Should I join a YouTube network? “No” – According to PewDiePie.
This morning I was unchained and released from my YouTube Fullscreen Partnership contract. In this 3 minute post I’m going to go over the reasons why I originally joined them and the reasons for why I left. I’m also going to include quotes from other large online creators such as Onision, Ray William Johnson and PewDiePie giving their reasons as to why you should NOT join an MCN (Multi-Channel Network). The main aim of this is to warn people of the dangers and to push the message that signing your channel over to an MCN will not benefit your channel in the slightest. I’ve recently discovered that there’s still confusion on how to actually monetize your content. I discovered that some people still think you actually have to join a network (MCN) to monetize your content as they ask me “Should I join a YouTube network?”. Let me make this clear:
FACT 1. You DO NOT need to join an MCN to monetize your content nor will it benefit small channels.
I’ve been on YouTube for 9 years (2007-2016) and I can tell you a lot has changed. I’m not going to go into detail however I will mention the relevant pieces of information regarding YouTube partnerships. The way a partnership originally worked was that when you gained a big enough audience (roughly 50k-100k) they would personally contact you via the phone asking if you’d like to join. In reward you would gain revenue from the adverts alongside the video page meaning you could start to earn money from what you were already doing. Being a part of the program also meant that you gained a bunch of exclusive features that would scream “I’m a partner, don’t mess with me!”. The first feature gifted you the ability to upload custom thumbnails – yes that’s right, before a recent update only partners had custom thumbnails. As you probably know, your ability to create a high quality and eye catching thumbnail reflects dearly on your view count and so it became a feature that many only dreamed of. I remember some non-partners would feature their custom made thumbnails at the end of their video for a few seconds hoping that YouTube’s random thumbnail selection bot would choose it. Another main feature was the channel banner. This may be confusing if you’re only used to the modern 2014- ‘one channel’ design although I will reference an image below showing a 2012 partner channel and a 2012 non-partner channel. The channel banner also included the ability to add your own buttons linking to any website. (facebook, twitter etc.)
As you can see in the image above, the non-partner channels were forced into having an ugly banner-less background however partners were offered the luxury of a premium banner making you look like an absolute boss. This was how YouTube worked until the Multi Channel Network (MCN) was born.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Networks
Imagine if a company popped up tomorrow offering free trips to the moon. I’m sure we’d all apply. Now imagine that company accepted your request to go but instead of sending you to the moon they sent you a photograph of the moon. That’s an analogy of how today’s network’s work. Becoming a partner was hard and so when a new option came out the woodwork we were quick to jump on it. YouTube had developed a little thing called ‘Networks’ which gave companies the ability to create multiple YouTube channels and manage them from the same dashboard. This allowed for some absolutely incredible companies to be formed including ‘Revision3’ and ‘Jump Cut Studios’. Originally they weren’t a bad thing. If we use Revision3 as an example, they’ve developed a number of successful shows such as SoureFed, TekZilla, FilmRiot, Scam School and many more. These networks offer ‘managed’ partnerships rather than the dreaded and common ‘affiliated’ partnerships. If you sign with somebody like Revison3 they are going to physically provide you with studio equipment, advertisement and a lot more to help you because you’ll be one of very few people (21) that they earn from. The only problem is you won’t get signed by Revison3. ‘Jump Cut Studios’ has only partnered 5 channels and they all work in the same building so you can probably see what I mean when I say that these networks are good to be part of since you have all their attention. Let’s take a look at the ‘affiliated’ networks that need you to stay alive.
An example of the bad kind would be FullScreen. They will allow almost anybody into their partner program meaning they probably sign hundreds of people every single day. So you’re probably asking yourself “If they sign millions of people then how can they help each and every one of us?”. The answer to that is they can’t. Of course they’ll provide you with a cool looking dashboard, some free music and a feeling of self-worth however they’re taking up to 50% of your hard earned money. I’m going to focus on FullScreen in this post since it’s one of the most popular and I’ve had experience with them. I’m going to discuss what you’ll get when you sign with them and why it’s simply not worth even 5% of your channel’s revenue.
