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Ze Frank, YouTube, and Making Money


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July 28, 2006

Ze Frank, YouTube, and Making Money

Heather Green

I've recently become a fan of Ze Frank's video blog, which is saying a lot for me because it's hard to concentrate these days in hot and muggy NYC and Frank's pretty intense. Each day he does a short, smart, staccato take on the news, his life, his surroundings, and most recently Condi Rice's magic diplomatic satchel.

I spoke to him earlier this week for a story I did about YouTube off the recent copyright infringement suit that looks at how creative types and the video sharing service are trying to figure out how to divide up the new power they have. The seed came from a blog post I did last month about the guys behind the Diet Coke and Mentos article.

Though Frank didn't make it into the article, he discusses on his show on Thursday some of the things I asked him about (and which I had been planning to blog about after a couple of work things settled down.)

He thinks there is a coming of age happening online, as demonstrated by the recent debate among blogs kicked off by Wired News and Boing Boing about YouTube's terms of services. As more people invest more time into these videos, and the prospect of making money actually begins to become real, it makes sense that the discussion begins to turn around who controls what and who makes money.

Frank is deliberately trying to create a show and a brand and he wants to figure out a way to support himself. That's why he chose to upload his videos on Revver, a videos sharing service that shares revenues. But just as important, he's trying to keep control of the archive of his shows so that sometime in the future he can figure out a way to make money with them.

"I think that everyone across the board is perking up their ears about this online video space, everyone from the networks to the advertisers to production companies and venture capitalists. People are starting to notice (Youtube's TOS) because there is a sense of empowerment in the space."

For every 1 Frank, there are plenty more folks who don't care about the control of their works. And that's fine, but we are seeing some delineation happening as people navigate this emerging landscape. Heck, I see even Amanda Congdon, who is an indie video veteran, is asking people not to upload her videos onto YouTube.

12:34 PM

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This is not a paid commercial. For gawd sakes, I’m actually reviewing a toothbrush…

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According to Reuters, YouTube serves up 100 million videos a day... [Read More]

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It’s the Users Calling…They Want Their Money from Publishing 2.0

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Tracked on December 31, 2006 12:25 AM

Yep.

I've already got my seat.

I've got some popcorn buttered up.

And now I'm just waiting to see what happens when some average but talented people realize that they now have some opportunities they didn't previously have... and those IP laws they've been protesting against don't look so bad anymore.

Posted by: csven at July 28, 2006 02:45 PM

What was the “debate” about YouTube’s terms of service, unless by “debate” you mean “unsubstantiated allegations of copyright expropriation by YouTube”?

Posted by: Joe Clark at July 28, 2006 04:09 PM

great site with good look and information...i like it

Posted by: Litfaßsäule at July 29, 2006 04:53 PM

Thanks for covering this, Heather. I posted something similar yesterday on the Revver blog. I think that the video space is growing up and people like Ze and Amanda are realizing they do have rights and should be able to control their content. A bit of education will be required for fans though. Since this whole internet video thing took off (not so long ago), the rampant sharing of copyrighted works has been totally accepted. The key will be to find the line between free and open sharing of content while still giving the creators some way to reap the benefits.

Posted by: Micki Krimmel at July 29, 2006 09:33 PM

Since the Federal Government has cut funds left and right for the arts and education one must develop a solid fan base for support; learn how to swallow your pride and beg. As the saying goes, if you have real talent you will make it in this business, if not, better learn how to type. Of course, sleeping around with the right people helps too.

Posted by: mic at July 30, 2006 01:01 AM

I think video blogging is the best way for the unemployed to spread their message to the masses.

Posted by: K at July 30, 2006 12:50 PM

wonder how long it'll be before the big advertisers move in and we'll have to sit through heaps of adverts before we get to the content

Posted by: Dave at July 30, 2006 01:28 PM

I'm a writer and songwriter, as well as a "returning" (older) film student. Everything I do is susceptible to infringements and mass distribution on the web without me seeing any money. "Intellectual property" rights are becoming extinct in their pre-Internet forms. It's that evolution thing going on.

How does one protect the results of their individual creativity, and still get paid?

I have yet to see this question answered. The only two ideas I have are not satisfactory, so I keep looking.

Content creators may find a form of protection by establishing "branding" sites on the web where their legal particulars are posted, including a registry of works completed with descriptions, dates, even a place to download for a fee. This is so highly subject to fraud as to be a non-solution as soon as it starts to become a new "standard".

