Peter Kafka

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YouTube Throws Video Makers Some Bones

pewdiepieAre you a big fan of PewDiePie or Jenna Marbles?

Do you know who PewDiePie or Jenna Marbles are?

Then you will be interested in this news: YouTube is making it easier for video makers to get in touch with people who like watching their videos.

A little bit easier: YouTube is adding a “Top Fans” feature that will let video makers message some of their viewers, using the “Circles” feature from Google+.

Some people will see it as an improvement to the status quo, where YouTube encourages people to “subscribe” to their favorite video makers, but doesn’t really let video makers send messages to their subscribers.

There are more details — for instance, because this is Google, this involves an algorithm — but they won’t matter unless you’re in the YouTube production business.

The big picture is that YouTube is offering the tweak, announced at the annual VidCon video industry/fan convention, as it hears a chorus of complaints from video makers.

This won’t do much to address the biggest complaint — that YouTube isn’t getting enough ad money to the people who put videos on the site — but it’s something.

YouTube has quietly been making other changes to improve things for its video partners. Earlier this year, for instance, it stopped requiring people in YouTube’s “funded channels” program to give the site exclusive use of their content.

The big question for everyone with a YouTube gripe: If you’re not happy with the way things work at the world’s biggest video site, where else are you going to go?

During a keynote presentation yesterday, Upfront Ventures’ Mark Suster, who has made lots of bets on YouTube-related companies, suggested that Amazon is the company most likely to provide real competition for YouTube.

Other video makers pine for Yahoo, or Hulu, or someone to show up with big piles of money and lots of eyeballs. Others mutter about the notion of some sort of alliance between the channel’s most popular performers, which would then split off from the site in some way.

All of which will be great fun to write about if they ever happen. Meantime, YouTube is happy with its billion visitors a month.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald