It’s boom times for food YouTubers

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It’s boom times for food YouTubers

The sudden uptick in at-home leisure time caused by the coronavirus has resulted in a rise in media consumption across several different niches. Esports have posted some of their best numbers. News publishers have certainly benefited, at least in terms of traffic. And premium streaming services are seeing so much use that their data loads threaten to break the internet in some regions.

One other genre that’s done particularly well? Cooking channels on YouTube. Bloomberg interviewed several food YouTubers about the explosion of new viewers they’re seeing now that the entire world is forced to prepare nearly all of its food at home. Food YouTubers are particularly well positioned for this media environment because the cooking content they create is evergreen. “The great thing about YouTube is that everything we have ever released is still relevant and searchable,” said one YouTuber. It also doesn’t hurt that this is the type of content that’s particularly easy to create from one’s home.

Why I’m sad to see BuzzFeed’s AM2DM go

BuzzFeed announced it’s shutting down AM2DM, its weekday morning show streamed live on Twitter, and letting go of all its staff. AM2DM was a joint partnership between Twitter and BuzzFeed, and the latter made the decision after Twitter decided to pull its funding.

I was never a regular viewer of AM2DM, but I admired it for what it was: a real attempt to take the decades-old morning news show format and adapt it for the social web. Its producers did a fantastic job of taking each show and then chopping it into dozens of clips, thereby extending the show’s reach and adapting it for various niche audiences. It was reportedly generating up to 500,000 views per episode; an impressive feat for an online news show. My guess is that both Twitter and BuzzFeed would have liked to keep it going, but the coronavirus caused belt tightening on both sides, and BuzzFeed didn’t have the resources to sustain the show on its own.

Audience trends are already shifting 

Know the big bump in news consumption caused by the coronavirus, the one that led to some publishers seeing their biggest traffic months ever? New data examined by Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton shows that this trend is already fading, with several publishers reporting traffic numbers at the same level as they were prior to the mass quarantine.

This genuinely surprised me. You would think that, by virtue of people just having a lot more free time on their hands, that news website visits would still be up. That can only mean that they’re using that leisure time on other kinds of media consumption.

Speaking of which: Digiday reports that some publishers have found that consumers hungry for “feel good” content, and several have actually launched verticals focused on delivering this type of content. 

Can subscriptions offset the decline in advertising?

It’s well known at this point that the coronavirus has caused a massive downturn in advertising, with plenty of publishers hemorrhaging revenue, laying off journalists, and/or shutting down completely. 

But what about paid subscriptions and the publishers that rely on them? Anecdotal evidence suggests they’re holding up for now, with some publishers experiencing a sharp increase in paid subscribers after they posted appeals to their audiences. 

Talking Points Memo was one publisher that saw the writing on the wall a few years ago and pivoted to subscriptions. I interviewed TPM founder Josh Marshall about this pivot back in 2018. 

This week, Marshall published an update to his readers about how TPM is faring currently. “Memberships are now the core of our business model, accounting for 75% to 80% of our revenue." He even reports a slight uptick in new subscribers. 

The question is whether this increased generosity will eventually wear out, especially as more and more people lose their disposable income. And what about publishers who don’t currently have a paid subscription model but try to pivot to subscriptions to shore up their business? Will it be too little too late? My fear is that that’s the case.

Should indie content creators team up?

Jacob Donnelly makes some good points in an article titled “When Bundling Leads to a Greater Audience and the Birth of New Media Companies.”

Trying to generate paid subscription revenue as an independent creator is incredibly difficult, in part because it’s hard to churn out enough high quality content to make a paid subscription worth it. Every moment that you’re creating content meant to go behind the paywall is a moment not spent on the free content that draws new readers in. And without new readers you don’t have an audience to convert into paying subscribers further down the line.

Donnelly posits that, in some cases, it may be better for indie creators to team up, either through a co-owned publication, or by offering readers a subscription bundle that gives subscribers access to both content streams at a lower price. 

I think this makes sense in theory, but there are inherent risks involved -- namely, how can you be sure that the other indie creator pulls their weight? Am I comfortable going 50/50 on a bundled subscription with someone when there’s a chance that, a month from now, they’ll decrease their content output? What happens when one creator ends up being responsible for all of the subscription growth and decides they want to cut their partner loose? It sounds like it could result in a very sticky legal squabble, to say the least.

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And thank you for supporting me during these difficult times. Stay well everyone!