What Podcasters Can Learn From Hank Green Vs Facebook

photo via Wikipedia

Hank Green is a big name in YouTube. Founder of VidCon, half of the Vlog brothers, and raiser-upper of the more intellectual corner of online video, he’s one of the leading entrepreneurs on the platform. That’s why when Hank Green accused Facebook of “lying, cheating, and stealing,” people paid attention.

In his recent Medium post, Green writes that he’s excited about Facebook’s push for online video.

“But there are a few things that make me wary, not of their ability to grow my business, but of whether they give a shit about creators, which is actually pretty important to me.”

Here’s where the podcast world would do well to perk up their ears.

Sure, Facebook could increase Green’s audience. But do they give a shit about creators?

I’ve written about how YouTube provides a powerful example of what podcasters are missing from our platforms. Simply put, most podcast platforms — however well intentioned — do not give a shit about creators. We pay for hosting, and distributors take our content for free. In return, we have a hodge-podge system that is difficult to monetize, and data that provides little insight.

Hank Green is able to make bold statements against Facebook’s play on his medium because he’s been empowered by his existing platform. Here are his arguments, and here is what podcasters accept:

1. They Cheat

Green: By embedding video in feeds (i.e. viewers don’t choose to click on it) Facebook is inflating their view count.

Podcasters: Different platforms could be defining a listen in different ways, and we have little insight into what their standards are.

2. They Lie

Green: Facebook counts a view at the three second mark, whereas YouTube sets a longer mark for actual viewer engagement.

Podcasters: We simply do not have this information about listener engagement. We’re unable to differentiate between the quality of podcast distributors. We’re forced to be agnostic about the whole thing. Even if we had preferences, there’s nothing to stop certain apps from picking up our content.

3. They Steal

Green: Facebook has no protection against “freebooting” videos — people who upload other creators’ videos to their channels (see every FM radio station on Facebook). YouTube has an effective system called “Content ID” to catch copyright infringement. See how this ties into monetization:

“Content ID works so well largely because YouTube is good at monetizing content. So, instead of taking a video down, a copyright holder can claim the video and receive revenue from it. Content ID has claimed millions of videos and is responsible for over a billion dollars in revenue so copyright holders love it. But without a good system of monetization, Facebook can only remove videos, not send big checks to the owners of stolen content. For the copyright holder, interfacing with a profitless system is just a pain in the ass with no upside.”

Podcasters: We operate within a profitless system. Any platform can grab our RSS feeds for free. There’s no pressure to compensate creators. Apps like Stitcher put ads in front of content and don’t share profits. If we found out that another podcast was stealing our content, what recourse would we have?

By having a platform that makes sure to give a shit about its creators — even though it’s a big corporate entity — video creators have the ability to advocate for their own interests. Hank Green’s post forced Facebook to respond directly to his concerns, and they came away as the loser. Facebook will now have to show that they’re serious about benefiting creators. One post is forcing a $260 billion company to reconsider its video strategy.

Podcast creators often leave the platform out of the discussion when it comes to talking about the future of podcasts. But if we don’t have a strong base to stand on, how can we stand up for ourselves?

Podcasters — big and small — should expect better than what we have. We have an opportunity to frame the medium now, while it’s in startup mode. Let’s help someone give a shit about creators.

I’m not an expert on the podcasting business, but I am a producer and recently launched the Tumble Podcast, a science podcast for kids. I’m also hungry for any and all articles, opinion, and discussion on the future of podcasting. I’m on Twitter at @_lindsayp — I would love to hear thoughts on this topic.

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