Supporting Independents

One of the things that I’ve started to question about Apple’s media strategy is how they approach the big power brokers and aren’t fostering a new, independent wave of content creators.

A fascinating Twitter account to follow is @YTCreators. Little tidbits of info surface throughout the day pointing to pages explaining aspect ratios, or to accounts showing videos on low-budget video production, and especially announcements about updates to the app rolling out. YouTube wants people to make YouTube videos, not just videos. There’s a whole experience they want to continue to grow.

A YouTube channel about making YouTube videos is also a natural fit. Videos range from educational to inspirational — like this video with Hannah Hart.

YouTube provides space to work, and collaborate in several major cities for channels with at least 10,000 subscribers. It’s so popular the summer signup period is full, and people have to check back after September 1st. They even offer classes, but they’re full, and they require 500 subscribers to qualify. (Which seems pretty weird for classes on getting started.)

Apple doesn’t have an education program like this. You can sign up for iMovie classes at a local Apple Store, or you can search [iTunes U for a class] that will cover the skills.

People don’t need courses, or fancy studios, or very specific software instructions in order to make video, or upload it to the internet. Creating a focused community around a type of media, and supporting that work, will foster the specific kind of content a company would like. That sounds so cynical, and unartistic, but only when viewed from very far away.


Apple’s most recent investment in social media, and video, is the Connect tab in iTunes Music. It’s not great. It’s limited to musicians right now, but if it was expanded to cover a wider array of media, like YouTube does, it would still seem pretty anemic. Marko Savic speculated about it as a possibility on an episode of Unhelpful Suggestions.

Anyone can start a YouTube channel and upload video. Connect currently requires an artist to be selling music through iTunes, which makes sense since it’s about promoting material on iTunes, but if there was Connect for TV and film, it’s worth checking out what it takes to sell a TV show (most analogous to a vlog series):

The requirements to work directly with Apple are listed below. If you do not meet all of these requirements, you can work with an Apple-approved aggregator instead. Aggregators are third parties that can help you meet technical requirements, deliver and manage your content, and assist with marketing efforts.

Technical Requirements: iTunes does not accept content in physical formats like VHS, DVD, etc. You must deliver your content as a digital file through one of the Apple-approved encoding houses. Be sure to compare their services and fee structures, as this will be a separate cost if you work directly with Apple. Appropriate file storage capability and bandwidth is also required. Alternatively, you may work with an Apple-approved aggregator instead. All video content must be stored in Beta SP format or higher. iTunes only sells video content that is DVD-quality, so the quality of your source must be significantly higher than a standard definition DVD. Content Requirements: At least 50 hours of network-aired TV content Digital distribution rights for all content you intend to sell on the iTunes Store All associated music and talent rights cleared for digital distribution Financial Requirements: A U.S. Tax ID A valid iTunes Store account, with a credit card on file * Apple does not pay partners until they meet payment requirements and earning thresholds in each territory. You should consider this before applying to work directly with Apple as you may receive payments faster by working with an Apple-approved aggregator.

Note: Meeting these requirements and submitting an application does not guarantee that Apple will work directly with you. You may still be referred to an Apple-approved aggregator.

So just get a network TV show, use an approved encoding house, or figure out the aggregators, and you’re all set! Easy peasy!

Compare that with signing up for YouTube uploading a video.

Indeed, even signing up to distribute a podcast (and dealing with XML validation!) seems far more manageable. What if there was a Connect for Podcasts? Well… they’d need to figure out some kind of revenue stream to compete with YouTube, because ‘free’ wouldn’t cut it.

Oddly enough, artists can upload videos, and audio, as part of Connect posts that aren’t part of the iTunes store. Unfortunately, you can’t go back and find those things later because they don’t appear in search results, only from scrolling through the Connect stream.

As for growing a “brand” — It’s a one-way broadcast tool. There are comments, but they’re tucked away. They present in a chronological list, and there’s no pinning, emphasis, threading, or promotion that can be applied. It’s like traveling back in time to 2000. Looking at the comments is just sad.

Connect is clearly for the already established to announce things. They might as well turn off the comment feature.

What Ever Happened to Hollywood?

I mentioned “the established” but it’s not just referring to the already successful stars, directors, and musicians of the world, but the studio systems that support them. Indeed, much of that media might is held by a small group in Los Angeles. They’re pretty old, and not particularly in touch with the youth of today. They control content deals, and they’re the reason why “progress” gets tied up for an eternity.

Apple wants the established media, instead of fostering independent creation, and the established media doesn’t want to give an inch. They might be less, and less powerful every year, but they can still cling to it to prevent a disruption in the business of buying (leasing), and collecting (please lease it again when there’s a new format).

It seems practical for Apple to invest in independent content creators, like YouTube has, and continues to do. They might find themselves in the unenviable situation of only needing Hollywood.

“You aren’t ever gonna sell this house, and you aren’t ever gonna leave it, neither.”

2015-08-12 09:00:00

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