Wired’s Kate Knibbs discovered a bizarre phenomenon on YouTube: channels that read obituaries of ordinary people, in large volumes.
In the investigation, Kate found that the channels do this with looking for advertising revenue that Google shares with youtubers.
Despite the bad taste, at first there is nothing illegal in it — at least in the United States. People do weird things to earn easy money.
YouTube’s revenue sharing program has been around for a long time and is a success. It helped to launch small audiovisual empires and establish strong names in the digital influence market.
More than that, it is the realization of something that many activists ask: that the work done by ordinary people on social media benefit all parties, not only companies.
It’s a fair claim, even if it’s not universal. And there may be the mistake of some (all?) Silicon Valley entrepreneurs: believing that money is a universal motivator, the only one that matters.
The fact that YouTube is a de facto monopoly, the only viable place to distribute videos of medium duration in landscape format, should be considered, because it attracts those who do not care or even know about the revenue split.
In other places, this may not be the case.
At the end of September, Reddit announced a similar program, in which users buy credits to pass on to others who post cool things. Along the way, Reddit gets +50% of the money.
Reddit was one of the few places where the motivation to exchange ideas and knowledge was genuine. Not by chance, people started to add “reddit” in Google search queries to get away from posts made for SEO (that is, encouraged by money) and read the disinterested opinions of ordinary people.
Will things continue like this, once there is a financial incentive? Hard to say.
In X, former Twitter, there is now a brazen effort to keep users within the platform, with the promotion of direct content publishing and the implosion of link cards’ layout.
The lure for content creators, journalists, and newspapers to do this? Money. X is giving part of its waning advertising revenue to some paying users with a large audience — without transparent criteria or logic.
Commercial social networks, already dominated by advertising content and by people who have become brands, are lacking in genuine interactions. They lost space for the controversies that go viral and that give money on X, for the “finds” that convert generous commissions from stores eager to reduce customer acquisition costs, to the big business of the internet.
When the place we go to becomes a big mall, we can only play the role of consumers.
People feel that. Hence the search for refuge in messaging apps, where it is still possible to have some intimacy without a flashing ad (or a scam attempt) trying to win or deceive us.
This breather shouldn’t last long. Meta has already felt the blood in the water and has begun to instrumentalize its messaging apps, including WhatsApp.