Creators Need a Seat at the Table
This year had its ups and downs for creators. Here’s what the Internet Creator’s Guild was up to — and how you can help support these efforts going forward.
Internet creators are basically 50,000 separate small businesses. 50,000 voices with different needs, different levels of interest, different stories, and they’re almost all too busy creating amazing things to fight for their needs until things go terribly wrong.
Currently, when creators have problems with platforms, they take care of it the main way they know how: by making content about it.
This is an effective strategy if you have a big enough audience that your concerns will be heard and if you aren’t concerned about possibly making a life-long enemy of one of the largest corporations in the world.
But this is only effective to a point. Creators can make a lot of noise on their own and hope for a response, but productive dialogues with platforms don’t often occur and therefore, things often don’t change or get fixed. Platforms can dismiss the issue as confusion, or as something happening to a small sub-set of users, or as something they need more data about in order to prove it’s happening.
But by working together, staying informed, sharing data, and speaking up as a group, creators will have increased leverage with platforms. This leads to a more sustainable profession.
Creators need a seat at the table. They need to be able to compete with major media companies, which have CEOs who talk regularly with leaders at YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, and others. Those companies can influence those platforms in a way creators haven’t been able to so far.
As of yet, no one has been advocating for the massive up-swelling of small businesses and independent artists who are building strong communities and making the best and most popular content in the world right now.
The Internet Creators Guild is advocating and building the framework for creators to gain that seat at the table.
What does that look like?
In the fall, one of the three goals we identified was to understand how creators currently work with platforms in order to build systems to better represent them. As we’ll show below, we’ve tried out a number of methods during different crises.
In the coming months, we’re going to lean into this advocacy work, focusing on proactively bringing together creators who have common concerns, and productively reacting to the next big platform development or news story. Already, multiple creator groups have reached out to us with interest in organizing around a cause or problem. As one example, we’ll be joining Fight For the Future and a large coalition of internet companies to gather creators fighting for Net Neutrality.
The methods we’ll continue using for this advocacy work include:
- Productive dialogue between the guild and the platforms that matter most to creators, based on what we hear in surveys, Town Halls, roundtables, and other forms of outreach. We will bring to platforms feature requests, escalated concerns, and recommendations on how to implement/improve direct communication with creators.
- Collective action with unified statements or petitions to fight to keep the systems that support the creator economy in place.
- Communication with press, to make sure they understand how issues are affecting creators, emphasizing focus on the legitimate concerns of these businesses so that creators can stop getting trite questions about how they make money on YouTube.
- Providing analysis and clarification in response to crises and times of confusion as a careful, expert voice that creators can trust to have only their interests at heart. Through careful investigation, outreach and data collection, and focus groups, we will be able to exert pressure on platforms to fix things quickly.
What Do We Need?
Support. If you are a creator who wants to show the world the power of creators, and you want to have an organization working on behalf of all internet creators… please join us.
We believe this organization can be a representative that looks out for the interests of creators, a megaphone for creators to respond to platforms, and an advocate for best practices that protect them.
To do that, we need financial support and participation from active members of the creator community.
Membership is more than just money. When we go to a platform to tell them that our membership is going to be angry when we tell them about a new policy or a lack of features, having the voice of a large number of creators behind it is monumental.
We will look to our membership to form opinions, choose issues, and spread information. When we do so, we need to be able to reach a wide range of the creator community when something is happening and to inform you about changes in the industry that will affect your business — and we need you to tell us when you’re facing a challenge you can’t overcome alone.
We’re in the process of adding more membership tiers, including an option for monthly giving, so you can choose the dues amount that feels right based on the stage of your career. If you join this week, your membership will be at the rate for our first year members.
With your help, we can build the framework for creators to be heard.
Creators — We cannot do this without you. Join here.
ICG’s First Year: An Overview
This was a tumultuous year in online video. Several times, creators somewhat joyfully paraded on twitter under the #YouTubeIsOverParty hashtag. That is, at least until the ad boycott started and the hashtag felt a little too close to reality.
We want to highlight some of the work the Guild did during this hectic time and what we learned from it.
Earlier this year tons of creators suddenly got emails saying that their videos had suddenly been de-monetized. It seemed like a massive change and people were furious.
The Internet Creators Guild got to the bottom of what was going on and explained that YouTube had started de-monetizing videos years ago, but were just now instituting a tool that would notify you and allow you to appeal de-monetization. The change was good! The communication was horrible. This incident made creators more aware of YouTube’s monetization systems and advertising guidelines.
ICG helped clearly communicate what was happening, and creators trusted our voice as a source of insight different than a platform that has its own interests.
About halfway through the year, many creators began reporting that their audiences were saying they had been unsubscribed from their favorite YouTube channels. The ICG has continued to track this and collect data, making sure it got to the right teams at YouTube. We were not able to identify concrete examples of subscriptions being removed. To be clear, we have every incentive to go after platforms when things go wrong, but we have been unable to find verifiable evidence in this case.
We were able to work with YouTube to look across the experiences of a wide range of creators in this situation.
As it became clear, thanks to the work of Rowan Ellis and others, that YouTube’s Restricted Mode (which exists to help convince schools and libraries to unblock YouTube) was blocking educational content due to the recognized presence of LGBTQ+ people, we were reaching out to YouTube quickly behind the scenes. Our message, “This is going to escalate very quickly if you do not confirm that this problem exists and let people know how you’re working to fix it.”
A week after our first message, and as creators became increasingly vocal, frustrated, and confused, YouTube confirmed that the problem existed and began working to fix it, though we’ve spoken with some creators who still have unanswered questions and concerns.
ICG will continue to work with creators to make sure their concerns are heard as quickly as possible. We will continue strengthening our relationship with YouTube to ensure they consider creators needs and seek to improve communication between the two groups. And we will keep working to establish these relationships with other platforms.
A boycott of YouTube by many large advertisers affected not just the financials of some creators over the past few months, but resulted in changes to the YouTube advertising guidelines with effects that remain to be seen. The Guild has been working for the last two months to gather data in order to put more pressure on YouTube, magnify the impact of this issue on creators in the press, and speak with the creators who are hurt by these new policies.
As we increase guild membership, which expands our resources and reach, we can also expand these efforts.
MCN and Brand Deal Contracts
The ICG worked with over a dozen lawyers to create a document that demystifies brand deal and MCN contracts which usually have little regard for the rights of creators. We published this as part of an article that includes best practices outlining what creators should look out for when a contract comes across their desk.
ICG can continue working with groups of industry members and creators to develop best practices and increase awareness of pitfalls rising creators face.
Brand Deal Rates
After surveying Guild members, the ICG was able to make some pretty compelling statements about the challenges many creators face with brand deals, which creators often don’t speak up about on their own for fear of repercussions. As a conclusion of this study, we set a guild minimum for sponsored content, and full integration brand deals.
We will expand to do research that gathers information like this, helping creators know their value and negotiate effectively.
Help us do more of this work…
Protect what you have created, and help keep the path open for more innovation and more creation.