Advertisers vs Creators vs YouTube

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YouTube Removing Ads from non-advertiser friendly videos Image Source: Search Engine Journal

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Screenshot of YouTube Monetization Image Source: 9to5google

This post probably won’t be as long as usual as I have meeting to attend in a couple of hours, however, I just wanted to get it out there since the topic (and the creators’ responses to it) mirrors my own frustration(s) this summer.

The topic is a simple one (& one that ultimately comes down to money), advertisers and Google seem to be in a war against the content creators that have helped YouTube grow and they have instituted a change in policy that is forcing many YouTubers to either change their content/format, seek alternate funding methods, or leave YouTube for another platform (like Twitch, or other streaming/video services) altogether.

Here is an example of one such YouTuber’s frustration: ACG
And here’s another: The Horror Show

Advertisers
Advertisers want viewers and they want their ads to appear in front of (and during) videos in order to sell their product or service.  They also want to control their message and how their message is displayed and on what content that it gets displayed upon.  In other words, they don’t want their message to be linked with an offensive site or offensive content.  Yet, the sprawling nature of YouTube doesn’t allow them to go in and hand-pick content, so they have (apparently) successfully and recently lobbied YouTube to create fairly restrictive algorithms so that their material appears on only the most family friendly content.  Again, this is because they want their messages to BOTH reach the widest audience possible (families) and not be associated with “objectionable” material, but they don’t want to spend an additional money to hire a person/a team of people to navigate YouTube to manually indicate whether their brand is being served or hurt by appearing on a particular video.

Creators
Creators are crying foul because of the draconian nature of the algorithms deployment.  Even if the content itself isn’t objectionable (such as review), the way it is presented (i.e., with a couple of swear words) is enough for YouTube’s algorithm to deny monetization to creators and their videos.  However, even in Avengers: Age of Ultron, there’s a running gag about characters swearing and Captain America calling them out on it, and the gag is that they call him out on calling them out (if that makes any sense).  The reason why it’s funny is that in today’s world swearing is “allowed” (which I don’t personally agree with) and to call someone out on it marks you as old fashioned.  The Marvel movies are own by Disney Studios, a company known for its “wholesome” image, yet their most successful movies are in the PG-13 category these days.  It is unfair for advertisers to require their ads play on “G” rated content in a society where even the wholesome, family friendliest of companies content is in the PG-13 arena and they have a valid point.  Most creators already don’t make enough from YouTube to qualify even as a “hobby,” let alone a full time/part-time self-sustaining job and this change really hurts them.

Frustration with the system

If you watched the two videos, you can see the frustration of the creators.  They create content for a system and yet have an emotionless set of algorithms determine what can and cannot be monetized.  This is the exact same frustration that I felt this summer.  They work within the rules of the system, but the rules keep changing and they keep changing in a way that benefits others instead of the very creators who provide YouTube with the lifeblood of content that the site needs in order to survive. In many ways, this is much like AMC all over again as YouTube (and their owners, Google) have taken their eye of the ball and given into the greed that pushes away consumers to other platforms and then decry the fact that users/consumers no longer use their service and/or their profits are down.  Google’s motto used to be “don’t be evil.”  I think that they (and other businesses) should adopt this as the first line of their mission statements, not the last.

Great Actors in Small Roles: Madalyn Horcher as Sgt. Leach

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I watched Jack Reacher: Never Go Back a few nights ago and I liked the movie.  In particular I like both the character and the actor playing Sgt. Leach, Madalyn Horcher.

“Helper”

The character of Sgt. Leach is one that is a “helper” character to the main character, meaning that this character finds out information and gives it to the main character in order for the plot to advance.  In function, this character is on-stage to provide exposition and/or plot complication for both the audience and the main character.  Dr. John Watson from Doyle’s Sherlock stories is probably the best known helper, but it can range to much smaller parts such as Sgt. Leach in this movie.  In many cases, the helper is put in physical peril, and sometimes dies, so this can be a thankless role for some actors.

Sgt. Leach: Understated

I think the reason why I noticed Madalyn Horcher’s performance is the “understated” nature of how she plays the character.  While I’ve not served in the military, my uncle and grandfather did and they explained that while on duty, there is a certain detached “decorum” that soldiers are expected to follow (sort of like Spock from Star Trek), but if you know how to read what’s being said and the tonality of how it is being said, there are a whole range of emotions that you can pick up from a soldier.  Horcher’s performance captured all of the nuances that I’d imagined in my mind’s eye every since my uncle told me about his military experiences.  This is why it is so important to look for (and cast) actors who can bring the right emotional intensity to a specific role.