The Features of a Network
Let’s first talk through everything that Fullscreen offers you. The most obvious feature is the ‘earnings’ page which describes to you in detail how much that you earned today in comparison to yesterday. It also explains how much money you’ve earned over the last year with a wonderful, easy to understand, bar chart. The only problem with this is that YouTube have the exact same feature themselves and so that feature isn’t unique. The next feature that you’ll gain access to are the ‘stats’. This shows you in-depth analytics including the gender and location of your fans with nicely colored pie charts. It features view count, subscriber count, comments, likes, dislikes, shares, audience retention and so much more. However, once again this is a feature that’s completely pointless since it’s already built into every single YouTube account. So far, nothing worth paying for.
Fullscreen has a bunch of apps which seems to be the core feature of their system. They have a link shortener however this is already available through websites like Bit.ly or Goo.gl. They also have an SEO tracker which again can be done by yourself. Their ‘Channel Optimizer’ gives you some very basic help to improving your channel and that’s all their apps. They have also partnered with some third party applications to bring you deals and money off other websites. Those deals include 10% off ‘Video Pixie’ which is a company that allows you to pay them to edit your videos. Another site is ‘Epoxy’ which puts all your social media in one place but I’m sure I’ve seen free apps for this before. Then there is 10% off ‘CaptionsForYouTube’ which is a company that will type out your captions for you which I have used before although I totally prefer typing them out myself since there are way less mistakes. ‘WeVideo’ offers a 3 month free trial for their ‘online video editor’ to Fullscreeners except you only get 10GB storage which is no where near enough for even a HD vlog.
AudioMicro and JinglePunks offers you free non-copyright music although there are so many websites that offer this for free and if you’re willing to take the time to get permission from cover artists and small indie soundcloud artists then you can get some great music for free. The majority of ‘big hit songs’ are under a “blanket licence” anyway meaning you can use their music as long as you aren’t monetizing that video. StageIt it a livestream site like Twitch but for musicians. Facebook Tab creates you a basic iFrame tab for your facebook page (which nobody uses anymore). Gleam hosts competitions for your fans and is available free to the public anyway. They have a ‘Content ID’ app which claims videos that are using your copyrighted material which is already a feature on YouTube. LOUDr gives you 50% off music distribution (submitting to iTunes ect.) and TubeStart is a crowdfunding website. They’re some nice websites but I don’t feel that these discounts are worth 30% of your business. I’d be turning that deal down in the dragon’s den.
Sponsorships & Brand Deals
Now this is the feature that could possibly interest you. Fullscreen Gorilla campaigns. It’s basically sponsorship for your videos. (UPDATE: They’ve closed their “Gorilla” campaigns and now direct you to a third party website.) Before I explain this however, I’d like to let you know that there are other websites that offer this service for free including FameBit. Companies put up their sponsorship proposal and you earn based on how many views you gain. For the FullScreen sponsorships, I think I remember the CPM (£ per 1000 views) to be around £20 meaning if you got 1000 views on your sponsored video you would earn £20. However, the company only puts a set amount of cash into the campaign meaning you’ll have to get in there quick before all the money is used by other people’s sponsored videos. If you know that you already gain 10k views per video then you’re on your way to earning…well £200. Which isn’t really anything to shout about since you’re required to follow a set script, include an on screen annotation and to show a 30 second clip from their content. After all of this your audience will either get bored or just angered by the amount of pathetic advertisements you’re featuring.
When I was first introduced to the idea of Gorilla campaigns I knew that I wanted to try it at least once. Let me tell you, it wasn’t worth the hassle. I originally was against the idea of whoring my channel out for a few extra pennies until I discovered a campaign about burgers for a web show called ‘Burger Lab’. What a coincidence! I had already written a script for a video based around Burgers! It fit so perfectly and so I popped in the sponsor. I automatically had friends complaining that I was turning my channel into a ‘burger’ channel. I never removed the video and it’s still on my channel somewhere although I never put sponsors in my videos again. The only kind of sponsors I would ever be open to would be product placements such as food or clothing for short that doesn’t pull you out of the film. It wouldn’t detract the viewers and if anything it could improve their experience. A real network would contact you personally to speak with you about brand deals tailored to your content. They’d contact companies asking them if they wanted to work with you personally rather than ‘their network members’.
