On video


Realizing this morning there is a natural tension in me between scratching for relevancy and what kind of library of work I'd rather create.

I enjoy words much more than video, especially if I can include further media with it to make it an enjoyable reading experience. It's a process I actually enjoy. Conventional wisdom, however, is that "no one reads blog posts anymore". Even popular bloggers go to video to get bigger audiences. That may have been true, but now video is laced with algorithmic poison, forcing creators to output more, more often, subject to the format of their host's corporate whims. You hear about this nearly every six months as some rollout or change is deployed. This can be often unseen as creators suddenly see their traffic numbers shift or dip with no evidence why. Or, it can be very apparent; YouTube Shorts is a direct competition for TikTok, and is following corporate tech's Embrace, Extend, Extinguish pattern.

The fact that this puts you at the whims of a how a company sees best to monetize you in the moment, it feels generally hostile to me. Stale content often just falls off the map entirely in that highly curated space, leaving a domain of shocked emoji face shots with tabloid headlines.  Rare counterexamples go for more calming, experiences with loving shots requiring significantly more time to set up and shoot when working solo. Something I may be more inclined to do if time and energy permitted.

I have spent hours putting together video only to have it net less views than my average blog post before falling off The Algorithm entirely. Often, I wonder if that's due to my inexperience or lack of proper equipment. The thought can become a brief obsession; we live in a society where it can be easier to buy things with the hope of using them, than to set aside the time, energy, and mental bandwidth to actually use them. Bread and Circuses, but well-being and aspiration is reserved for the wealthy.

And even putting aside the way capitalism sours the entire field of video production for me, it's also just not as fun as writing. A channel full of videos doesn't fill me with the same sense of personal satisfaction as a well organized website of posts. It feels like a healthier pursuit, and dovetails nicely with how personal journaling has been an integral component of most of my life.

Yet, there's still a natural tension in to scratch toward relevancy. That devil on my shoulder which whispers, "but what good is it all if no one pays attention?" The shoulder-devil continues, "It only matters what is useful, not what you want."


It's easy to think that "useful" here is to the audience, that one should chase where the audience is. Someone once gave me an incredible piece of critical thinking advice:

Whenever something seems confusing, ask "Who benefits"?

Who benefits if I were to move to doing more video? Photography equipment manufacturers, certainly, as the equipment necessary for a proper set-up isn't cheap. The audience? Yes, but they're at the end of the process, and only receive what camels the middlemen deem worthy to pull through the eye of their algorithmic needle. It's video hosting companies that benefit the most. They get content to feed their businesses. Effectively, it's more digital landscape on which they can plant billboards. That is, until they deem your electronic geography too inhospitable, too unprofitable for their billboards. The fact it continues to be non-trivial to self-host video of any length or quality results in de facto gatekeeping. This makes video distribution, as it is today, an excellent way...to make money without doing anything. As long as the infrastructure of YouTube, or Vimeo, or Tiktok continues to function, they can use The Algorithm to shape traffic in a way to plant their billboards while claiming they do so for your benefit.

It's capitalism. "Who benefits" with modern video hosting is video hosts. Not video creators.

I wish it were easier to separate myself from this, but we live in a capitalist society driven by capitalist demands, such that our thoughts are shaped by the culture of profit and money. Even if I tell myself I'm not in this for any sort of profit, you can subconsciously equate "audience" with "profit", and I start feeling the need to chase audiences again. It's frustrating, and something I wish I could put behind me entirely