Why I'm Leaving YouTube

This week I'm carrying on with the daunting task of transferring all of my YouTube videos over to Vimeo. But why would anyone want to embark on this grueling adventure, especially when Vimeo will get me a much smaller audience than YouTube. It certainly sounds like a bad idea so find out here why I'm leaving YouTube.

The main thing that started me down this path was a little thing called COPPA.

COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule, was passed by Congress in the US in 1998. It was designed to protect the privacy of children under 13 years of age. One of the consequences of COPPA was that companies could not target adverts at children under the age of 13 using the information they'd collected about them.

YouTube thought they were circumventing this by saying that their service was aimed at everyone above 13. It wasn't aimed at children. The US regulator didn't agree and fined YouTube $170m. Ouch.

YouTube then passed on the responsibility - and indeed the risk - to video creators like me. The situation was this: I had to say whether each video that I made was directed at children or not. If I was found to be making videos aimed at children and not marking them at such I could be fined $42k per video by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Even though I'm in the UK, it doesn't matter, I could still be fined.

So I could mark one of my videos as not made for children, the FTC could come along and say that children may well be interested in all of this painting malarkey. Then they'd fine me $42k.

I'm trying to make all of this as panic-inducing as possible because this is the way that it was put across by YouTube. One of the videos put out by YouTube on the subject of COPPA said that if you wanted to know whether you should mark one of your videos as aimed at children or not, then speak to your lawyer. Speak to my lawyer! About every video! Added to this, there were videos from real-life actual lawyers saying that the COPPA rules were so vague it would be next to impossible to tell a creator whether their video that is aimed at a family audience could also be deemed as being aimed at children.

So why not just mark your videos as aimed at children and avoid the fines that way? If you do this you lose the comments section and the revenue made by that video would be cut by approximately 90% because the adverts won't be targeted at the user. This is not good especially when the video is aimed at a family audience and not primarily at children.

Funnily enough, this issue caused panic across Youtube. And YouTube did nothing to quell this panic. If anything, they seemed to fan the flames. This isn't an isolated incident either. It almost feels like an annual event, everyone panicking about something that YouTube is doing that may cause them to lose their videos.

I put a lot of effort into my videos. Each video takes me at least a day to film and edit. Some of the more complicated ones take a week to put together. So the thought of losing these videos is not a palatable one. Neither is living with the anxiety that YouTube could shut your channel down at any random point in time.

It turned out, after a few months of nerve-frazzling panic, that the FTC would only be targeting serious offenders of this rule and that the fine was up to $42k for each video, not exactly $42k. This all seems very obvious and should have been pointed out by YouTube to reassure creators. But they didn't. Instead, the strategy seemed to be one that involved the creators, a bus, and a liberal dose of "throwing under".

So that's one reason that I'm leaving. But here are a few more minor ones. I'll save another huge reason for the end.

Here are some actual comments put on my video where I talked about why I was leaving YouTube:

"You have very good artwork! I like them, like #21 and subscribed to your channel!"

"Hi D3vid its great."

And I've saved the most insightful and well-considered comment for last:

"nice work"

On a positive note, I also had many lovely comments from many lovely people too. I just wanted to highlight the cynical nature of some YouTubers, commenting so that I would watch their videos despite it being obvious that they haven't watched any of the video in question.

Another problem I have is that I tend to make long videos. I want to go into depth on the subjects I talk about so I have to make longer videos to accommodate this. And virtually no-one on YouTube wants to watch long videos. If you post a short video it is a lot more likely to get a lot of views and more importantly, a lot of watch time. Post a long video and you may get a few people who want to watch the whole thing, but overall, you get a lot less watch time. It's just the nature of YouTube.

For me, there is another reason why I left YouTube and it is a personal question of ethics. I like businesses that act in a socially responsible way. I have boycotted many companies for not behaving ethically. I know that withholding my business will have an extremely negligible effect but I want to make sure that I'm not part of the problem. Some people may allege that YouTube and Google are far from squeaky clean. so why did I ever start a channel?

A little aside - I won't go into why I think YouTube and Google are unethical, there is too much divisive content on the internet without me wading in. If you're not sure why they could be construed as being involved in dubious practices, I'll leave it up to you to do the research and then make up your own mind.

I originally thought that YouTube was something that I just couldn't avoid. The same with Google. How do you avoid something that huge and all-pervading? Google is the largest search engine by far and obviously, they prioritise videos from YouTube in their searches. I would be committing commercial suicide by not using them. I talked myself into thinking that I had to use them. I compromised my beliefs and it's something I'm not proud of.

This was always in the back of my head as I was using YouTube, niggling away at me. When the COPPA issue came along, I thought again about whether I could leave YouTube. I realised that it wasn't an issue of whether I could leave, I had to leave.

I looked into the options and Vimeo was the obvious choice. There are no adverts on Vimeo so they make their money by creators paying to upload their videos. The audience is generally more willing to watch longer videos and it seems like a more settled environment to work in.

The downside is that the number of views I'll get will be significantly less. I do think there is an element of commercial suicide but I feel a lot happier in myself.

I can't say that my business is ethically pure because I'm sure that I'll find out over time things are not quite how I want them to be. But I am trying my best and I'll make changes when and where I can.

It feels like a breath of fresh air to have left YouTube. I have a lot of work to do on Vimeo and I'm hopefully going to start developing an artists' community on there. I'm positive about my future on Vimeo and happy with the direction my business is taking.

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