Around March of 2014, I joined in with FullScreen’s monthly colossal collaboration where everybody on the network has a chance to be featured on Jack Vale’s YouTube channel (which had 1 million subscribers and an average of 250k views per video) by submitting a ‘prank video’. I had always wanted to create a prank video and was a fan of Jack Vale’s videos already. The rules and details were explained through a video uploaded to the FullScreen YouTube channel. It featured Jack himself and Denise who worked for FullScreen running the ‘Colossal Collabs‘. I thought that it would be great if I was featured on his channel and so I went for it. We purchased an air horn and sat in a cupboard and blew the horn when it was opened. We set up a few cameras for a few different angles. The video was short but decent and so I uploaded it and published it to the campaign. Now here is where things get messy. It had been a good month since the end of the competition and I still hadn’t heard anything from Fullscreen about it. I got in contact with Denise who stated that they were closing ‘Colossal Collabs’ since she no longer worked for Fullscreen however assured me that Jack would still be uploading a montage of the different scare pranks to his channel along with his favourite three that would get a link on the end slate. Jack didn’t follow up on his end of the deal though. He later uploaded a short montage of all the submissions to his 2nd channel. Yes, that’s right, his second channel. The video got just under 30k views rather than the 250k that was originally planned. The most annoying thing was that I wasn’t even in the video. I put the video that I made onto private since I didn’t want it representing my channel and moved on.
The Support Team
I remember the day that I signed up to FullScreen. It was during a time where signing your channel would grant you access to all the channel banners and thumbnails that I had only dreamed of for years. It’s actually the main reason I signed up, so that I could have access to all of this and look like a total bad ass. I also wanted this partnership for protection. I understand that for many years YouTube never had any sort of ‘support’ or ways of contacting them meaning if you had a problem then you were screwed. I even once sent a letter to the headquarters of YouTube to solve a problem and they ignored it. They seriously need to hire a team of ‘live-chatters’ like you see on Amazon. It’s still hard today to get in touch with YouTube however they are making improvements. I thought that if I joined a network I’d have the ability to get in touch with YouTube experts whenever I liked and that was enough of an incentive for me. At the time all the large YouTuber’s were joining networks and so I thought I’d be cheeky and see what they said if I applied. You’re probably still asking “Should I Join a YouTube network?” well that’s what I was thinking until they accepted me! I was so excited! “This must mean they think I have potential to be a large YouTuber. They must like me!”.
At the time I didn’t know that they were signing everybody. You may ask why I’d give up 30% of my revenue for support and branding however at the time I wasn’t making enough money to even look after a pet hamster let alone a human. For example if I was making £1 a month, I would only actually earn 70p. This may not seem that bad although if you’re making £1000 a month then they’re taking £300 of it for doing literally nothing. So did I get support and branding? The simple answer is “no”. After about a month of being a part of FullScreen, YouTube decide to roll out a brand new update giving thumbnails and banners to everybody. Talk about bad timing. This means that anybody can have professional branding and so the only reason that I was still a part of FullScreen was for the e-mail support. So did I get e-mail support? Yes, I did but they weren’t experts, they were the complete opposite.
FACT 2. Networks have a lack of knowledge. You probably know more about the platform than they do.
When I tried to sign my 2nd channel to the network I was offered a 60/40 revenue split rather than the original 30/70 split. They try to suck as much money out of you without you noticing however on this occasion I was able to notice what he’d done and make him change it.
Traveling back to when I first joined the FullScreen network I was so excited about having a support team that I could speak to whenever I liked. It quickly became apparent that they had no power over YouTube and were simply a knowledge base. A very bad one. In fact, as a company, they only had 4 years of experience in comparison to the 8 years that I had. I never wanted them for knowledge. I wanted somebody who had authority within YouTube so if I ever had problems with my account, then they could sort it out. I got into contact with FullScreen later that year to ask them if they could set me up a vanity URL or a redirect URL. They’re both similar however at the time when I requested help from them they simply replied ‘youtube does not redirect channels’ which was completely false.
