  41. Vsauce
  42. watchwellcast
  43. withwendy
  46. Documentary Movies - Topic
  47. appsademia (Credits to my girl @pyrogirl88)


  1. Watch Documentary
  2. Top Documentary Films
  3. CBC Marketplace
  4. The Passionate Eye
  5. National Geographic  (Credits to my girl @pyrogirl88​)
What if the "Real" Money isn't Coming?

Online video doesn’t (at first) seem any less valuable than television, and so people wonder why online video makes so much less money. “Maybe advertisers are more comfortable with traditional programming,” they say, or “There’s just so much inventory online, it will eventually equalize.”  But I’m here to announce…TV-scale money isn’t coming to online vide, ever…let’s get used to it. 

It comes down to ad-density. Television has extremely high ad-density, up to half of a program (if you include product placements) on prime-time TV can be considered advertising.

Even if the CPMs of online video get to the same level as TV (upwards of $20 per thousand views) people watching online video will never watch two minutes of advertising for every two minutes of content. 

On the low end of prime time, say a $20 CPM with 16 ad slots, a half hour of programming watched on TV by 1,000,000 people will net $320,000. If builds an extremely valuable, beautiful show (like the BSG miniseries they did recently) they aren’t limited by the CPM (I’m sure they get a nice high rate) they’re limited by the number of impressions available. For an 18 minute episode they get ONE AD IMPRESSION! So for the same million views, it’s just $20,000 per video…6% of what it would make on TV, about a tenth of what it cost to make (the full series had a budget of $2M)

Now there are people trying to solve this problem. Creating systems like “TOTAL VOICE ADVERTISING” where the buyer gets pre-rolls, an episode integration, website skins, etc…basically, ownership of an entertainment brand for a couple weeks. Or (like with’s BSG miniseries) they farm it out to SyFy to get the “real” money that TV can provide. 

And then there’s the craze to enact more “passive” online video, where consumers will accept more time-wasting. But, let’s face it, passive online video isn’t online video at all…it’s just TV on the internet. 

When I told a Machinima executive recently that I was worried the “real” money wasn’t coming, he said that the “real” money was at Machinima. That may be true, for now…but that “real” money isn’t coming from advertising. It’s coming from venture investments and TV deals that might not turn out to be sustainable. 

If that’s the case then maybe we should be prepared for yesterday’s shoestring becoming tomorrow’s norm. 

I don’t think that’s going to be a huge problem for online video…there will be ways to fund it (just like there always has been) and ads will remain a part of it, but we’re going to have to be thrifty…and clever. We’re going to have to make new models…or, I should say, continue making new models, to make keep it a strong, innovative, interesting industry.


A well made - and absolutely terrifying - short film raising awareness about webcam hackers. 

Watch right to the end - I guarantee you’ll head straight to your firewall settings!

Looking for some Sunday reading? Here's what people are talking about in online video this week.
  • Susan Wojcicki is the new top boss of YouTube, replacing Salar Kamangar (videoink) (Wired)
  • New Year, New Job for a lot of people as Microsoft has a new CEO, Satya Nadella (videoink)
  • Feature on Bethany Mota* (The Guardian)
  • Google announces crackdown on fraudulent YouTube views (The Guardian)
  • YouTube reveals $1bn music payouts, but some labels still unhappy (The Guardian)
  • Hearst and AwesomenessTV launch new MCN for teenage girls (videoink)
  • “Why Startups Should Steal Ideas and Hire Weirdos” (Wired)

*Confirmed special guest at VidCon 2014!


Great video from shessomickey about the challenges and rewards of advertisements, and how advertising revenue (from, say, giraffe sex videos) can finance the creation of other things (like Thoughts from Places videos).

I believe in capitalism, to be clear. Without capitalism, we’d never have tumblr or YouTube, because both had huge start-up and maintenance costs before they could become self-sustaining. (Tumblr still isn’t self-sustaining; YouTube supposedly is, although google doesn’t break it down publicly). 

I don’t feel bad taking money from advertisers, and I’m not opposed to advertising. But I do think advertisers dramatically undervalue expensive, time-consuming projects like CGP Grey’s channel and also Crash Course (which is not financially sustainable through advertising). They also undervalue metric-averse platforms like tumblr. And most problematically, ads undervalue creators like shessomickey, who have hundreds of passionate and dedicated viewers but make at most a handful of dollars per video.

I’d pay $5 a month to support shessomickey, and there are probably a hundred people like me. That means that YouTube ads are undervaluing her relationship with her audience by a factor of around 100. Capitalism tells us, then, that we have a very inefficient market on our hands.

We’re not going to remove advertising from life or from YouTube. I don’t want to. I want to create an NPR Model for YouTube, one where people can CHOOSE to support the content creators they like and value without being threatened by a paywall. I think a lot of people will choose to support big projects like Crash Course, and I think a lot of people will choose to support individuals like Shessomickey, who may not have a gajillion subscribers but do make content that small but passionate audiences find important and valuable.