Or, all content may become subsidized by commercial sponsors and literally given away free. "This music compilation, ['Album' Title Here], by international roecording star [Your Name Here], is sponsored by [Beverage Monopoly], and by [Big Auto Maker]. Drink [Beverage]! Drive [Auto]! Now, enjoy the music!" This is tagged to the actual data file(s) and offered for free downloads exclusively at the sites of the sponsors, or given away on disposable Flash drives (whatever is replacing CD's and DVD's until it is all web-delivered) at retailers. The strength in this is that these sponsors will pay creators for semi-exclusive rights to market and distribute the content, so the creator can eat and continue working. The very storng down side is that sponsors almost immediately begin to dictate the style and substance of the content.

I don't like either of the solutions I have just theorized, and for all my alleged creativity, they are the only two options I can currently imagine. Because technology is the source of the complication, the answers will likely come from some breakthrough in technology, allowing a creator-controlled method of uniquely fingerprinting their work . . . but that is too easily hackable.

There is more demand for content than previously imaginable, and producing/distributing it gets easier (technically) every day. But defending originality and authorship is failing faster than the demand and technology increases. Creators can't hold down a wage-chimp job and make new goodies at the same time, so quantity and quality of content deteriorate . . . until a solutiuon arises that is close enough to "perfect" for artists to regain control of their work, the incomes from the work.

Posted by: Patriot-X at July 30, 2006 01:51 PM

Traffic is easy these days. It's solved. The next billion dollar prize goes to the person/company who can crack the advertsing model on social networking sites and video sharing sites. Remember, you can share revvenue, but 10c/mo does not cut it. A contextual and relevant ad model will help here.

Posted by: myspacer at July 30, 2006 02:54 PM

I just want to point out that strawberry chocolate is very tasty. Try it, everyone!

Posted by: Markus Bohm at July 30, 2006 03:39 PM

Indeed. Anyone trying to make a living with the new wave where everything is expected to be free (as in beer) will find it difficult to pay their mortgage. Being a paranormal investigator seems like a good choice.

Posted by: Sexton Lovecraft at July 30, 2006 04:39 PM

Get a REAL check in the mail every month

http://urlcut.com/.-cxc-

You get money for filling out surveys, usually $1 each, but they add up. There are also free trials for more than $10 each. The surveys are really easy and only take a couple minutes. Each month they send u a real check in the mail for your earnings. This site is 100% legit. You can check the forums for proof of payment. Its just a good way to make some extra cash.

Posted by: CashCrate at July 30, 2006 07:10 PM

At Muzility.com the owner of the video retains all ownership. We are not solely a pay site. Some videos are free. Subscription, DVD orders, etc. make back to the owner 60% while we keep 40%. We are a service to those who make videos and we do make an income.

I don't want to make this into an ad but I pointed all of that out because Ze Frank's needs are very real and he's by far not alone. There are some of us out here in the video biz who see it as a service.

Posted by: Bill Leikam at July 30, 2006 09:57 PM

The issue with YouTube that Heather never seems to write about is that the main attraction is copyrighted clips. Miss Colbert report, you can find it on YouTube. Miss a sporting even, on YouTube. The other content there is not compelling at all, rendering there business useless.

As people like Ze Frank and others find ways to monetize (Revver will be just one - they are just an ad network after all), YouTube will get sued heavily

Posted by: Barry Davidoff at July 30, 2006 10:36 PM

I think we've seen, over and over again, that whenever there is revenue associated with an online activity, that the market moves to a model that lets the value be distributed between those involved in creating or hosting either the content or related services.

Once incentives have arrived, some people will figure out how to make it work in a big way.

Posted by: Grokodile at July 31, 2006 07:04 PM

You spoke to Zefrank? Personally!? Wow! What was that like? Does he answer his own phone or does one have to go through his publicist first? C'mon, skivvy us the details. What's his favorite color? What does he REALLY do for a living? You should do a piece just about him!

Posted by: Marquisdejolie at August 2, 2006 01:46 AM

Hey, I love ZeFrank. And check out my new VLOG, www.weirdamerica.com

Posted by: Weird America at September 27, 2006 06:11 PM

Having worked professionally in film and television for the past 30 years I can safely and sanely say that the changes occurring within the internet which we are currently witnessing will shake not just the entertainment industry to its very core, but the entire world economy as well. This is a deep and profound "sea change" - to quote Billy the Shakes - and while the old guard will fight furiously (and filthily) to retain their perceived "right" to control what (and how) people see of this world, they are as good as dead and should do us, and them, the big fat favour of lying down, rolling over and making way for tomorrow. Here we come.

Posted by: robbo at September 29, 2006 10:02 PM


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