Second Winds: Maybe There Are Other Factors Like AI?

February 28, 2024

green-dino_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb humanoid. No smart software required.

I read “Second Winds,” which is an essay about YouTube. The main idea is that YouTube “content creators” are quitting, hanging up their Sony and Canon cameras, parking their converted vans, and finding an apartment, a job, or their parents’ basement. The reasons are, as the essay points out, not too hard to understand:

  1. Creating “content” for a long time and having a desire to do something different like not spending hours creating videos, explaining to mom what their “job” is, or living in a weird world without the support staff, steady income, and recognition that other work sometimes provides.
  2. Burnout because doing video is hard, tedious, and a general contributor to one’s developing a potato-like body type
  3. Running out of ideas (this is the hook to the Czech playwright unknown to most high school students in the US today I surmise).

I think there is another reason. I have minimal evidence; specifically, the videos of Thomas Gast, a person who ended up in the French Foreign Legion and turned to YouTube. His early videos were explanations about what the French Foreign Legion was, how to enlist, and how to learn useful skills in an austere, male-oriented military outfit. Then he made shooting videos with some of his pals. These morphed into “roughing it” videos in Scandinavia. The current videos include the survival angle and assorted military-themed topics as M.O.S. or Military-Outdoor-Survival. Some of the videos are in German (Gast’s native language); others are in English. It is clear that he knows his subject. However, he is not producing what I would call consistent content. The format is Mr. Gast talking. He sells merchandise. He hints that he does some odd jobs. He writes books. But the videos are beginning to repeat. For lovers of things associated with brave and motivated people, his work is interesting.

For me, he seems to be getting tired. He changes the name under which his videos appear. He is looking for an anchor in the YouTube rapids.

He is a pre-quitter. Let my hypothesize why:

  1. Making videos takes indoor time. For a person who likes being “outdoors,” the thrill of making videos recedes over time.
  2. YouTube changes the rules, usually without warning. As a result, Mr. Gast avoids certain “obvious” subjects directly germane to a military professional’s core interests.
  3. YouTube money is tricky to stabilize. A very few superstars emerge. Most “creators” cannot balance YouTube with their bank account.

Can YouTube change this? No. Why should it? Google needs revenue. Videos which draw eyeballs make Google money. So far the method works. Googlers just need to jam more ads into popular videos and do little to boost niche “creators.” How many people care about the French Foreign Legion? How many care about Mr. Beast? The delta between Mr. Gast and Mr. Beast illustrates Google’s approach. Get lots of clicks; get Google bucks.

Is there a risk to YouTube in the quitting trend, which seems to be coalescing into a trend? Yep, my research team and I have identified several factors. Let’s look at several (not our complete list) quickly:

  1. Alternative channels with fewer YouTube-type hidden rules. One can push out videos via end to end encrypted messaging platforms like Telegram. Believe us, the use of E2EE is a definite thing, and it is appealing to millions.
  2. The China-linked TikTok and its US “me too” services like Meta’s allow quick-and-dirty (often literally) videos. Experimentation is easy and lighter weight than YouTube’s method. Mr. Gast should do 30 second videos about weapons or specific French Foreign Legion tasks like avoiding an attack dog hunting one in a forest.
  3. New technology is attracting the attention of “creators” and may offer an alternative to the DIY demands of making videos the old-fashioned way. Once “creators” figure out AI, there may be a video Renaissance, but it may shift the center of gravity from Google’s YouTube to a different service. Maybe Telegram will emerge as the winner? Maybe Google or Meta will be the winner? Some type of change is guaranteed.

The “second winds” angle is okay. There may be more afoot.

Stephen E Arnold, February 28, 2024


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