YouTube Generation by jonsson (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/KaeZT

YouTube Generation by jonsson (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/KaeZT

Podcasts

The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 19: Canada’s Quiet Success Story – Irene Berkowitz on the Canadian YouTube Creative Sector

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez recently appeared to pre-empt the government’s broadcast and telecommunications legislative review panel in his response to the panel’s interim report. Rodriguez indicated that the government will move to mandate new contributions and Cancon requirements for online services regardless of what the panel recommends. New creators leveraging online platforms don’t typically participate in government consultations, but that doesn’t mean their voice and experience should be ignored. Ryerson’s Irene Berkowitz recently released Watchtime Canada, a report on the role YouTube plays in fostering opportunities for creators. The study found an eco-system that provides thousands of Canadians with full-time employment opportunities and export strategies that outshine the traditional creative sector.  She joins me on the podcast this week to discuss the report and what it might mean for Canadian cultural policy.

The podcast can be downloaded here and is embedded below. The transcript is posted at the bottom of this post or can be accessed here. Subscribe to the podcast via Apple Podcast, Google Play, Spotify or the RSS feed. Updates on the podcast on Twitter at @Lawbytespod.

Episode Notes:

Watchtime Canada report

Credits:

Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, May 2, 2019
Unbox Therapy, This Smartphone Changes Everything
Gigi Gorgeous, This is Everything
How to Cake It, GIANT Juice Box Cake with JUICE INSIDE
The Icing Artist, Mini ANIMAL CAKES
Vanoss Gaming

Transcript:

Law Bytes podcast – Episode19 | Convert audio-to-text with Sonix

Michael Geist:
This is Law Bytes, a podcast with Michael Geist.

David Yurdiga:
Are we prepared for the the YouTube generation. I like to call because that’s the that’s the medium they’re playing in at this point.

Scott Hutton, CRTC:
Our suggestion is we need to legislative changes and new tools to be able to help the regulatory system adapt to those particular environments. YouTube can contribute to Canadian content. You know we can all post there and it is contributing and that means right now Canadians can. It’s it’s one of the more open systems Canadians can post and receive revenue from from YouTube. On that element but an example in that case is how does one find that Canadian story and the sea of what is available on on YouTube. So for example that’s why we’ve raised many concerns with respect to discoverability is sort of the term that everybody is using as to how do you find that piece of Canadian content in the plethora of content that is available.

Michael Geist:
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez recently appeared to pre-empt the Government’s broadcast and telecommunications legislative review panel. In his response to the panel’s interim report. Rodriguez indicated that the government will move to mandate new contributions and Cancon requirements for online services regardless of what the panel recommends. While the comments signal a shift in policy – and perhaps that an election is on the way – they also suggest that the narrow view of the Canadian creative sector has taken hold within the government.

Michael Geist:
New creators leveraging online platforms don’t typically participate in government consultations but that doesn’t mean their voice and experience should be ignored. Ryerson University’s Irene Berkowitz recently released Watch Time Canada a report on the role YouTube plays in fostering opportunities for creators. The study found an ecosystem that provides thousands of Canadians with full time employment opportunities and export strategies that outshine the traditional creative sector. She joins me this week on the podcast to discuss the report and what it might mean for Canadian cultural policy.

Michael Geist:
Irene thanks so much for joining me on the podcast.

Irene Berkowitz:
Thank you very much for inviting me. I’m sort of awed, honoured and I hope I can contribute as your other amazing guest have.

Michael Geist:
Okay. Well it’s a pleasure to have you and this comes at a really important point in time. As you know we’re recording this about a week after the government’s broadcast and telecom legislative review panel released its “what we heard” report. The actual recommendations on reforms to Canada’s broadcast and telecom laws aren’t scheduled until 2020, but this report kind of provides as the title suggests what they heard from the various stakeholders who participated.

Michael Geist:
I think it’s fair to say for anyone who’s paying attention to the report didn’t really surprise very much. There are many in the cultural community in Canada that see this this review as one of their best chances for new regulation in the cultural sector possibly mandated Cancon contributions maybe even site blocking, new taxes. And so there’s been a lot of emphasis there and certainly you see it in the report. But if you only read those submissions I think you’d be pretty surprised to learn that Canada is experiencing record spending on Cancon production right now. A lot of it supported by foreign investment. But even that is only part of the story. And well the reasons I’m so excited to have you on the podcast is that you recently released a study that examined the role of YouTube in Canada’s media ecosystem focusing both on Canadian YouTube creators and consumers and the data which frankly you don’t see in the what we heard report strikes me as incredibly important for cultural policy. So why don’t we start as a long intro but why don’t we start then with the background. What were you looking to study and how did you go about doing it.

