Here’s a question for you: What commitments or responsibilities do YouTube creators have towards their subscribers? And do these commitments change if their viewers financially support them through Patreon?
This post was triggered after a series of irrelevant videos got uploaded to Vihart’s YouTube channel. If you do not know, Vihart is a YouTube channel focussed on creating some interesting mathematics-related videos with a very unique, rapid-fire, live-drawing style. However, over the past few months, the most of the content uploaded to the channel were political. They were completely unrelated to mathematics in any way, shape or form.
A number of viewers pointed this out, and as with all YouTube comments, started a big argument. Some people argued that this was her channel and she was free to upload anything she wanted to the channel. She did not sign a contract with her viewers. Therefore, she can do as she pleases with her channel.
While the above statement is definitely true, the word “contract” in that post got me thinking about this whole subject matter. Let’s leave the monetary aspect (financial support through Patreon) aside for a moment. Does a YouTube creator enter a social contract with their viewers once their channel is established to contain certain types/formats of videos?
This is quite a difficult question to answer, so I’d like to provide me own standpoint on this. I don’t subscribe to YouTube channels for the heck of it. A lot of people will subscribe just to show support. I only subscribe to a YouTube channel after watching a few videos. I’ll normally come looking for something in particular, be impressed by the content, and then dig deeper into the channel. Eventually, I end up thinking “I’d like to see every future video this person has to offer”. That is, I have established them to create great content and I’d like to watch all future content from them.
For me, when I subscribe to a YouTube creator, it means that they have set an expectation in my mind. They have impressed me with the type, quality and format of the content that they have created. As such, they have earned a special place in my limited subscriptions box (in addition to the +1 subscriber they get). Sure they also get additional ad revenue every time I watch their videos. However the amount of money ads generate per view is quite low, so it’s worth ignoring for now.
When I see a YouTube creator like Vihart suddenly change her YouTube channel from an educational mathematics channel to a personal video blog discussing political events, I feel betrayed, in a sense. Sure, I could just as easily unsubscribe. But I can’t help but think of the amount of future content that I could miss because of this.
I think that YouTube creators have a responsibility towards their viewers. They have, in essence, entered a social contract to keep creating the content that people expect of them and not deviate from the core of what their channels really are.
Of course, things get slightly more black and white when you involve money through Patreon. First off, I do not instantly support a creator on Patreon as soon as I subscribe to them. I normally stay subscribed for around six months to ensure that they produce consistent, excellent, quality content that is worth supporting. If they do deviate from what their content promise, I have no trouble instantly revoking my commitments to them, as they did to me.
In the case of Vihart, it’s a bit different. I never supported Vihart on Patreon because she never had a consistent release schedule, nor a Patreon page that made actual sense. She has filled her Patreon page with microwave videos (go figure). So it’s not much of a problem for me.
But I did YouTube Spotlight about Vihart’s channel in the past, recommending her channel because she did produce great content. Well, not anymore. As of today, I have edited the main post (I’ve left it up for historical purposes). I can no longer recommend Vihart as a YouTube channel that’s worth subscribing to. This is mainly because of the lack of consistency on what could be expected as content. I have also put an edit at the bottom of the page to reflect this. It’s a shame, but I guess it’s her channel and she has the freedom to do whatever she wills with it, right?