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My Content Creation Strategy for L2SFBC

Here’s what I want to achieve with content creation, and why:

  1. Safety through education – automotive recreation, be that offroad driving, towing or fast cars is inherently dangerous. I believe education can lower that risk, hence my work. 
  2. Inform to decide – providing information so the right choices can be made. For example nobody should be in a situation where they’ve ended up with a trailer they can’t tow, or spent money they don’t have on gear they don’t need but were sold.
  3. Social responsibility – humans have the potential to be incredibly destructive, so let’s take care of our environment.  And let’s also work against discrimination and prejudice, and for diversity.
  4. Help others educate – the principles of what I do are not unique to automotive content, but can be applied across other topics.
  5. Provide opportunities for others to earn or contribute meaningfully. 
  6. Create a self-help community – I believe social media can be better than Facebook, Instagram and the rest. 
  7. Make a decent living – because bills have to be paid!

Background to Content Creation

There are only two reasons anyone consumes any content – entertainment and education.  Entertainment is by far the most lucrative.  Epic stories sell, as evidenced by successful books and movies, and good stories don’t date, whereas information’s relevance often fades with time.  At the other extreme, we enjoy sugar-hit content where people fail or there’s simple humour.  I’ve just done some work around floodwater safety; the creator who allowed me to use his flood-fail videos simply records with basic camera equipment, does basic editing of the results, and – millions of views per video.

There is nothing wrong with easy entertainment, but I’m interested in the other reason for content, education. That doesn’t pay as well as the best entertainment because human nature means it’ll appeal to a smaller audience, but I prefer it as I feel it’s more rewarding – education can save lives, save money, make the world safer and better. 

Money is required to create content, and especially technical content which often requires equipment, products, and services; you need to buy a lot of gear to work with, make models, do lots and lots of research. That investment needs to be repaid; roughly, views are equal to income – more views, more income, although that equation does vary according to who watches the video; I have a video with around 600k views that has earned me less than some with 100k. 

The basic means of earning through video is indirect advertising, where YouTube pays creators for adverts inserted before, during and after the video, so the more views, the greater the income albeit with the caveat of who is watching.  YouTube income ca be more sufficiently lucrative for a living provided you get enough views, but that’s very difficult with educational content. Think back to the last movie credits you saw.  How many names scrolled by at the end?  When you make a video, one person is doing ALL of those jobs, and many more.  It’s impossible to do them all well, and the income doesn’t justifying paying for specialists.

Hence, educators have an income gap which is often plugged by sponsorship.  The problem with sponsorship is erosion of independence and therefore less of a focus on education.  The other way is to shift back towards entertainment, but that also typically compromises education.

Another risk to the consumer is brand-created content, where companies eschew any cooperation with a creator and simply make their own.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean the content is designed to sell to the consumer, not help them, and this is often well masked.

Now for another problem. Social media, and particularly Facebook.  It’s a mostly terrible platform and we are only on it as everyone else is.  A lot of junk content. Poor moderation.  Terrible search.  And this is intentional.

The reason is that on a free platform the company’s income is dependent on your time on platform and your engagement – the longer you’re on, the better. That is why they employ every trick in the book and invent new ones to keep you scrolling, and the most effective way to do that is to play with your emotions, particularly negative ones, and fill your feed with sugar-hit low-value content. You’ve probably seen the studies on the negative mental health effects of social media.

What does the ideal content future look like?

My vision is a network of creator-companies focused on improving life and safety through education. There’s equivalents in all sorts of field; boating, flying, gardening, health, politics, finances. My niche is automotive, but I need not be the only automotive one, everyone has a different style and focus even if the subject matter is identical.

The companies would share principles, standards, techniques, resources, footage, media and more.  For example, I might want a clip of a cyclist in high and low gears to illustrate high and low range in 4x4s.  I could get that from the cycling people.  We could share resources too; anyone technical needs animators and illustrators for example. The concept of a pulley is common to 4×4 recovery, sailors, arborists and more..why reinvent the sheave, work out how best to explain technical concepts to our audience.  This idea of collectivism isn’t new, and already exists in some form.

Today, people consume content “horizontally” as I call it; they will pick a topic and watch multiple channels. With magazines you had “vertical” consumption; buy the mag, read whatever is in it. The advent of horizontal consumption means collaboration between creators is mutually beneficial as the audience is no longer a zero-sum game as it was in the days of print.

Another advantage is diversity. Any given person has a given worldview and appeal. I’m a middle-aged male with a technical mind – I don’t pretend to be able to connect with or understand people outside of that demographic which is a problem if the mission is safety through education.  For example, I know my Loser Driver video isn’t directly appealing to young people.  But I don’t have a set of young people on staff to TikTok it so it works for their demographic.  Similarly, it’s hard to put myself in the mindset of a beginner…if I could grab someone from another creator company they could be that beginner for me.  I’d like to see more women present tech topics as I subscribe to the “you can’t be what you can’t see” view of the world, and women just being there, doing things is to me a powerful statement.

