Typica: Software for Coffee Roasting Operations

YouTube being YouTube

One of the earliest ways that I attempted to help offset the costs related to developing Typica and keeping that freely available was monetizing my YouTube channel. As you might imagine, videos about coffee roasting, Typica, and related topics are a somewhat niche topic. Channel growth has been slow, as seen in this graph of daily views, but it's reached the point where ad revenue from YouTube almost covers the cost of hosting this site.

Where you can see growth, that's largely not a consequence of anything that I've attempted to do to grow the channel. For example, in 2017 I uploaded 20 new videos including a new series, 60 Second Coffee Tips which seemed to be well received, at least by the people who bothered to watch it, which was not many. While I certainly hoped that these new videos would help grow the channel, that didn't happen. Let's take a look at the view history for what has become my long standing most popular video.

It took a year before people really started noticing this and nearly every one of the clearly visible spikes can be traced back to an event such as a high profile twitter account sharing a link, someone sharing the video in a forum post, or a popular web site embedding the video.

By now you're probably wondering why I'm bringing this up and what this really has to do with anything. You may have noticed that YouTube recently had some PR troubles and in typical YouTube fashion they've decided to address real problems by taking some completely asinine action that would not have had any impact on identified problems and instead screws over smaller channels that are already disadvantaged on the site. They're cutting off all monetization options for channels unless they have at least 1000 subscribers and at least 4000 hours of views over the past year. As of this writing, my channel has 2,397 subscribers, the overwhelming majority of which either do not get notified of new videos or don't bother to watch them, but watch time for the past 365 days is about 430 hours short of the new threshold. That means it's very likely that my channel will be demonetized next month along with countless other new, small, or niche channels that don't post the sort of vapid click bait trash that YouTube would apparently rather promote. Indeed, the channels that have caused the problems YouTube is claiming to address by this change are completely unaffected by it.

Fortunately, my channel hit the payout threshold ($100) last month, but any money the channel raised from the start of the year to when I'm cut off (I'm currently projecting that at about $15) will be inaccessible until the channel reaches the new threshold to reenable monetization, which could be years from now, plus then however long it takes to hit the payment threshold (another several months). Other channels this is affecting might never get there. Apparently, to "protect creator revenue across the YouTube ecosystem," YouTube thinks it's appropriate to effectively steal who knows how much from the diverse small channels that make YouTube a useful site.

So where do I go from here? I'm really not motivated to continue putting new stuff on a site that has engaged in a pattern of behavior and decisions that often seems creator hostile. There's no shortage of other video hosting sites. I've tried a few of these previously and found that these tend to bury my videos and when combined with a much smaller base of visitors, it seems that I'd have to spend entirely too much time on marketing instead of doing something productive. Amazon, at least, does pay me my few cents of royalties every single month. Self hosting is an option. Blog posts that I put here tend to be read more than posts on sites like Medium that similarly seem to bury niche content. Self hosting video would trade one set of annoyances for another, but HTML video support has gotten pretty good so that's at least a viable option. If I put videos on this site it would likely increase my hosting costs, but at the same time I wouldn't have to worry about things like carefully sourced legal to use audio getting flagged by ContentID and being held hostage by known bad actors who fraudulently reject all appeals as a matter of policy while YouTube itself provides no way to present relevant rights documentation to a human short of hiring an lawyer. Like I wrote, pattern of creator hostile behavior.

I do have some new stuff currently in production and I've run into enough people who have found what I'm doing with videos to be genuinely useful that I don't intend to stop making these. Maybe someone sufficiently high up in YouTube will pull their head out of their ass, stop making things worse for the vast majority of creators on the site and reverse this and other awful decisions, but history would suggest that this is unlikely. For now I'm left considering my options of where to go from here.

By the way, if anybody wants to help out by sending money, that's a thing you can do with the following form. You might even be the first person to do that this year.