While the movie wasn’t necessarily a critical success, nevertheless it was a pretty interesting story made better by the actors in both small and large roles.

 

 

Using Books to Escape a Horrid Summer

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Tent blowing away in a summer storm.  Image Source: Yoga Mobility

Apologies for not posting as the past few days were the perfect end to an absolutely horrid summer for me (and by perfect, I mean utterly devastating for me as a human being and as a person).  Rather than coming online to vent my spleen (to use an old outdated expression of anger), I decided just take a couple of “mental health” days and refrain from posting for a couple of days (would that online Trolls would do the same thing and internet trolling would be a thing of the past).  I won’t go into details, but just reread my post on Sometimes the Bear Gets You and multiply it by a factor of 50 and then you’ll have some idea on why it was probably a good idea to step away for a couple of days.

Anyway, moving on, my library books happened to be due this week, so I stopped by and saw all of the changes that have occurred in the 4 years since I became a teacher and a PhD student.  It really is incredible!  One of the librarians, when I told her about my horrid summer, said to just put it out of my mind and to focus on my upcoming tasks, so I decided to take her advice.

To that end, I’ve checked out two books: The Green Rider by Kristen Britain and J.R.R. Tolkien, A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter.   Now I’ve checked out these books before but there is a story behind each of them.

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Book Cover: Young Lady on a Horse.  Image Source: Goodreads

I tried to read The Green Rider by Kristen Britain before when it was first released, but abandoned it shortly after I started reading.  I think it was because she does a lot of POV switching early in the book (I can’t remember if this is her first novel or not–I’ll have to research it), but at the time, I was a beginning writer and the advice to stay in one POV was ringing in my head and it drove me nuts that an author could get her book published while ignoring this “basic” rule (of course, I could be misremembering and this might not be the reason at all–hey, cut me some slack, it’s been a LONG time, but my best recollection is this is the reason why I stopped reading).  As both my school’s starting time and my library’s loan period is about the same time (3 weeks) I’m going to (in the short period before school resumes) try to read it again and see if I can stick with it long enough to finish it.  I’ll report back on my progress here.

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Book Cover: Tolkien seated beside a tree.  Image Source: Amazon

The second book I picked up is a biography on J.R.R. Tolkien that I’ve read before.  Last summer, when I started the PhD program we had to pick an author and do an in-depth study on him/her.  I wanted to pick Tolkien, but I was talked out of it by well-meaning (but ultimately flawed) advice: i.e., even though he’s deceased, the amount of editions in print and the amount of scholarship would be overwhelming.  So I picked Langston Hughes, an author who I’ve done a little bit research on and who seemed to fit the bill for the class (I wanted to do David Eddings as a 2nd choice, but there was almost NO research on him at all, which would have made finding 50 critical articles a near impossibility).  However, here’s what I (re)learned from that experience–I have to follow my OWN heart, otherwise it all goes wrong.  Langston was manageable, but uninteresting.  I struggled to complete the assignments because I wasn’t invested in Langston’s life and works as I had been as an undergraduate.  I had moved on as a person/scholar and I didn’t really have the zeal to do a critical study of him.  This is the “kiss of death” for a scholar.  If you’re going to spend all that time working on a project, you’d better make doggone sure that you’re interested in it.  I’d learned this lesson before by taking a graduate Shakespeare class at UTC.  The class wasn’t the one I had planned on taking that year, but a friend told me to take it and it (much like this summer) didn’t go nearly as well as I had hoped.  I learned then to trust my own judgement and not the judgement of others, a lesson which I forgot, (and had to re-learn) from my disinterest in Langston’s life and works at MTSU.  So, in honor of such a crappy summer, I’m going to reread Tolkien’s biography to hopefully remind myself that it is MY opinion that matters in deciding matters about MY life.

 

 

Writing a new Screenplay

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The Black List Logo (Find Screenplays. Get Found.) http://blcklst.com Image Source: linkedin

I “accidentally” started a screenplay on Saturday night.  I say accidentally because I wasn’t planning on it.  However, a scene came to mind that seemed to be both a cool action scene at once as well as a way to visually tell the backstory of the character.  I’ve only started the scene, but I wanted to fix the image in my mind on paper before it got away.  I wrote several paragraphs and then went back and outlined what happens in that scene.  When I get through writing it, I’m hopeful that it will be completely self-contained with no dialogue from either the main character or any other characters.  It should be 3-5 minutes (pages) long, but in that time you should know who the protagonist is and why he is doing what he is doing.

