Yes, it’s true. You too can become a YouTube (NASDAQ:GOOGL) millionaire by doing song and movie parodies, coming up with witty video game commentary, or just by being an annoying fruit. Far be it from me to pass judgment on what a billion people with nearly insatiable appetites for cheesy content find entertaining.
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More than a billion unique users watching six billion hours of video a month is a lot of eyeballs … and advertising dollars. If you want to get attention and maybe even make a few bucks in the YouTube Partner Program, be my guest. The bar on what used to be known as talent has never been lower.
But is that any way to make a living?
Again, I’m not trying to pass judgment here. My intent is to ask the question, not answer it, at least not yet. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of trying to pay the bills and, if your videos go viral, start your very own channel and take a chance on joining the growing ranks of the nouveau riche, YouTube style.
First, the pros.
I’ve been involved with a number of video productions in a prior life, although they were a bit more professionally done than most of what you find online these days. Still, it always seemed like fun, if you’re into that sort of thing.
In terms of barriers to entry, making videos doesn’t take much in terms of equipment or dinero. Besides, with those enormous monthly user numbers, there’s probably no easier way to put yourself out there and try to gain some exposure.
If you’ve got some modicum of talent and it’s a choice between making videos and fighting over whatever scraps Google leaves the hordes of bloggers, social media marketers, and content generators, it’s a no-brainer, or so it would appear.
You might even become rich and famous. I guess stranger things have happened.
On the other hand, consider the cons.
Remember what I said about the barriers being low? That’s a double-edged sword. In reality, the competition is ginormous with a capital G.
About 100 hours of video is posted on YouTube every minute of every day. That corresponds to -- wait, just give me a second while I get out my calculator -- actually, that’s over a million hours of video a week. So your little five-minute masterpiece had better be killer if you want more than just your friends and family to see it.
If you do manage to come up with something so over-the-top that it goes viral, that can be good or bad. I’m not sure how much this matters to anyone anymore, but it should: whatever you post online becomes your legacy. As many have learned the hard way, once it’s out there and somebody picks it up, there’s no walking it back. You can lose your job, your reputation and your career, if you have one to lose.
Like a bad tattoo you can never remove, the Internet is forever. This may be hard to imagine, but many years from now you may actually grow up and start a family you need to provide for. And you may want to get a real job and have a real career. And you’ll realize that everything you posted online is now part of your resume, like it or not.
Lastly, there’s a business concept called opportunity cost. It’s the cost of all the opportunities you missed while you were otherwise engaged in doing something really dumb with your life. I could be wrong, but you may come to realize that trying to slug it out with an entire planet of self-proclaimed Internet entrepreneurs and becoming a dancing bear in the YouTube circus was about the dumbest idea you’ve ever had.