As a YouTuber in China, I have a lot to deal with.
It starts as a hobby, and when you have a few hundred subscribers, it's quite enjoyable to put out a fun little video here and there showing people around the world what it is like as a foreigner in a very different country to most of the English speaking world.
That's how my story started, and around 2011/2012, there was only 1 other guy doing it (SerpentZA). When people started to pour in to the channel, the drive to simultaneously bring up the quality and frequency of the videos was instant, especially with the allure of all of those sweet, sweet potential Adsense dollars rolling in.
The time was ripe for being a China based YouTuber. It's not like the competition was fierce.
The "rise of China", "waking the sleeping dragon", "China is going to take over the world" - all of these headlines covered the news at the time, and suddenly, the world cared about modern China.
The growth was staggering. I watched my subscriber base creep from 10,000 to 50,000 basically overnight. When I took a trip to the states to see my family, I expected a downturn due to slowing down the frequency of posting, but no, 100,000 subscribers.
Pairing this with my other channel (ADVChina) I was now looking at monthly income that eclipsed my real life job, and it got to a point where I was shooting and editing videos upwards of 40 hours a week. Pair this with full time work (I owned a small education company that trained adults in English and helped with paperwork before going abroad), and it made little sense to not go into it full time.
There is a bizarre sense of freedom, and it's something a lot of people will never experience; to do something that you absolutely love doing, and getting paid for it. It's not only an artists dream, but I think the dream and fantasy of everyone in the world.
So there I was, full time YouTuber. Some videos breaking 1,000,000 views, and the Adsense checks rolling in. Here I was, supporting my stay at home wife (we just had a baby) with a salary from my dream job.
The problem is, despite feeling like an entrepreneur, and looking at a possible boss-less future, I realized that I had a new boss.
And this boss is mean, and unapproachable.
Here's where things get messy. As a YouTuber, you rely on Google to pay you out through Adsense. Despite checks coming on time, you can never guarantee where the ebb and flow of the advertising market is going to take you. However, as a smart content creator, you can follow trends, adjust video length, experiment with ways to increase audience retention, do proper SEO and tags etc... but this facade of control you have over your content doesn't actually mean you have a say in what choices the guys in the Google offices are going to make.
Cue the "adpocalypse". Advertisers being spooked by family unfriendly content tarnishing their squeaky clean, good mommies drive Toyotas, and good daddies drink coke, image, led to a massive exodus from advertisers that were quite comfy throwing money at a platform that had much better engagement than traditional TV and magazine ads.
Fueling this paranoid pullout were mass media outlets like the Wall Street Journal, who created no better than tabloid level trash articles painting creators like Pewdiepie as racist, bigoted, white supremacists, who run amok and get paid by these companies you and your family love so much.
Triggering a bit of a trickle down effect, it wasn't just the big guys that were hit with de-monetization. Family friendly content, like mine was deemed safe, so the ads remained, but the price and quality of the ads did not. While everything was promised to go back to normal, it hasn't yet.
I have seen more than a 50% loss in both channels ad revenue, despite consistent views and growth. There are theories, and analytics, and articles galore, but the truth at the end of the day is that YouTubers make less money now, and other than expanding to other platforms (Facebook still hasn't monetized content for most people), us creators are left without a choice.
I began a Patreon account, and the support rolled in. Despite being hit hard from Google and advertisers changing their minds at the drop of a tabloid, hundreds of fantastic and loyal supports helped me and my family, and offered a new platform to share more personal content that I might not be able to share from China.
Patreon was a massive bandaid on the wound, but even that, a platform which allowed the biggest fans to contribute outside of YouTube, seems to be on a trend of removing users that they deem unsavory.
It was fans, friends, and other Steemit users that pushed me here. I'll admit, adopting a new platform of social media is difficult, especially when you work for so many years to create a fan base.
However, after a lot of reading, and enough awesome people patiently explaining crypto, new world platforms, and decentralized media, I can safely say that I am a convert, and for very good reason.
With massively disruptive middle men, and large corporations, being a content creator has become a career in which you not only self censor, but also share your hard earned profits with what is basically a dictator. Your contents success is dictated not by you, the creator, but by the company that makes you feel "lucky" for being able to use their platform.
The second reason that I believe that Steemit is the way forward is another conundrum that I face.
Although YouTube has a copyright protection system that leaves much to be desired, it at least has one.
The Chinese government has banned a good portion of non Chinese websites, and that means that I need to use a VPN to access the internet from China. This limits my audience to the tiny portion of Chinese subscribers that actually use a VPN, and the limited audience of people in other countries with unblocked internet who are actually interested in China.
However, in this push to block everything from the outside world, China has created a mass of domestic apps and social media sites. Things like Youku, BiliBili, Acfun, and Tudou, Chinese internet users have their own home grown ways to share and watch videos (albeit highly censored).
This has created a seemingly lucrative business. I now have nearly a billion potential new fans within what can be described as an intranet.
However, this is the very source of the problem.
With little to no copyright protection in China, my content is stolen by more influential channels, and some of my videos can receive 100x the views that they would normally get on YouTube, with me receiving 0 revenue. Having my content stolen and mistranslated by Chinese netizens has created a situation where I am misrepresented in the Chinese internet sphere, and I lose any potential revenue to the thieves who have stolen the content, and use the millions of views to promote the product they are selling etc...
Here you can see 189,000 views on YouTube, while the stolen video received over 1,000,000 views on a Chinese platform
Steemit relies on a reputation system that rewards not only the creator, but the curators who share and comment. This ingenious system creates an ecosystem of honest and moral content sharing. The incentive to steal another creators work is punished by a community, not a faceless corporation. The reward for creating content is bolstered by a community who is rewarded fairly, and based on merit and reputation.
So effectively, Steemit has allowed creators to grow in an environment that directly shows them whether their content is enjoyed by a community that shares the same values and enjoys what they produce, and also allows them to breathe easily, knowing that their content is theirs, and anyone putting their name on the line to share it out also gets a piece of the pie.
Thank you, Steemit, and it's dedicated users. You are all doing something special.
Sincerely, a very grateful content creator.