It was frustrating to know that I had a greater knowledge of the platforms than people who were paid to know more. A re-direct simply means that when somebody visits your channel it will automatically send them to a different channel of your choice. This means that you could set up a new youtube account like ‘frogman54’ and when people visit that channel it would come straight to your channel. This was good for having miss spellings of your channel name come right to you and for being able to go under other names. Such YouTubers like ‘CharlieIsSoCoolLike’ snagged the re-direct of ‘Charlie’ and ‘OFFICIALSamPepper’ took ‘Sam’ which now ranks high in Google. It was also good for preventing certain age groups, genders or languages from entering your channel. For example Smosh have a ‘spanish’ channel called ‘El Smosh’ and so they can redirect all Spanish people straight to El Smosh upon entering.
There are two ways of doing this. The first is by creating a ‘re-direct’ channel. I already have this feature on our main channel however you need this feature on the new channel which required partnership and FullScreen won’t partner a channel that’s 1 day old with 0 subscribers. I can set ‘BakerBrotherTV’ to redirect to any channel I want but why would I want that. I want other channels to re-direct towards me. I then had to e-mail them back and teach them what it meant.
They ignored that e-mail although after I sent the email again they replied with false information. They stated that there was another way of doing it without “the hassle of begging our YouTube rep”. They literally used those words. For example: If I’m working for a company and I e-mail my boss asking for him to help me (or get somebody to help me) to set-up the telephone, it’s not me begging. It’s me asking him to help me with something that will further HIS business. They’re earning money off the amount of views I gain and so helping me is helping them. They were asking me to use the vanity feature rather than the re-direct to save them time. The re-direct feature isn’t even available for accounts not partnered so this was again false information. This is what triggered my anger.
In the end after tens of emails, I left the network after almost a year of trying to get a vanity URL from them. They didn’t help me at all with the problem. In fact, I taught them what a vanity URL was. Telling somebody you are a part of Machinima or Fullscreen a few years ago would have made people say ‘wow’ but today they’ll just laugh at you. If we take a quick look at ‘Freedom!’ we can see that they have a YouTube channel (open to anybody) that has News, Tips and more from the owner, George. The only thing about this is that his video quality and lighting set-up is so poor. I don’t know if this is just a technique used to relate to his audience (so that they don’t look at him like a business man) but I’ll embed the video below where he talks about how much money they’ve paid out that month.
However, when these networks get large enough they’re sold off to the highest bidder like ‘Maker’ who sold to Disney for just under $1 billion. Even more recently Smosh turned to the dark side launching their “Smosh Games Alliance” which seemed to be a network masking itself as an “elite club” to fool young viewers into handing over their pennies. I even went to join the “elite club” when it was advertised before coming the the realization that I was about to sign a legal document and join a machinima-like ‘network’ masked as a ‘club’.
Machinima were a highly respected YouTube channel in the early years of YouTube with their own channel being in the top 5 most subscribed channels alongside FreddieW, NigaHiga, RWJ and JennaMarbles. The channel was mainly dominated by their largest partners Seananners, Hutch and Sark who worked at the company producing regular call of duty content for the channel. Hutch’s success has faded away with his videos gaining less than 50k views per daily video however Sark is still gaining roughly 250k per weekly video. Seananners on the other hand is huge and still gets 1 million views on his daily videos. They even recently made a come back video where they gently joked about the money grabbing excuse for a company.
In 2015 RossBoomsocks released a video explaining his situation with the network known as Machinima. He explains that he was lied to and how after getting in contact with ex-employees he discovered that the staff member, Brody Tyler, he was speaking with was in fact using a fake name and was really known as Michael Hillson. According to the ex-employee “they don’t use their real names there”. The video received 250k views in under a week and even a comment from PewDiePie himself empathizing with Ross’s situation. In a follow up video Ross explains that three days later he received an email from Michael Hillson asking Ross to sign an agreement that he will not “engage in further disparaging remarks” against them (and remove the video) in return for a 90/10 revenue split and an earlier release by 4 months. This is essentially Machinima attempting to censor Ross. Even though PewDiePie spoke out about the network, this isn’t the first time that Felix (PewDiePie) has spoken about the YouTube Networks.
