How Phil DeFranco plans to save YouTube

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Phil DeFranco’s new YouTube channel Sourcefed is expected to hit 100 million views this Friday, just three months after it launched as part of YouTube’s new professional channel initiative. His own Philip DeFranco Show continues to rack up millions of views as well, and his little company is about to hire more folks and add another show to its roster. You’d think that’s enough to keep anyone busy, right? But for DeFranco, there’s one more thing left to do: Empower the next generation of YouTubers by founding his own network of content creators.

Do we need to #saveyoutube?

Ever since YouTube embarked on its ambitious plan to bring more TV-quality content on its site by giving content producers a reported $100 million in advances and rolling out an ambitious redesign, there has been talk whether this will hurt small-time producers. Some content creators have actually taken issue with the site’s new design. Others have alleged new algorithms rolled out this spring are hurting their views, and a few even started a #saveyoutube Twitter campaign this week.

For its part, YouTube has said that recent changes have overall been positive for creators. “Net daily subscriptions are up 50% since January and watch time has been increasing in the past 2 months,” the YouTube team wrote in a blog post in response to the #saveyoutube campaign a few days ago.

So when I caught up with DeFranco during a phone call this week, I wanted to know what he thought about the whole controversy: With YouTube becoming more professional, are people left behind? “I don’t think this is hurting people that aren’t part of it,” he told me with respect to the new channel initiative, and added: “Most of these troubles that people are seeing right now are normal YouTube troubles.” YouTube content creators always had to be flexible enough to adjust to changes on the site, he explained.

Time to found a new network

So is all well in YouTube land? Not exactly. “Smaller YouTubers need to evolve, because it is a very toxic world out there,” DeFranco told me. It’s hard for up-and-coming producers to get noticed at all, he said. And when they finally catch a lucky break and one of their videos goes viral, they’re bound to get offers of help from all the wrong places.

DeFranco is particularly critical of networks and third-party service providers that promise YouTube producers the big breakthrough but do not deliver. “You see all these people with their services, which for the most part take advantage (of content creators),” he complained.

He’s heard the tale of people being fed up with networks that tied them up with long-term contracts all too often – and has started to think about alternatives: “How do we bring up the next batch of YouTubers without hurting them? Without taking advantage of them?” The answer: Phil DeFranco is going to start his own network on YouTube.

Give artists an audience, and money

He didn’t share many details on how this network is going to look like, and instead only said that it would be fairer than many of the efforts that are out there already. But if you want to get an idea of its spirit, you may have to look no further than to a show that Sourcefed is scheduled to launch in two months.

The show will focus exclusively on music, art and other forms of creativity, with the goal of establishing direct connections between artists and their audience. One example: DeFranco’s team will capture the making of a mural via stop-motion animation, then turn it into a short clip and also sell prints of the artwork on YouTube itself. The idea is to give artists a big boost for their audience, but also offer them a chance to actually make money with their art.

In other words: DeFranco wants others to benefit from his massive audience as well. “We are in a really fortunate situation to fix things that are broken,” he told me.

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