What do you owe your audience?

Do the creators of free content owe anything to the people who are the receivers of that content?

For example, let’s say I write a blog post and put it on the internet, and somehow it becomes a smash hit. Everyone reads it. My blog goes viral, and suddenly I have an audience hanging on my every word.

From that point onwards, If I do not post a new blog every week, people get upset. If I post a blog which people disagree with, they get upset. Because despite the fact I’m not getting paid to write a blog and the fact that reading my blog is entirely free, this audience now has expectations that they feel I ought to deliver on.

Is that fair?

Because I am a total nerd who has no life, I spend a lot of time on youtube watching vlogs.

And a lot of vloggers seem to experience this kind of “youtube fame” were they have an audience of millions watching every week and judging every video.

And very often, because these are real people who happen to make videos on the internet in their free time, these people will skip a week, or stop making content for a while, or they’ll make something short and unpolished and people get upset.

And really, people do seem to take it very personally when someone they enjoy watching lets down their expectations.

So this creates an interesting dilemma. Does the creator owe something to it’s audience?

I’m talking about this because I used to watch this youtube channel called “Sarcaschicks”. They were alright, usually quite interesting and entertaining, and then about half a year agoish, they stopped posting videos.

Today, one of the girls involved in the channel put up a video for the first time in months. it was a single take, poorly filmed, rather rude video which was intending to explain why there had been no videos for so long. In other words, they didn’t want to do it anymore.

Fair enough. That’s their choice.

But still, watching this poor quality video and being told by this girl that “we don’t love you anymore” “we don’t owe you anything” in between giggling and joking around with her off camera friends and being told that she was too lazy even when the videos were regular to give a shit about making them.

Now that just doesn’t make one feel too good does it.

The creator doesn’t owe their audience anything, and that is even more relevant when the content is free. It’s meant to be fun, and if it isn’t fun, then what’s the point?

HOWEVER this isn’t a faceless creator and a faceless audience. It’s not like television or the cinema where there is a whole collective group of people and minds behind what is being created. The idea of a single creator becomes smooshed together into a bundle of people and effort. And the idea of an audience becomes a blurry, vague outline of thousands and thousands of people.

The difference between this and the internet, is that it’s very much more a one on one basis.

Even if a vloggers video on the tubes gets millions of views, those millions didn’t come from a ¬†hundred people sitting in a crowded room watching together a collaborative effort.

No. Those millions are accumulated single views, the majority of which come from the video being streamed into one persons commuter, one persons screen, for one persons sake. The video being watched was likely a pone person effort. And therefor, the audience can’t really be viewed as a faceless blob of thousands of people, but a thousand individuals interacting one on one with something you’ve created.

So it is, just a little bit more personal.

The fact that the content is free, the fact that anyone can create it and the vloggers on the other side on the screen are likely not to be millionaire professional film makers with a huge budget and production team who have the luxury of creating distance between themselves and the audience. More likely they’re amateurs, they’re just ordinary people like you and me.

And therefore, at the end of the day, neither the audience nor the creator should see each other as anything but a single person, one on one. There isn’t enough distance to create a wide enough barrier for criticism on either side to be harmless.

And while the audience and the creator don’t owe each other anything in terms of content and response, here is what they do owe each other.

A little bit of human decency and respect.

Because this is, effectively, a one on one interaction. When the audience reacts badly to a video or whatever, this reaction is impacting a single, unwilling, person. When a creator doesn’t make anything for months and their explanation is “I couldn’t be bothered” that is kind of hurtful to that one person on the other side, being told they mean literally nothing to the creator.

it’s complicated, but as usual, the answer I think doesn’t come down to who is in the right, who is in the wrong, who owes what to who and why.

it’s about just sucking it up and treating other people with a little respect.

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