This is for a project that I’ve already published a short-story for and this is part of that “working smarter, not harder” paradigm that I’ve been trying for since spring of this year.  This is the 2nd script that I’ve attempted–I finished my first script (FREEFALLING–a short script of about 6-8 pages).  That one also did not have any dialogue, but it does have a beginning, middle, and end.  I was going to put it on a website that features short scripts called The Black List, but balked as you’d have to join the Writer’s Guild of America.  Registration is cheap, but I don’t like being forced into things (if you can’t tell from my other blog posts). However, most agents won’t look at anything less than a feature length script, so if I want exposure for FREEFALLING, The Black List is my only real option.

I haven’t decided how long this new script will be.  If it turns out to be a feature length script (120 pages), then I’ll send it out to agents, but if it is a shorter script, then I’ll put it on the Black List and see what happens.  While it wasn’t what I was intending to write over the weekend (I have both school assignments and a Graphic novel script that I needed to work on), it was what demanded to be written at that moment.  I really hope something good comes out of it!

The Dark Tower

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The Childe (Apprentice Knight) Roland holding up a sword.  Book Cover.  Image Source: GoodReads.com

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The Man in Black vs The Gunslinger (Stephen King’s The Dark Tower). Movie Poster. Image Source: Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A movie version based on Stephen King’s Dark Tower series releases this weekend and the reviews are not favorable.  It currently stands (Aug. 4) at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I’m actually ambivalent and conflicted about how I feel about this development.

On one hand, I’d like to see this movie be successful because it stars a Person of Color (Idris Elba) in a lead role playing someone other than a “drug dealer”/”gangster”/”any other stereotypical roles” that people of color are generally relegated to in movies.  Also, I’ve read quite a few books of this series and I know how the story ends, so even though this series isn’t one I’m invested in, I do have familiarity with the material, so I’d like to see a good adaptation of it just for that reason.

On the other hand, everyone seems to forget that Stephen King didn’t “invent” the “modern” conception of the Dark Tower.  That honor goes to Robert Browning in his poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.”  And even he wasn’t the first as the title appeared as a line in Shakespeare’s King Lear.  And even though we don’t where it originated, we can assume that Shakespeare borrowed it from an even older source.  My point is that the Robert Browning poem is old enough to be in the public domain and ANYONE can write stories based on it.  Stephen King didn’t invent the Dark Tower, he only popularized it and moved it from the realm of English Literature classrooms out into the general public.

Yet, whenever someone mentions the Dark Tower, immediately the discussion turns to Stephen King’s universe.  For me, as a lover of the Dark Tower mythos (remember, I even had a board game called the Dark Tower as a child), this is more than aggravating.  It would be as if Disney’s Snow White was the ONLY version of Snow White being talked about, when we know that there are a multitude of versions out there.  Yes, Disney’s version gets the lion’s share of attention, but there is still space for other stories based on the fairy tale to exist and thrive, which is NOT the case with the Dark Tower.

I guess I’m writing all of this to say that a part of me is glad that the Dark Tower failed as a movie.  Not for any malicious intent or even to make Stephen King any less rich (it won’t), but rather that now, perhaps, other stories based on the “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” can find purchase in the public consciousness and that Stephen King’s version of the Dark Tower doesn’t become the only version of the Dark Tower that exists in the world.  “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” is a remarkably rich and varied poem–other writers should be allowed to formulate successful stories and worlds with the Dark Tower as a backdrop just as King was allowed to do by the publishing industry.

Reaction Videos

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Two ladies reacting (laughing) at a video of dancers. Image Source: blogs.wsj.com

I’ve recently (since last year) become enamored with “reaction videos” on YouTube.  This is a sub-genre where people watch various media (usually trailers) and film their reactions to them and then usually they give some sort of impression of what they think after the trailer & reaction is over.

Usually YouTubers do the: 1) because trailers are short (generally anywhere from 2-3 mins. long), 2) because they don’t generally run afoul of copyright laws per se as the works are copyrighted, but the whole goal of a trailer is to be a sort of “commercial” for the movie, game, or whatever media, so generally speaking, publicity and legal departments are okay with the sharing, reediting, and remixing of the trailers (longer content is trickier as you have to limit your use to small clips of the content), and 3) they’re a popular sub-genre on YouTube.  They can bring in tens of thousands of views for really well done reactions and can help a fledging YouTube “channel” get off the ground or stabilize the viewership (& add new subscribers to a mid-sized channel).

