Canadian Heritage recently released a report “Canadian Culture in a Digital World” (http://www.canadiancontentconsultations.ca/home) following consultations on how to strengthen the creation, discovery and export of Canadian content in the digital world. That report and a second report published by the Public Policy Forum’s “Shattered Mirror Report – News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age” hope to shape what Canadian digital content will look like and how it can be sustainable and come out from the shadows on Facebook, Google and other existing and emerging digital platforms.
Who is a Canadian digital creator? What Canadians are driving online content?
Most who venture onto YouTube will know of Casey Neistat, with over 6.6 million subscribers, he is the world’s most famous “YouTuber”. There are Canadian YouTubers producing interesting digital content to be watched and the annual YouTube festival “BufferFest” was created by a Canadian and is held in Toronto. Bufferfest brings hundreds of digital creators from across Canada and around the world to premiere creative digital content AND thousands of fans from around North America. Bufferfest is the #Oscars of the YouTube/Digital world.
BlogTO, a Toronto based blog listed the 10 most popular personalities in Toronto – http://www.blogto.com/arts/2014/10/the_top_10_youtube_personalities_from_toronto/. I am not huge fans of the crazy YouTube creators, but enjoy good creative content that I can’t find on regular platforms. One of my favourite Canadian digital content creators is Bradley Friesen who takes his viewers over the BC Mountains via his helicopter. His uploads of winter camping in a snow cave and ice hockey on a remote frozen lake has incredible views of Canadian mountain landscapes and he brings this every week to your handheld of desktop screen. He has seen success on the YouTube platform as his subscriber base has grown to over 200,000. For every one YouTube creator that has the success of a Bradley Friesen there are thousands of creators who have very few subscribers, and who revel in the ‘hundreds of views’ that their videos may attract. In Canada they create content with dreams of attaining a small portion of the subscriber success that only a few reach.
Both reports talk about money that is leaving Canada for platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Google and Netflix. Coming out of the flow of money leaving Canada has been the notion that one government or another would institute a “Netflix Tax”, a tax not limited to Netflix but aimed by the Canadian government to recapture a portion of the money in advertising and subscriber fees that leave Canada and land in the US in places like Facebook or Google.
The missing link in the conversation for those that advocate strongly for the Netflix or Internet Tax is that the Canada Media Fund, which provides creators with money for projects, is out millions of dollars through this money that does not pass through Canadian hands. I am not pushing for the Netflix tax, but the same creators the decry who decry the tax must have to wonder, ‘where will creators expect to be funded if there if the pot is empty?’
We can discuss monetization, the method in which YouTube video creators are paid, but to make a substantial amount this way almost every video posted would have to be a viral success – a success that requires months and years of building a subscriber base. There are not many that can build a base through one endorsement from a Casey Neistat, not everyone can become a Sara Dietschy or diSCIpling Recovery who after an endorsement from Casey will see subscriptions skyrocket. Let me add that those endorsements do not come easily – you better be damned good and have interesting content to get the Neistat seal of approval.
The problem remains how does Canada fund new digital creators? How will Canada grab a portion of the money leaving Canada that could lead to a thriving digital community of creators? Is the answer a Canadian platform version of YouTube, think of a CanTube, a place for Canadian digital creators won’t get suffocated in the millions of creators from around the world and a place where Canadian media/Producers can discover new imaginative and challenging digital content creators for larger platforms?
The Canadian government will be presenting legislation or a direction this spring for a new digital creative centric system based out of the #DigiCanCon consultation report. Many will say it falls short, many will say it is too restrictive and there will many that object to any sort of funding model that resembles the CBC.
It seems like it might be a lose-lose outcome when it should be a win-win.
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