Irene Berkowitz:
Well thank you for asking that question because it actually has an important answer which was as you know and many other people who are probably listening know there has been you know hundreds if not thousands of reports filed on the legacy media system from its very beginning. Probably you have also read most of the documents from 1929 as I have and yet there isn’t there wasn’t a baseline study of YouTube which has been present in Canada since 2006 to take its place at that at that table and there’s a lot of generalizations made about new media giants without much specificity so we wanted to take a look at what is the role of YouTube in the Canadian media ecosystem.

Irene Berkowitz:
What we found was quite remarkable we were not experts in YouTube. As you know I’m more of an expert in legacy media at the time. And just for further transparency to say that the report was commissioned by Google but contains no proprietary information we there’s 50 charts and lots of contextual information. And unless we omitted it accidentally a footnote all of it is done by reporting our original research or public public information that’s adequately or appropriately footnoted. In fact Google was quite explicit on numerous occasions saying that they would not want to interfere with our academic freedom.

Michael Geist:
Ok. So just so that we know who the “we’ is in this case it’s yourself. But it was also with some colleagues from Ryerson.

Irene Berkowitz:
Yes very important to mention my team the first team member is Dr. Charles Davis whose credentials are quite impressive. He’s the Edward S. Rogers Senior Research Chair in Media Management and Entrepreneurship. He’s also a professor in the RTA School of Media and the associate dean of scholarly research and creative activities here and my so he you know you can understand this was sort of the the royal oversight in this report as well as our second of our third of our three part team and Hannah Smith whose Phd student and communication and culture which is the same program from which I received my PHC in 2016. And she is a graduate researcher in audience lab which is an initiative started here it at faculty of communication and designed to study audiences with data both qualitative and quantitative research is done here.

Michael Geist:
Ok. I wanted to make sure that we give credit to the full team and I’m glad that you that you noted that. Google provided support but had no input in terms of the outcome in the research itself in what’s a lengthy reports of some hundred thirty five pages of lays out the data that you found. Let’s let’s talk just that’s the why that is an area that’s not well understood and the who that was involved. What did you go about doing as part of the study.

Irene Berkowitz:
Well we took a look at the key stakeholders in YouTube and with an eye on understanding what stakeholders are most often reported on in it in the legacy reports and we decide to take a look at the audience or consumers and the creators because they are the creators are obviously the focus of much of much of the regulation and discussion in the in the legacy system. There is a third stakeholder in YouTube which is the advertisers and that that part may be maybe coming eventually but we we started with this. It was a big job. You can see the results are big also. We did we ended up doing two surveys one with consumers. We did that first because was a bit easier from a process point of view and that had fifteen hundred responses with a demographic that was the same as Statscan, which we requested. And then we also did a study of survey of creators and that what that has round twelve hundred responses and we ended up with a dataset that was not certainly not big data. But it is for surveys it’s quite a large data set and we we proceeded to crunch the data and understand what our results were.

Michael Geist:
Okay. So twelve hundred Canadian creators working on YouTube does sound like a really large sample size. Once you crunched some of that data, what are some of the some of the conclusions that you were able to come to in terms of just the scope or size of of Canadian creator presence on YouTube.

Irene Berkowitz:
Yes. Let me just respond to sort of instinctively to you. The first part of your question then I’ll get to the key takeaway which is that by definition the creator survey had to be self selected because it had to be anonymous. So we’ve we were kind of amazed because we had heard that these kinds of surveys get 1 or 2 percent response. We weren’t really sure if we were going to get anyone. And as we saw these results coming in we were we were quite happy to be working with asking Canadians the subsidiary of Delvinia, who administered these surveys. As we saw the results coming in two hundred three hundred six hundred eight hundred. We were quite amazed. And it led me to think that we had struck a chord with Canadian creators on YouTube who really wanted to tell their story.

Irene Berkowitz:
So they said that that’s not those are not the results. There are in the report I’m sure you saw there’s twenty one value propositions unique value propositions that YouTube seems to be offering into the Canadian media marketplace. I was quite amazed as I went through and and sort of tried to deduce each part of the report and I realized that wow this is actually for real. And then I tried to reduce it further into five insights and one key takeaway which I’ll just tell you what that is because then we can unpack that according to what you find most compelling.