It’s kind of like being a Liverpool FC fan. I know I don’t HAVE to give the club money in order to be a fan. But I’m not just a fan: I’m a supporter. I buy home and away jerseys every year, partly so that I can wear them, but also partly because I know that money goes to club and helps pay the salaries of the players and the maintenance and training and grounds staff.

(p.s. I’ll be posting a series of “#wall of text” posts about boring video and publishing business stuff in advance of my leave [wife is expecting a baby soon]. This is the first one.)
There's A New 'Lizzie Bennet' Book On The Way, All About Youngest Sister Lydia
The hit web series 'The Lizzie Bennet Diaries' will continue in a book called 'The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet,' based on Lizzie’s youngest sibling.

Yes, it’s coming!  THE EPIC ADVENTURES OF LYDIA BENNET is coming!  (Sept 29th, but come on this year is flying how is it the second week of June already?)

Sunday Reading for the Industry Curious
  • “YouTube’s Big Plan to Turn Its Stars Into Real Celebrities (And Why It’s A Good Thing)” (Wired)
  • “A Soccer Star’s Transition From the Pitch to YouTube” (Mashable)
  • “Welcome to the Inaugural VI Power-Sixer: Who Are the Best Executives in the Online Video Space?” (thevideoink)
  • “German Audiences Look to YouTube Stars For Comedy Fix” (The Guardian)
  • “New Google research reveals that keen UK YouTube users are much older, more sociable and up to date on current events than you might expect” (Telegraph)
  • “Web comedy star Issa Rae: ‘I think TV will become the Internet’s poor cousin’” (The Guardian)
  • “YouTube Multichannel Networks at the MIPTV Conference in Cannes” (The Guardian)
  • “British Pathé has posted on YouTube about 85000 film clips, including newsreels and little-seen footage from all over the world.” (The New York Times)

If you enjoy reading about this sort of thing you’ll find plenty more of it at VidCon 2014, where you can hear from the leaders in online video. If you really enjoy reading about this sort of thing, consider registering for an Industry Pass, which allows you access to Industry Track content. The Video Ink has a list of the Industry Track content and speakers announced thus far.

Is Advertising the Future--Or the Past?

Hank and I have always felt varying degrees of discomfort supporting our YouTube videos with advertisements. We don’t control the content of the ads or who sponsors our shows, and many times we disagree with the advertisers.

I do not, for instance, think gold is a good investment, or that Obama is a terrible President, or that sexy geeks are just a click away. I also don’t particularly enjoy being supported by for-profit universities, oil companies, and Super PACs.

Recently, some nerdfighters have been upset about ads they’ve seen on vlogbrothers videos, and we share their concern. But these videos are a big part of our jobs–we spend a lot of time making them and trying to be good leaders of this community–and while there are other ways we make money (t-shirts, books, music, etc.), the ad revenue is a vital part of how I buy diapers.

But it’s not really that much money relative to the size of nerdfighteria, because online advertising rates are so low. Even so, I still think that most nerdfighters would rather glimpse an ad than use kickstarter or something to create a delightfully ad-free world of vlogbrothers. But with ad rates pretty stagnant and the success of kickstarter projects like Ze Frank’s, I’m beginning to wonder A. if I’m wrong, and B. if creators of online video might find themselves turning to new models of supporting their work rather than continuing to seek corporate patronage. Also, C. these days, I find myself personally more inclined to support online video projects and their creators directly.

EDIT: To be clear, I am not suggesting some awful subscription model in which you have to pay to watch videos. That would be gross. I’m suggesting a model like the one you find here in the US with National Public Radio: some people pay to support the station, but the listening experience is available to all, regardless of whether they pay. (There are bonuses for members, of course: tote bags or This American Life CDs or whatever.)

Mostly, I’m curious what you think. Do you want to watch stuff supported by ads, or supported directly by viewers? Are there youtube channels (not just vlogbrothers or crashcourse or scishow but any YouTube channels) you’d give $5 or $10 or more per year? Or do you like the current system and believe that advertising should continue to play the central role in visual media funding it has since the earliest days of television?

Following Footsteps vs. Blazing the Trail

We all have our heroes, the people we want to be like, and whose lives we want to emulate. We are entitled to our obsession, our heroes (mine at least) were pretty badass. I want to be like them, I want to change the world like them, and when we get down to looking, we take inspiration from how they achieved what they achieved. 

This is fine, but I have witnessed (and experienced) an odd affect of this kind of interest. We tend to value the kinds of things our heroes did over the kinds of thing we are currently doing. I suppose this is normal, but it is not intelligent. 

The classic tale is someone giving up creative control, income, audience interaction, and time in order to move from online video to TV. The result is often a depressing mash-up of a failed TV show and an abandoned online audience.

And yet, we still do it, chasing after old models instead of inventing new ones. Why? Well:

  1. You don’t have to constantly invent new stuff, which can be stressful and tiring.
  2. It’s easy to explain to friends and family what you do and feel like your job is legitimate.
  3. It’s closer to the definition of “success” that we’ve all subconsciously built inside ourselves.
  4. It’s what all of the people who don’t do what you do are telling you to do (specifically agents and managers, who often don’t get a cut of your existing income…only of new income streams.)