The process is fairly simple–I’ve thought about, but so far, discarded the idea of doing reaction videos myself and posting them to YouTube as you really only need picture-in-picture software as most smartphones and laptops have the other necessary equipment (video recording, audio recording, and video editing).  The iPhone has all of that and I’m pretty sure Android and Google phones have them as well.  If you interested in a slightly more better set up, be sure to visit the following link for more information on making a reaction video: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-make-reaction-video/

The reason why I’m writing a blog about this is two-fold.  Well, actually tri-fold, but I’ll get to that in a minute.  1) I would like to start doing scholarship on this particular sub-genre.  I’m going to try to see if I can’t somehow pick a reaction/group of reactions and break down some of the rhetorical implications of what is going on in the video.  I have Narratology class coming up in the Fall, and while I know that I probably won’t get to pick movies and TV shows to do, if at all possible, I’m going to see if I can’t find some way to work a reaction video into the scholarship (paper, discussion post topic, whatever) and then see if I can build off that, 2) I think that I’m going to assign this as some sort of project in my freshman classes.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to make it a major project, or as something that we do along the way (like a two-week project that we do in addition to the normal classwork), but I’d like to have the students get comfortable with “producing” using video/audio techniques and understand the rhetorical implications behind their choices, and 3) (maybe) I’d like to actually add in reaction videos for this blog (& YouTube) for things like E3 videos and Comic-Con trailers (& Super Bowl trailers/commercials).  I haven’t decided if I’m “going to go there,” but if I decide to do so, then that would be the obvious places to start (& as they happen yearly, it wouldn’t mean too much of a time investment for me).

I’ll consider it.  In the meantime, here is a trailer reaction to the upcoming movie, “IT” by Stephen King that is particularly creepy.  The YouTuber is Grace and her channel is one where I watch content regularly.  Here is her Reaction to the IT “Teaser” Trailer and here is her Reaction to the IT “Official” Trailer.  Hope you enjoy!  P.S.  This reaction IS for a HORROR movie–you have been warned!

Sometimes the Bear Eats You :(

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To say this weekend has been a total and utter loss would be pretty accurate.  I had a big project to do and to turn in for today, but little did I realize the amount of crap that life has in store when you are only trying to do the right thing.

Car: First on the list was my car.  I went in for a simple oil change, but the check engine light came on, so I asked if they could check it, but a full diagnostic was over a hundred dollars, far more than my meager budget would allow.  They did give scan the computer and my car has some serious issues that I’m going to have to repair as soon as possible.  I asked them how much they charged to fix a slow leak in a tire and they said they’d do it for free, but then they recommended I replace the tire (I was going to do it when I got the other work done), and since I didn’t replace the tire, they apparently didn’t plug the leak as I had to fill it with air before my drive to school.  That was my Saturday done and dusted.

Project: So I have a project where I have to remediate (change media) of a book that I read for class.  The book was on video games and learning and literacy, and I decided to do screenshots and short video clips to illustrate the book’s points, so it was just playing games all weekend.  Well, yes and no as I had to specifically look (or set up) game play elements matching the scholarship for the book.  Not to say it wasn’t fun, but there are games that I needed to play for the assignment that I wouldn’t have played normally and vice versa.  The PS4 let me save screenshots and clips and then transfer them to a USB drive, but that was my Sunday.

Student Loan: So, Monday was assemble the project, right? Nope–student loan issues came to fore.  I won’t bore you with the details, but needless to say I had to seek alternate funding after a loan that I was approved by my bank for was nixed by MTSU at the last minute.  I spent most of Monday afternoon in a loan office and then had to drive up to school after dinner.  I’ve had 3 hours of sleep and I worked on and finished my project at about 4:00 am this morning (Tuesday).  So, everything’s copacetic, right?

Project x2: Well, it would be if I could actually send the professor the project.  I can’t!  It is 2.95 GB in size, far larger than most email programs will handle.  Free Dropbox access tops out at about 2 Gigs and their are places that will handle large files, but they are “sketchy” at best.  OneDrive will handle 15 GB, but when I tried to upload it, the time-frame was 3 hours.  So I’ve got this nice, multimodal Presentation with screenshots and video clips and a podcast, and no way to get it to the professor.  As I type these words, I’m trying to get it on to a flash drive, but the program is still working even after over 30 mins and I think that it is frozen.  I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do.  It’s here and finished and I want to send it to him, but I can’t and it is so frustrating!