And then there’s tech help.  Behind every technical video is an immense amount of knowledge and work. I am extremely fortunate to have the assistance of many people who understand physics, equations, chemistry, law, psychology and other sciences much better than I.  These kind people help out of the goodness of their hearts, but I’d like to pay them.  I’m sure there’s many very good experts who wouldn’t mind a bit of a retirement-income top-up from time to time, and I just feel there’s so much incredible brainpower being wasted away in coffee shops after the 9-5 jobs ends. I also feel that, even if the expert doesn’t need the money, being able to contribute to something would be rewarding. On a related note, it would be nice if the industry actually helped with research to help its own customer base, but I’ve never been able to make that happen in even a small way.

Another risk to consumers is being shown dangerous techniques in the name of entertainment. I’ve written about this before, but in short there is a difficult balance to walk between entertainment and safety.  I have it on good authority that the example one popular influencer contributed to a 4×4 recovery death. This is a tricky subject but that is no excuse for not trying to address it and I feel a content creator network would be ideally placed to lead that thinking as the principles would be the same across 4x4s, flying, scuba and whatever else.

Consumers would be part of a community of like-minded people, and here’s the important change from a free social media platform – because you’re paying, you become a customer, not a product.  The platform takes your monthly subscription, and no longer really cares how long you spend on their platform so long as you pay.  Contrast that with Facebook which is all about psychological tricks to keep you engaged on platform as long as possible, mining emotions, because the longer you’re on, the more ads it can show you, and the more revenue you generate for it.

Imagine a world where you find a favourite creator, and follow them for say $5 a month. You get access to their content early, and ad-free. You are part of a like-minded community on a platform geared to help you communicate, not sell you ads.  If you want other content, you can look elsewhere in the network to find other creators with the same values, and follow them for another say $3 a month, not another $5. Creators also care much more about a follower who is paying them a subscription than a follower on a free social media site so you’re more likely to get a response, and a better response.

Conceptually, it’d even be possible for the platform to run a system where it rewards supporters who create quality posts or help others, something seen to a some degree with web forums.

There is even a way to accept sponsorship which doesn’t compromise independence, and that is for the sponsorship to be independent of the subject matter.  For example, I wouldn’t have a problem if say a bicycle company, a government agency or a investment company sponsored my work as there would be no conflict.

I’m also considering one-off crowdfunding for particularly expensive videos. For example, right now I’ve got $750 worth of recovery gear behind me which will cost around $3000 to break. That would require views of at least 400,000 just to break even, and to put that in perspective, my two top videos are 1.9m and 550,000 after three years. So, crowdfunding could mean the difference between that test going ahead or not.

Now unfortunately for the consumers, you will need to pay for independent, education-focused content as it is unlikely educators will be able to survive purely off advertising like high-volume entertainment creators.  But there are reasons beyond pure altruism to pay.

WIIFM – What’s In It For Me?

  1. Impartial, accurate advice and information as the business model is not entertainment or sponsorship dependent. Not to say it’ll be boring, but with no need to chase the clicks for entertainment, you’re removing the dependence on views-for-income.
  2. Easy ways to find content upholding the same values if you switch interests, a trustmark. Into 4X4 and want to learn about scuba? Here’s your creator!
  3. A better social media community where you’re a customer, not a product.
  4. Sense of contribution to something worthwhile, if only passive. Potentially even an income source, or a least a “why”.

Risks?  You cannot assume that impartial content will survive without support, so you must get behind that which you value.

My plan

  1. Organic growth on Patreon or other platforms; creating a better social network.
  2. Find advertisers or non-conflicting sponsors.
  3. Build helper network of tech advisors across various disciplines, and in time, hopefully pay them in money or in kind.
  4. Monetise “merch with a message” because slogans work, someone once said.
  5. Hire help – animators would be #1, and in time, even a model-making team. Also create a range of voices on-screen from different demographics. I would love to give others a head start.
  6. Creation of “Education Creator’s Network” with like-minded creators.
  7. Team that builds content – I get to be a director of content not a one-man-band! I’d actually rather not be in front of the camera (or operate it), I want to be figuring out interesting problems and that’s why I’ve used “L2SFBC” as the name; it doesn’t put my own name front and centre, and could be applied to other topics than automotive.

So that’s my strategy, plan, dream.  I don’t know how far along that path I’ll get, but if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there, right? What do you think of this plan and do you want to be a part of it, and if so, which part?