Some people think it’s an unbridled honor to be approached by a television station. Like the TV people are in the position of power, and you should be flattered to even be in the same room with them. But that’s just not the case, both sides of the table have power, and often it ends up that an online creator has more than the legacy media distributor.

It might never really feel like that, but you’ve got to pretend your way to reality, I do it all the time..

But here’s the real deal…your idol (probably) didn’t become idolizable by playing the game as it existed. They redefined the game, took advantages of new technologies, innovated, and created their own, new models. If we truly want to emulate our heroes, we must not walk in their footsteps, but instead blaze new trails. We should emulate their values and their ethics…but not their paths.

It’s harder, sure. People won’t understand, and the midnight oil will burn, and your mouse-wheel will break and your keyboard turn to dust while you slave away coding, editing, writing, producing, or doing whatever it is you do.

But whether it was Sinatra, Sagan, or Armstrong (Billy Joe or Neil, you pick) it’s what they did, and maybe it’s our responsibility to do the same.

VidCon is hiring.

We are looking to add two people to our VidCon/NerdCon team in the positions of Guest Coordinator and Customer Service & Registration Manager!

If you’ve got excellent knowledge of the online video community and are willing to move to Missoula, MT, apply now! Both positions are full time.


Every year at VidCon we feature hundreds of creators from all over the online video community. They are innovators, community builders, business people, and creative geniuses. We are looking for people to help us give them the best possible VidCon experience and be their advocate inside the VidCon offices in Missoula, MT.

You’ve got to know and care about online video and the communities it supports, and that passion can’t just be limited to one area of creation. You’ve got to be pathologically organized and able to avoid miscommunication at all costs. You’ll be joining us at VidCons in Melbourne, Australia, and Anaheim, but will be working full time out of our Missoula, MT office. You will also be guests’ point of contact at our events, solving multiple problems simultaneously, and performing well under pressure.


We’re an events company. Our products are experiences and, if we’re doing our jobs well, they’re amazing, life-altering experiences. Nonetheless, sometimes things go wrong, and when that happens it’s our job (and maybe yours) to make it right again. 

VidCon is growing a lot right now, so we need someone at our office in beautiful Missoula, MT who is patient, empathetic, an excellent communicator, and absolutely baller at not being misunderstood. Your primary interface will be the internet and keyboard, but you’ll also be doing face-to-face customer service at our events all over the world.

So here’s a frustrating situation.

A non-profit organization ripped my video from YouTube, removed my vlog at the end, and posted it to their Facebook page without crediting me. It was getting thousands of likes and shares and a lot of people pointed this out to me and so I reached out to them letting them know that it’s not really cool to do things this way and asking if they could share the original link. They replied to me with an apology that they forgot to credit me and edited their post with a link to my Facebook page and to the original video (though their rip is still embedded there and is the one that plays in people’s feeds) .

At this point I figured that was better than nothing and I may as well just forget about it, because what more could I really do? They had shared my work, it was making the rounds, and even if a lot of people who watched it didn’t end up being able to find out more about me, some of them now could. 

Then today out of the blue they emailed me, attaching analytics for their post which they said they thought I’d find “interesting” and “thanks for creating awesome content and making us all smile :)”

Their video has been viewed 9,000,000 times. That’s 4 times what my video is currently at. For whatever reason this version of it went way more viral just through Facebook than the original did even with shares from the Huffington Post, People, Time, BoingBoing, Laughing Squid, 9gag, etc.

And I wish I didn’t know this. Because now I have this weird feeling where gratefulness and aggravation are duelling it out inside me. They posted their rip, and millions of people got to enjoy my work, and (after their edit) a small chunk of those people checked out my other stuff and maybe became fans. They could have not posted it at all, and I would never have reached any of these folks.

But they also could have just posted the original video, and made it way easier for the people who were interested to hear more of my music to find it, and added 9 million views to my channel. That is not a tiny number. I have 25 million total views on my channel after being on this platform for 8 years. This would have been a massive help in the career of an independent musician for whom word of mouth is the only way to build an audience. For whom view and subscriber numbers open up opportunities in the YouTube world. For whom financial stability is completely dependent on iTunes and Adsense (though I’m glad Patreon is helping to change that).

BUT. They could have not posted it at all. So it’s a weird position for me to complain from. But I have to say something because they seem to have a habit of using this exact same approach with lots of other people’s creations, and now they’re emailing me with analytics and smile emoticons?

Tumblr, we’ve gone through this learning curve before, you gotta show love to the creator. Beyond reminding people of that, is there anything I can do here?

PS. Please don’t contact AIME about this. I intend to respond to them and re-iterate how important it is for online creators to be credited and, with YouTube, for the original links to be shared. But I wanted to post this to help craft that response, and remind everyone to support their favorite indies. Whether that’s a share or a dollar or an encouraging comment, awesome fans are the reason why cool stuff can continue to be made and enjoyed.