I've been poking around lately on BATgrowth.com, which tracks adoption of Basic Attention Token by publishers looking for a new way to monetize their content. One trend that's immediately striking is that YouTube creators are easily the biggest BAT adopters to date.
More on why that might be in a moment. But first some necessary background:
BATgrowth.com generates its stats by independently measuring publisher registrations with Brave, a startup that makes a web browser that's the hub of the BAT ecosystem. The Brave browser contains a built-in wallet and features for publishers to measure and receive payment in BAT for their content's monthly traffic. But you have to get verified with Brave first to receive your tokens.
There are currently three types of publishing channels eligible for monetization through this system – websites, YouTube channels, and Twitch channels. (That last one is a gamer-oriented video network, for the benefit of all the old farts reading this post :-)
As of this writing, BATgrowth.com says there are 52,617 publishing channels registered with Brave. That total comprises:
- 36,001 YouTube channels
- 13,113 websites
- 3,503 Twitch channels
In other words, about 68 percent of all the registered properties so far are YouTube channels. My hunch is that this dominance tells us a couple things about the state of monetizing video in 2019 – some of it good, some bad.
The good news: BAT is growing rapidly as a viable option to monetize video, with the number of verified YouTube channels up more than 50 percent so far this year. I don't suspect anyone is making bread-and-butter type revenue off BAT alone yet, but who knows. In any case, it's great that creators' options are growing.
Also good: YouTube has an application programming interface (API) for developers that allows Brave to integrate with their platform easily. This detail does bear mentioning in YouTube's favor. However, that brings us to...
The bad: YouTube proper has sucked for years as a way for creators to make real money, with no apparent end in sight. I'm by no means the first person to point out that the video platform, currently owned by Alphabet (market cap: ~$800 billion), should probably be spending more out of its own pocket to support creators. Perhaps that's why its members are so eager for something like BAT to complement whatever crumbs YouTube deigns to throw their way.
For me, the earliest documentation of this problem was a detailed keynote that tech entrepreneur and investor Jason Calacanis gave at VidCon way back in 2013. At the time, he'd had a project funded directly through one of YouTube's early partnership programs but declined to take a follow-on round from them, because the terms were too crappy.
In the years since, YouTube has expanded partner programs, including its Netflix-like YouTube Originals product. But you still hear frequent complaints about creators' revenue cut on the platform, especially from the plebes who have little or no formal relationship with YouTube. Invariably, these complaints end up echoing what Calacanis said six years ago, even now.
I say that as someone who's now registered three publishing channels with Brave – my personal YouTube channel; my personal web domain pmckay.com; and Indizr.com, which I'm trying to build out as a blog. The latter domain was my real priority to register, but while I was at it, I figured I might as well include the others as well.
My YouTube channel is pretty inactive, with the last upload posted about five years ago when I was testing a video app I'd built with the YouTube API. But if I post anything new there now, and if anyone watches it, I'll get a little bit of BAT in return. Nice and straightforward and covers all my channel's traffic immediately.
By comparison, I'm not eligible to monetize the channel at all via YouTube's main creator partnership program at this point. By their standards, channels have to have a minimum of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time over the preceding 12 months, and then pass an in-house approval by an actual human who vets channels, before getting any revenue share whatsoever.
So, yeah, I could theoretically, perhaps get a little something from YouTube at some point down the line from my little-used channel. But I'd have to do a bunch of work in the first place, 100 percent free, over a stretch of time just to get to that point.
See the difference? Yet another reason why it's BAT all the way for me right now.
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