I occasionally get asked why I don’t do more Errant Signal videos. And really, the key answer is the time investment required to make the darned things. Writing the episode, shooting the script, collecting all of the needed footage, making any/all slides, and editing the whole shebang together takes around 25-30 hours per episode. For someone with three dogs, a wedding to plan, and above all a fulltime job it’s a commitment just to find those 30 hours each month.
But the idea of putting out more episodes got me thinking about the inner workings of this whole internet publishing business. So I thought I’d crunch some numbers with back-of-a-napkin estimates and see how feasible it would be to follow the dream of producing content full-time for the internet. What would it take to get me to quit my job and make Errant Signal full time?
For this example I’ll be discussing a calculated estimation of Blip.tv’s payment per viewer. Note that their actual payments depend not just on viewership but also engagement (viewers that stay until the end of the video and get the post-video ad roll are worth more than viewers who watch the first 20 seconds of your video and turn it off) as well as whether you use midroll ads (I don’t). Also note that their ad rates fluctuate with their sponsors and may go up or down with time (and even demographic), and that other video portals might be offering higher or lower prices per impression (or even using other metrics for compensation altogether, like clickthroughs instead of impressions).
The long and short of it is that this is all super-rough math that makes a number of obscene assumptions and shouldn’t be taken seriously – I just thought it’d be fun to tie the math out as best I could using Blip.tv’s going rate as an assumed average payment.
So, let’s do some rough calculations based on viewership and money earned on particular days.
May 28th: 178 views / $0.48 earned = $0.002697 per view
May 18: 264 views / $0.78 earned = $0.00295 per view
May 8th: 170 views / $0.56 earned = $0.0031 per view
It’s looking like the average floats somewhere around $0.0029 per viewer, depending on all those crazy conditions outlined earlier. For what it’s worth I did a similar calculation on YouTube’s estimated payouts and arrived at more or less the same number, so I’m confident this is close to a going-rate for internet ads.
So how’s Errant Signal doing overall? Well, for the month of May to date it’s received 1,782 views on Blip.tv which, when multiplied by our average gives us… $5.17 US dollars. Just for some perspective, Blip.tv won’t even pay you until your outstanding balance is at least $25. Hm.
Well, Blip has never been where the bulk of Errant Signal’s audience is. The show has far more subscribers on YouTube (~7,000 instead of Blip.tv’s 9), and thanks to a very kind link by Total Biscuit (whose name-drop was worth a whopping ~13,000 views or so) Errant Signal was watched by monetizable users 23,705 times in May. How much is that in our fakey estimation of advertising value? … $68.74.
Huh. That’s an extra $73.91 this month before taxes. That doesn’t even cover my Photoshop and Premiere license payments, nevermind rent and food and utilities. Even if I upped production to an episode every week, and got this entire month’s allotment of 25482 views per episode, that still leaves me with only $295.59 per month – substantially less than minimum wage.
Well, how many views would it take to earn even a modest $30,000/year? $30,000 per year / $.0029 per view = 10,344,827 views per year, which equates to about 862,000 views a month. Note that even this lofty figure is ignoring taxes, not to mention that YouTube revenue gets split between myself and The Game Station.
The point I’m trying to make is this: Profitable shows need millions of views every single month to succeed. This can be done with one or two videos that each get a million or two views a piece (which is very hard to do) or they can be done with lots of videos that get hundreds of thousands of views each (which, while still hard, is far easier than getting one to two million unique viewers to a single video).
The result is a digital video market that looks the way it does today – profitable shows are structured closer to VLogs, Vcasts, or even digital radio shows than traditional scripted content. If you look at really successful shows, you’ll see that they post content nearly every day to keep viewers engaged and keep the viewcount rising. Let’s Plays, VCasts, etc are all fantastic at this sort of engagement due to their low production cost, rapid turnaround, and ability to directly engage viewers.
But these numbers are also why, short of some sort of revolution in the way internet advertising works, Errant Signal could never be my day job. At 30 hours of work per video, even if it was my fulltime job I could never produce the volume of hits necessary to generate sustainable revenue. There’s simply no feasible way the show will ever pull a million views an episode, and without a radical change in format I can’t produce more than a handful a month.