Irene Berkowitz:
So we found that YouTube in addition to facilitating the rise of a new group of Canadian creative entrepreneurs. That’s 160,000 of them by our estimation. They are inventing totally new forms of popular content. Youtube has also resulted in significant outcomes with respect to those creators with respect to diversity, employment, domestic popularity, global export, Canadian creators lead the platform and global access. And furthermore YouTube has achieved these results without requiring either the transfer of IP rights from creators which as you know is a highly controversial aspect the legacy system and largely in the absence of public funding and its associated costs which has been pegged by the former chair of the CRTC at 4 billion dollars per year.

Irene Berkowitz:
The other thing is that we ask Canadian consumers about Canadian content. I think that there’s a lot of discussion about Canadian content but I’m not sure many studies have actually asked Canadians whether what they think what they’re wnd what what their practices are around it. So 90 almost 90 percent I think was 88 percent of Canadian consumers do not search for Canadian content on YouTube and in our almost 9000 qualitative responses from these surveys because both surveys had a few qualitative questions, the consumers made it very clear why: they’re searching for content that either helps them learn something, they’re searching or they’re searching for the content they want and they don’t really care where it comes from.

Michael Geist:
It’s interesting consumer data and preference can come come back to some of the public’s perspective on that. I want to drill down focus a bit more intently on the creator side of course because that’s where so much of that policy for better or worse is focused when we start thinking about Cancon and cultural policy, although one would have thought that you’d be interested in what Canadians themselves are interested in. But let’s try to better understand the creator side because the hundred and sixty thousand creators is a is a big number. Of course the question that immediately follows for many in the sector would be well how many of those people or are able to generate some revenue coming out of that. If not as a full time career at least as a source of revenue. Do you have some sense of the data in terms of how many are sufficiently successful to be part of the partnership programs that then lead to the prospect of revenue.

Irene Berkowitz:
Yes. That’s obviously very very important. Mindful that YouTube is a startup culture that about 25 percent or around 40,000 Canadian creators are what’s called eligible for monetization which is means they can join they are eligible to join the partner program, which means around a thousand subscribers a certain amount of watch time and obeying and those strikes against them in terms of their adherence or obeying the community guidelines that YouTube sets.

Michael Geist:
We see large numbers of Canadian creators succeeding on YouTube. But the report does a really nice job of highlighting some of the major success stories some of some of them were household names but a bunch. Unless you’re I guess in this space aren’t necessarily so but they’ve got enormous numbers of views and presumably generating some significant revenues. Could you tell us a bit about some of the YouTube stars as it were that come out of Canada.

Irene Berkowitz:
Oh I would love to. I’m actually glad that I didn’t meet these people in person until the launch of this report because anyone would fall so in love with their exuberance and energy that I wouldn’t have been able to maintain my scientific objectivity during the preparation of the research. Well you know someone like Shawn Mendes or Justin Bieber. These are household iconic names in Canada. What everyone. What people don’t know is someone like Shawn Mendes actually learned how to play the guitar on YouTube. There’s another household name is Lily Singh, who started as a funny and charming girl from Scarborough who is now made it to the top of royalty in the legacy entertainment system who just recently has been named as the host first only female host of a late night show on NBC. There is Lewis Hilsenteger.

Lewis Hilsenteger:
Today is the day that the smart phone game changes. In front of me I have the future and it’s in the form of the Find x. This thing has been top secret and for good reason because it changes everything.

Irene Berkowitz:
Unbox therapy is the top technology platform on the technology channel excuse me on the entire platform. There’s Gigi Gorgeous.

Gigi Gorgeous:
My camera became my therapist and YouTube became my diary where I would post everything. If your parents don’t get you, if your friends think you’re weird, I love you and I want you to be exactly who you want me to be.

Irene Berkowitz:
Who is the top transgender transgender creator on the entire platform. There are so many creators with billions of views such as How to cake it.

How to cake it:
Welcome back to how to take it. I’m Yolanda and this week I have taken a juice box a giant juice box that you can take back to school.

Irene Berkowitz:
Which is a lifestyle platform started by a group of Canadian creators whose frankly their show was was canceled and Yolanda Gallop has become a top creator on the channel. There’s fascinating export stories. The the icing artist.

Laurie Shannon:
My name is Laurie and you’re watching icing artists.

