Audience not Algorithm | 2329

The game is over and we’ve all lost. We now have a fractured mediascape with smaller audiences and limited opportunities for growth. 

Full Show Notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2023/08/27/301-2329-audience-not-algorithm/

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Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded by @thejaymo


Audience not Algorithm

I’ve been under the weather this week and haven’t had the mental energy to write something interesting. So instead  let me tell you about a discussion I saw play out on Discord I’m in.

The Discord in question is a space for online creators to talk strategy and ask questions. It’s an open environment with a lot of interesting discussion. There’s a few name’s you might know in there, but the vast majority of people you won’t and I don’t either.

Such is the nature of celebrity these days, people with 4 / 5 million Youtube followers can be absolute nobodies to anyone outside of their little pocket of the Internet. But I’m in there and I really am nobody. But a few years ago I made some google spreadsheets for a friend of friend that other creators also found useful and got an invite. 

Anyways, anyone who makes stuff on the Internet knows that Web2.0 is over. The Discord’s general consensus is that for many, growth is flat. Reach on social platforms is harder than ever to achieve. And it’s pretty much pointless to promote work from one platform to another. Either because nobody clicks on links anymore, or links out to other destinations are punished.

One creator in the Discord has over 2 million followers on TikTok, with some healthy growth. However, like many people she wants to build an audience across platforms and 3 months ago started a Youtube channel. She’s promoted it a lot on TikTok throughout the summer and has 8 long form videos on her channel. Despite the enormous TikTok audience and some pre-existing success with Youtube shorts. As of the time of this recording, her channel only has 400 followers, averaging around 30 views per video. Which means that on Youtube, she and I are about the same sized creator. 

In 2023 an audience of 2 million followers on TikTok converts to 400 followers on Youtube. Which by anyone’s metrics is not great. 

Right now you can also have 100s of thousands of followers on Twitter and – if you aren’t blue checked – post a link to your newsletter and it’ll only get 100 views. Youtube also announced that it’s killing external links on Youtube shorts. Creators who make their living from reviewing things on Youtube are finding that the short version of their reviews are showing up higher in search results than their in depth videos. Essentially cannibalising their own audience and reach, reducing adsense revenues. 

Meanwhile, Threads is bust, Bluesky is still too small and overrun with bitter factionalism. Youtube has always been a long game. TikTok is more like an app made of quicksand than a traditional social network. Twitter hasn’t been useful for promoting work or building an audience outside of it for years. But its network effects now have basically dropped to zero. The only thing Twitter is good for is tweeting about things that happen on Twitter.

For podcasters both anecdotally and the numbers from hosting providers show that listener numbers are down too. Shows including this one have been static or dropped in their first 90 day listener numbers since January.

This is all to say that if you think social media is fragmented and difficult as a user – imagine being a creator. The environment that they, we, I, are pushing work out into has totally changed. The game is over and we’ve all lost. We now have a fractured mediascape with smaller audiences and limited opportunities for growth. 

I’ve spent the first half of this show talking about this situation not because I want to moan – though I would appreciate it if you could follow me on Youtube, subscribe to my email newsletter or even better, head over to thejaymo.net/support and sign up to my zine mailing list – but because I think this new landscape is actually a good thing. If people do find interesting things, people, scenes etc and want to stay up to date, they will need to actively subscribe. Whether its to a podcast feed, subscribing to a website, a newsletter or even an RSS feed. Because an engaged audience is better than a large one.

This will result in online creators across genres and niches starting to create different sorts of content. I don’t mean a newsletter writer pivoting to video, or as in my earlier example, a TikToker moving to Youtube. But content with a different flavour, a different substance. 

Things are going to look more like the Web 1 world – a fragmented patchwork of scenes, voices and platforms. Creators are already adapting to this new reality faster than audiences are. For example, podcasters like the blogosphere of old already do a lot of talking to each other as much as creating new and original content.

For the best part of a decade, people have been making content for an algorithm, not the audience. Worse, they haven’t been creating things for themselves. So if the feeds can no longer be relied upon to put content in front of new eyeballs then people are free to make the things that they want to make. Rather than making things that float well at the frothy surface of the social seas.

For some, this platform upheaval has resulted in a loss of income and uncertain futures. So if you see a creator whose work you enjoy saying follow me over here, or subscribe to my newsletter over there.

Do it.

At least in the short term.

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