In the last week I’ve started posting screencasts about LibraryThing, under my YouTube user name, LibraryThingTim. And, of course, I’ve been watching videos.
Today, I crossed a line I’m going to call “My YouTube Break-even.” The videos I made have been watched more times than I have watched others’ videos.
So, add up every time I’ve watched the eyeglass-catching video, FunTwo, Clay Shirky on love, Pulp, Tarkan, Fionna Apple, Weezer,* Turkish cooking videos, parkour, the anchorman and the lizard and John Stewart—which comes to 693 times—and it is just slightly less than my own videos have been watched. I have moved from being a net consumer to a net producer of YouTube videos.
The moment of relative equipoise is a special one—and rare. The sudden removal of access barriers to creative production and dissemination has created an explosion of “user generated content,” but it has not lead to attention equality. Traffic on the web tends to follow power laws. A small number of blogs, websites and videos get outsized attention.
It’s probably true that receiving attention correlates with giving it. People who write interesting blogs tend to read a lot of blogs too. But giving attention can never scale as fast as receiving it. If the laughing baby spent the rest of his life watching YouTube videos all day long, he will never see as many as saw his.
*Or Weezer, which ought to count ten times.