In honor of Black History Month, every Tuesday I’ll be posting a video on Technology and using the Internets to your benefit for the month of February, culminating with a tech tweetchat on Tuesday, February 18th @ 7:30pm EST! First video up was inspired by Chescaleigh’s How YouTubers Make Money video, where I left a short essay of a reply.

There is so much negative misinformation in the Black Beauty ‘Guru’ silo on YouTube about networks and how they work. The correct term for a YouTube network is Multi-Channel Network (MCN) and is defined by Google as:

[…] entities that affiliate with multiple YouTube channels, often to offer content creators assistance in areas including product, programming, funding, cross-promotion, partner management, digital rights management, monetization/sales, and/or audience development.

Some of the more popular MCNs are StyleHaul, Fullscreen, Makers Studio/The Platform, & Alloy; with Stylehaul and The Platform (a subsidiary of Makers) being the most notable amongst beauty bloggers. All networks are not created equal just as all experiences with networks are not created equal. Let’s go ahead and keep it point blank period real – the racially ambiguous, White and Asian (call ’em RAWA) beauty vloggers are more popular than African/African-American content creators. However this is not entirely the faulty of MCNs. MCNs were introduced to YouTube about two years ago, however long before that the RAWA crew was already winning – namely because visually speaking they attract a more diverse audience. I’ll delve more into this topic at a later time, but the quick synopsis is White/European/Asian/Hispanic people watch them cause they can relate and African American’s still watch them cause we think they’re cute. Now us, especially someone like myself with very nappy hair, mostly people with hair like mines watch me and a handful of people watch me cause I’m snarky. For the most part the White/European/Asian/Hispanic ain’t watching cause I don’t look like them. We still watch regardless if the person looks like us or has a similar style, they don’t. Generalization, yes. More on that another day. All that to say you can not place the blame squarely on the networks.

When MCNs were first introduced there was a great dash to sign up with networks, especially when the network contacted you — making you feel extra special, like ooooh somebodies checking for me! A lot of people thought signing up with a network was going to lead them to Michelle Phan status, like yes I want $100k from Google too! We thought the brand deals were going to come rolling in, Macy’s & Target would want to host us, this was our ticket. Yeah girl, unrealistic expectations. So when networks hit us with the contracts talking CPMs and percentages many Black beauty gurus signed up without understanding the terms. Basically a lot of folks were Pebble’d like TLC. It is very true that since the rise of MCNs, a few of the RAWAs have seen exponential growth like HeyClaire and ShamelessMaya. Maya was one of the main influences of me signing with The Platform. However with Maya, what I saw was not just someone being put on because they were racially ambiguous but someone who worked their ass off and a team to support them in their endeavors. Maya was going to win regardless, The Platform just made her win bigger. And that’s what I wanted.

Now for the technical ‘ish:

CPMs = Cost Per Mille
For the regular folk that means how much money you collect on an ad per THOUSANDs of view. The quicker your video collects THOUSANDs of views the more $$ you make. Every MCN contract is based around how your CPMs will be handled and what percentage of the net revenue the network will take. Your CPMs should always be higher with network, as they have a dedicated sales team that can sell your ad space at a higher price, then YouTube, who set’s based on vertical and number of views. Main reason why folks sign to networks is because, in theory, it should mean more money in your pocket, even though the network is taking a percentage. When I left my first network and went back to holistically being on YouTube, my ad revenue dropped by 85% percent. The most unfortunate of weeks. That little bit of income helps to fund my channel — cause keeping up a channel takes a ton of time and equipment. So seeing that revenue drop definitely hurt. FYI — YouTube takes 40% of Ad Revenue.

SocialBlade is a great website that offers a ton of information on MCNs, content creators and all the metrics your heart desires. If you don’t like to read description boxes, then joining a network isn’t a good look — cause you need to read up before and after to make sure you are getting a good deal. Research and read up. Use SocialBlade to find other channels that are signed to the network of interest and reach out to those who are in a similar demographic as you, and those with a similar # of subscribers.

The worst they can tell you is no. So ask, ask and ask away. Be frank about what you want/expect. Be realistic about what you working with. And when you ask be able to showcase why you deserve what you are asking for.

Read Your Contracts
We’ve covered this already, just do it and save yourself the trouble. Ask for clarity, consult a lawyer — do what you need to do to ensure you understand what you are signing.

What Can a Network Do For You?
First things, first…you still have to put in work. Consistency, quality, content. It’s all you. A network does not come in and control what you put out. They simply take what you are offering and upsell it. Networks like Makers, may also offer distribution options if you are looking to sell branded clothing, bags and other trinkets. They help with Content ID and general customer service thangs that for most of us YouTube is often unreachable on. Also they help with branding deals, but you have to be at the level, where companies are interested in you. One of the hidden gems in signing to a network is being able to meet other content creators. Signing to Alchemy, although a shitastic experience, was how I met MahoganyCurls, TheKGLifestyle and LongHairDontCareLLC — all relationships that have flourished and have had organic collaboration because we appreciate each others work. With Makers I’ll be doing a photoshoot on Monday and I look forward to meeting a bevy of content creators. But be sure that your network offers these opportunities and is doing work to build collaboration across their scope of channels.

How Soon Should You Sign?
Ehh, this is of personal decision. I signed prior to having 10K subscribers when I did a deal with Alchemy Networks. However I had videos that were averaging 25K views, with several videos in the 100K realm, and my hair tutorials were doing really well. Look at the whole scope of your numbers. Engagement is always more valuable than static subscribers and if you’re like me where I had the views but not the following — a network might be of benefit. But work towards building your audience first so that you can get a better deal. It’s the same theory as being a music artist, the sooner you sign the more the label controls you — but if you work on building your brand first, you can demand more out of your contract. I would base it more around average video views per month. If it’s over 100K, I believe that’s a good time to consider a network.

I love being signed to The Platform. I have a very open and honest relationship with my channel manager. The network has definitely been honest with me about what they can help me with and very responsive whenever I ask a question or have a problem. I’ve seen other Black beauty vloggers complain about The Platform, but I haven’t seen anyone who is putting in the consistent work and quality of content complain about The Platform. Don’t expect to become the next Michelle Phan when you’re not putting out Michelle Phan level videos. I’m not privy to the relationship with StyleHaul, but there’s plenty of Black beauty vloggers who love their relationship with them and a few who got shafted. But again even there I’m often left wondering if people researched and read or even understood what they are signing on to.

More questions? Leave them down below and be sure to follow me on twitter for my tech tweetchat, I’ll be answering all questions there, so your questions will help me to prepare what to talk about!