Irene Berkowitz:
By Laurie Shannon and her husband they were both cabinet makers. They literally learned how to decorate cakes on the platform. She started this channel and she discovered through data analytics that on YouTube studio that she had a lot of audience in the Middle East and realized well she’ll take away herself talking and she’ll add subtitles which is easy to do on on on the platform that’s that’s also enabled. And she saw her audiences go from 30 her subscribers go from 30 thousand to a million. Now she has three million. Her husband and her have both quit their day jobs. We see this a lot and they are supporting their family from YouTube. There VanossGaming who probably is Evan Fong from Richmond Hill.

Evan Fong:
What is up guys. So today I have some Ghost Recon breakpoint gameplay and I’m playing with my friends wildcat Mu and asers.

Irene Berkowitz:
Who launched his show on gaming. I don’t know if the gaming on YouTube isn’t gaming, its channels that what its videos that you’re watching other people playing video games. It’s gigantic. Anyway he has billions of views and he is actually earning. He had earned to 17 million in 2018 making him the seventh highest paid YouTube star ever. The list could go on. What we found in terms of the export data was that Canadian creators as I said earlier not only lead the platform in export but they have actually transformed historic disadvantage which is being next to the US if not a key motivator for the entire policy framework for the 20th century. They have transformed that into a remarkable competitive advantage and they are monetizing that you know like crazy.

Michael Geist:
And I’m assuming that on the monetization side and I know that your report indicates that while some are generating less than ten thousand dollars you’ve got a sizable percentage of those that are able to generate revenue generating a hundred thousand dollars or more. It’s the millions of course are a small number of people. But nevertheless people literally being able to to to make this their full time occupation, to live off their creativity this ways is an amazing thing to see. And the report talks about not just about money that gets generated through advertising, but brand deals, sponsorship, appearances, book deals. All of these become part of the norm for some of the creators that find for that establish a global presence.

Irene Berkowitz:
One hundred percent in fact. Thank you for for connecting those dots because we started out with the revenue sharing and exactly as you just said we found that it’s the norm even very early on, people are using a variety of highly creative variety of revenue streams to to to monetize their work on YouTube for instance. It’s not all about subscriber numbers sometimes. We came across a channel I won’t I won’t violate privacy but that only has 50,000 subscribers which doesn’t seem a lot compared to the hundreds of millions if not billions for for our other creators. But they are supporting a family of four because the advertising, the type of advertising that that this channel appeals to family advertising: Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Structure, are high paying advertisers. And so there are many many routes to success on YouTube and these the level of excitement about their work is positively contagious.

Irene Berkowitz:
So I mean, overall for me, the key takeaway was I wouldn’t say that our study is RCT or randomized clinical trial of what would happen in the absence of protection or support but you couldn’t do that anyway. But it is somewhat sort of like that because here we have Canadian creators sort of let loose naked into the globe into a global platform. And if it comes down to whether protectionism or competition builds strength in terms of content that is popular. Well it seems like we have an answer because Canadian creators truly are thriving on YouTube.

Michael Geist:
I’m glad that you know you made that connection because that’s really what we’re talking about law and policy. That’s kind of in a sense the next question. Once you’ve managed to canvas the waterfront of what’s taking place in YouTube and the report goes into far more detail on on a lot of these kinds of issues uncovers this thriving ecosystem with thousands of Canadians succeeding. The question if you’re on the broadcast telecom review panel or government or policymaker or someone who is concerned with what cultural policy looks like, is whether or not you need policies that are responsive to this. What sounds like you’re suggesting is that we’ve seen this kind of success really in the absence of those sorts of policies this is in a sense that opportunity to compete on the global stage and doing so without new kinds of taxes or mandates, but rather doing so by the kind of creativity and finding an audience.

Irene Berkowitz:
Well finding an audience. A case a strong case could be made that for the 20th century it was building an industry on the broadcasters side and on the independent production side and those all those quotas and regulation. I mean clearly the framework was brilliant. Beginning with you know the sort of I call the two the two pillars are really simultaneous substitution, which delivered 30 percent of a boost to the broadcasters, and then on the other hand we have the 30 percent investment and then we have the independent production community that is sort of anchored by the point system which took four years. I’ll just say that those were 20th century goals in the 21st century, that’s not the challenge. The challenge is the market is global.