PewDiePie Agrees That You Shouldn’t Sign To A Network
So should I join a YouTube network?…Well if this doesn’t answer the question, I don’t know what will. Some of the largest online creators have agreed that joining a network (as a small YouTuber) is pointless. PewDiePie who holds the titled for the #1 most subscribed youtuber of all time stated:
“I’m just gonna say this: Don’t sign with a network.”…“If you’re a small channel, what’s the benefit of a network?” -PewDiePie
“There’s absolutely no benefit at all, what so ever, to be part of a network if you’re a small channel.”…”It’s all about for them to push up the numbers.” -PewDiePie
“There’s no benefit, except you’re giving money away.”…“That’s how these giants exist because they’re leeching off so many smaller channels that they can actually build an empire around that.” – PewDiePie
PewDiePie talking about MCNs on the ‘BroKen Podcast’ – skip to 41:00 (listen for 2 minutes)
Why Did PewDiePie Start His Own Network, “Revel Mode”?
So what is Revelmode? It’s a sub-network owned by PewDiePie.
On the 13th of January Felix announced that he was partnering with Maker Studios to start his own sub-network called RevelMode. The network so far features PewDiePie, JackSepticEye, CutiePieMarzia, CinnamonToastKen, Emma Blackery, Dodger, Jelly, Markipier and Webbelkop. He states that “from the start” they’re just going to be a “group of select people” however what terrifies me is the future. What happens when he opens it up to the public and turns it into another money grabbing network, something he’s said he hated himself, however this time with a lot of respected names attached to it. Maker Studios itself was founded by YouTubers (ShayCarl, PhillipDefranco and KassimG) however it was eventually sold off to the Walt Disney company. I really hope that Felix slowly builds the network allowing select YouTubers to join rather than just opening it to the public. It could really be something different. Good luck Felix. UPDATE: RevelMode has since closed down after Felix parted ways with Maker Studios.
Do Networks Earn You More Money? (a higher CPM)
Nope, that’s a myth. In a recent video Onision explained that networks will not earn you a higher CPM (average cost per thousand views). Most networks claim to have sales teams that are hired to find higher paying ads to run on your videos. Although the staff at the network emailing Onision claimed that YouTube’s own sale’s team does a better job at buying ads (to the point where Machinima fired 42 of their sales staff).
If you’re looking for a higher CPM you need to create niche content and became the authority on your subject. A wilderness survival channel on youtube will earn a lot more than a gaming channel simply because there are companies looking to sell their ‘survival tools and bags’ to the few large channels on this niche topic. It’s also helpful to steer clear of controversial content otherwise companies will quickly opt out of appearing alongside your videos in the same way that Nickelodeon stopped working with Nash Grier after his homophobic vine video and tweets. Networks won’t earn you more than YouTube themselves.
“Networks are basically beggars with contracts.” – Onision, 1.9m subs
FACT 3. They have no exclusive features and won’t get you a higher CPM.
So I know you’re still asking yourself ‘Should I Join a YouTube Network or not?’. Well ‘Engineered Truth’ really hits the nail on the head when it comes to explaining networks. In his video he discusses the Skype call that he had with a Collective Digital Studio representative and also the responses from some of their largest partners. If this video doesn’t convince you to get out of your network then I don’t know what will:
Even Ray William Johnson, once the #1 most subscribed channel for over a year, left ‘Maker’ after the CEO sent him abusive text messages. I decided to ask some of the current members of Fullscreen why they were a part of FullScreen and this is what they said:
You simply need to create an Adsense account and link it to your channel through your YouTube settings. So let’s recap the three facts:
1. You don’t HAVE to join to make money on YouTube.
2. You probably know more about YouTube than they do.
3. Their ‘features’ are available elsewhere for free.
Please share this article with people you know that are new to YouTube or interested in MCNs. Okay, now this is the part where you leave your network.
What do you think of MCNs? Let me know in the comments below!