Money for nothing: Misconceptions of the digital content creation industry

The digital content creation industry is not as glamorous as it may seem (Image Source: Jordan Henry)

By Leon Georgiou | @leon_georgiou

Like many teenagers, Jordan ‘Jent’ Henry played video games throughout high school.

Unlike most teenagers, Jordan would turn that interest and his passion for creative writing into his main source of income (at least for a time).

After years of making videos on YouTube, local Adelaidean Jordan launched a new channel, ‘JentPlays’, on 16 August, 2016.

The account has gone on to amass a 124,000 following – not bad for a 22-year-old from Adelaide.

You are likely aware of the headlines claiming YouTube personalities making six-figure incomes, generated by advertising revenue.

Swedish YouTube sensation PewDiePie is perhaps the most infamous, with monthly earnings estimated between $86,000 and $1.4 million.

Because of this, on the face of it, some might think Jordan has a dream job, essentially playing games for money.

“I don’t blame people who typify it to playing video games for a living because that’s kind of what it is, but there’s a lot more to it than that… the actual business side of it is where it gets very taxing,” Jordan said.

The reality is that digital content creation is more than just having fun in front of a camera.

And while it can be an enjoyable career, it’s important to recognise that it can also be laborious, time-consuming and, like most jobs, monotonous.

As Jordan explained, filming is not the hard part in the overall process, “the [difficulty lies] in preparing for the video, editing the sound, developing thumbnails and understanding the meta[data]”.

It is the deliberate use of specific keywords, tags, and indexing to maximise the discoverability of one’s videos within the YouTube search engine.

As the official YouTube blog explained, “the first and most important step to increasing awareness of your videos [is] metadata”.

Consequently, creating good or entertaining videos does not guarantee success.

It’s a kind of truism, but understanding how a platform’s algorithms make your work visible to others is in some ways more important than the work itself.

A quick search online reveals endless articles, each claiming to have “cracked the code”, and promise highlight the magic keywords which will increase the number of people viewing your videos.

As Max Thorpe said in his article ‘YouTube SEO: Do it for your viewers, not the views’, “people become obsessed with ‘beating the algorithm’ and start tailoring their content to robots rather than human beings”.

Audience interaction also plays an important part in increasing the visibility of a creator’s videos.

It’s the reason why “hit that like button and leave a comment in the section below” has become a greeting at the beginning of each video.

Finally, you need to be savvy enough to identify the latest trend and lucky enough to catch the wave before people move on to the next “big thing”.

‘Sometimes it’s as simple as looking at what other channels are doing and seeing what trends are emerging from that… other times it’s just thinking about random ideas and searching for it,” Jordan said.

Content creators such as Jordan also use software to gain insight into what is statistically trending, examining how often keywords are searched for by YouTube users.

Ultimately, Jordan said he looks for a video idea that, “no one has made a video for but that everyone is searching for”.

“Find [the] thing that your channel does differently; something other channels don’t quite do,” he said.

However, this creates a perpetual type loop because if your “gimmick” is too successful it becomes a trend.

Subsequently, other content creators replicate your idea, putting their own spin on your gimmick.

And since viewer interaction drives the search engine’s propensity to recommend or suggest your videos, those channels with the greatest number of subscribers drown out the smaller channels.

In this way, marketing strategies become difficult to define and follow because there is a constant need to change them.

The furious pace at which self-reinvention is required, along with the constant stream of content that must be produced to stay relevant on new media platforms, means that creative “burnout” is a legitimate danger.

Indeed, right now, Jordan predominantly sources his income from freelancing, providing scripts for videos and editing services to other YouTube personalities.

As for ‘JentPlays’, Jordan has scaled back from producing content daily to alternate days.

“I’m doing whatever I can for this channel to give it a potential for success further down the line,” he said.

“But also keeping it fresh for me [so] that I don’t get burnt out, because that’s going to be the death of this channel if anything at this point.”

But these difficulties should not dissuade people who wish to get into the industry.

Jordan believes that despite the difficulties, it’s still a viable career for people who can break into the market.

“It’s hard to get into and [it’s] unpredictable, but I don’t believe that is the same as being unviable,” he said.

So, what advice does Jordan offer any budding digital content creators?

“I always say to people when they tell me they want to start a YouTube channel, just do it expecting to get zero views and if you enjoy it, keep doing it… but [also] work to make every video better,” he said.

 

 

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