Irene Berkowitz:
I did want to make sure to ask whether or not you asked about regulation. So if we could see how this has succeeded in the absence of regulation did you ask those that are actively engaged in this whether or not they pay attention to these policy issues, whether they think regulation is needed. They haven’t been a vocal part of the policy process to date, but is this something that they think very much about or they’re just busy creating.

Irene Berkowitz:
I think that what we did at we did ask one question of creators and we also asked about it asked it to consumers. We were careful not to take up too much time in the surveys with too many of these questions because as you just indicated most people in the industry and in the world just want to pay their mortgage, get through their day and they’re not thinking about these issues the way you and I might as a giant fascinating puzzle that needs to be rejigged for the 21st century. But we did ask. We did ask creators that whether they’re content if their content was promoted in Canada but that meant it was demoted in other countries which would which would be the type of thing that would happen because the platform is global. They what how this would impact their experience. And the answer was overwhelmingly negative because they depend on these larger markets to fund their Canadian creativity and they depend on these audiences.

Irene Berkowitz:
We also ask consumers about whether they thought the government should have a role in in regulating what they can see on YouTube and what they felt was that sixty five percent of Canadian consumers value YouTube as the best place to watch the same video as anyone else in the world. And a majority also believe that also 65 percent no government or other organization should determine what they can watch on YouTube. Now we asked that in the context of YouTube. We didn’t ask it in the context of protections around harmful content defined you know in many different ways. So I want to be clear about that, but it seems that you know in terms of YouTube’s ability to leap the walled garden, Canadian consumers and Canadian creators are quite protective of their right to access the global market.

Michael Geist:
Thanks so much for joining me on the podcast.

Irene Berkowitz:
Thank you so much.

Michael Geist:
That’s the Law Bytes podcast for this week. If you have comments suggestions or other feedback, write to lawbytes.com. That’s lawbytes at pobox.com. Follow the podcast on Twitter at @lawbytespod or Michael Geist at @mgeist. You can download the latest episodes from my Web site at Michaelgeist.ca or subscribe via RSS, at Apple podcast, Google, or Spotify. The LawBytes Podcast is produced by Gerardo LeBron Laboy. Music by the Laboy brothers: Gerardo and Jose LeBron Laboy. Credit information for the clips featured in this podcast can be found in the show notes for this episode at Michaelgeist.ca. I’m Michael Geist. Thanks for listening and see you next time.

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4 Comments

  1. Kelly Manning says:

    Regulators such as the CRTC sometimes ignore the Public Interest, and the results of their own Opinion Polls.

    The approval of Vision TV in the 1980s, not as an optional fee for viewing channel, but as a “Must Carry” channel required to get the “Linkage Fee” is a prime example. The CRTC sponsored opinion polls to get a feeling for what channels had enough interest to justify having the “Must Carry” designation needed to include an extra fee in monthly bills.

    Both the original poll and the 5 years follow up poll found that “The concept of a Religious Channel enjoys limited support in Canada.” Both polls found that less that 1 Canadian in 10 polled said that they had any interest in viewing a Religious Channel, EVEN IF IT WAS FREE.

    Vision TV was ignored by viewers to the extent that Toronto area Apartment and Condominium buildings began to replace the Vision TV channel with controlled entrance camera video feeds, to little or no comment from residents.

    When Vision TV came up for review after 5 years a 2nd poll showed even less interst. Statistics Canada “Culture Statistics: TV Viewing in Canada” showed Religious TV Viewing had dropped from 0.5% of all viewing to just 0.4%, despite having an entire channel of Religious TV added to basic cable over those 5 years.

    A Financial News channel that was part of the original suite of add on pay channels was allowed to die without being propped up with a mandatory Pass Thru fee, despite polling higher than Vision TV. Vision TV was propped up and the CRTC took the bizarre position of thanking the Religious Leaders pimping the Vision TV channel for their “dedication” for promoting a channel that more than 90% of Canadians had no interest in viewing, even if it were free. Instead the CRTC propped up Vision TV with a $1.20 (plus GST) annual Tithe. That may sound penny ante, but over the last 3 decades that has drained a mandatory Tithe of $180.000.000.00 out of the bank accounts of Canadian Cable Subscribers.

  2. Vision TV was ignored by viewers to the extent that Toronto area Apartment and Condominium buildings began to replace the Vision TV channel with controlled entrance camera video feeds, to little or no comment from residents.

  3. David Yurdiga
    Are we prepared for the the YouTube generation. I like to call because that’s the that’s the medium they’re playing in at this point.

    Nice.

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