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๐ŸŽฌ Distribution & YouTube

Too many creative people put so much consideration into what they are making but so little on where they will show it when they’re done. This fault of a distribution plan happens on every scale, and sometimes with people who put a lot of money into their videos. There are lots of ways to distribute your work, but the one most accessible to this audience is unquestionably:

I’m honestly not the one to go to for this information, but I have several friends who make a living on YouTube so let me tell you their big secrets. You won’t like my magic sauce formula, because my definition of success on YouTube prioritizes making good content rather than on “virality”. So determine your metric of success before going down this road and determine exactly what it is you ultimately want out of your TouTube channel. Everyone with their special formula for success on YouTube usually omits this one secret:

Work hard.

Surprise. The same lesson that applies to every other facet of life applies here. The people I know who succeed in this world work harder on that one thing than 95% of the people reading this site. Now that the secret is out, there are a few practical things you can consider:

  • Ultimately view count is determined over the long-term by how much your audience likes what you made and how shareable it is with other people. Again, it should be self-evident, but make good videos and people will like them. A video that adds no value to anyone simply wastes bits on the interwebs.
  • Consider, how likely would I be to share this? Does it solve a need, answer a question or explain a process? Is this something currently on people’s minds? Is it universally appealing or does it successfully appeal to a specific niche? Picking one or the other means more eyes will likely land on your video.
  • Only after you’ve done the above, use tools like TubeBuddy to figure out key words (not so much tags as the actual title of your video) and see how likely your search term is to succeed. Owning your place for a common search query on YouTube’s first page of results will help.
  • Make a thumbnail that’s both informative and visually pleasing (it reads well small).
  • Throw tons of ad money at your video to increase view counts if that’s your thing and you have those resources.
  • Keep uploading high quality content over time (years) and don’t expect to live of the monetization (running ads over your video) any time soon.

Copyright & Fair Use

“Fair Use” is the component of U.S. copyright law that allows you to use another copyrighted work without permission. There are many good sources of information on the internet, but here are a few big things to remember:

  • There is no clearly delineated point at which you can know your use qualifies as “fair”. It’s really more about analyzing how much risk you want to take and weighing that against reward. It’s ultimately a court’s decision on whether or not your use a fair one.
  • Factual information is not copyrightable.
  • A court generally determines fair use based on four key factors: How much of the copyrighted material was used; the purpose/character of the work (e.g. commercial vs. educational); the nature of the copyrighted work (fictional vs. factual); the effect of the use of the copyrighted work on the marketplace (does your use take money from the original creator).
  • “Errors and Omissions” insurance (E&O) exists for filmmakers looking for protection against potential litigation. Be aware, however, that like any insurance company, they will have lawyers who will first vet your case and the probability of your content triggering a lawsuit. You’re essentially paying for legal consultation, plus insurance, still with no guarantee that a lawsuit won’t arise. Even if you’re not ultimately personally responsible for paying those fees, the process is a major impediment to distribution.

In the case of content posted to YouTube, it’s worth remembering that you pay nothing to post on a public platform, but Google bears an enormous litigation risk as the distributor. Given the scale on which YouTubeยฎ operates, don’t expect them to care about you or listen to your argument that your content complies with fair use should you receive three copyright strikes and have your channel shut down.

Here are a couple great resources on fair use:

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