Turns Out Maker Is Building a Platform, but Not Killing YouTube

Hiring developers for fall rollout

Maker is definitely building a Web platform of some sort for its growing roster of YouTube talent—possibly a site built around a specific content vertical.

But a YouTube killer? Not likely. In fact, Maker has expressed to YouTube officials that it does not plan to pull content off the site and continues to see YouTube as a core part of its business, per sources.

It stands to reason that Maker remains committed to YouTube. Founders Danny Zappin and Lisa Donovan have publicly stated that they ditched potential Hollywood careers to build a business on the Google-owned video giant. It’s highly unlikely that Maker would suddenly pull all of its talent off YouTube, said multiple sources.

That doesn’t mean the company won’t look to diversify. Maker has hired developers and a tech team to ready a platform for this fall, according to sources. It’s unlikely that the site will be a single "Maker branded" destination. The company, like most in the Web video space, is looking to diversify as it faces a sea of millions of YouTube creators all looking to catch the attention of advertisers—while having to share roughly 45 percent of dollars with YouTube.

Maker surely doesn’t want to build something that is open to anyone, like YouTube is, and doesn’t want to touch user-generated content, per sources. But it does want to control more of its business. Per a source, Maker execs were courting executives from the VC firm Greycroft a few months ago and could seek more funding for the platform.

There’s little doubt some angst has been building up in the YouTube ad world, with more and more creators looking to divert users to their own sites.

“These MCNs just aren’t making enough money,” said a source.

“Everybody is in a hubbub, and CPMs are down in significant way,” said another.

The cause of the hubbub were comments made by YouTube creator Jason Calacanis, who said he knew of two YouTube competitors coming, including one from Maker.

Calacanis told Adweek that his channel has successfully converted between 1-4 percent of its subscriber base to email subscribers in just three months. He believes most YouTube creators could easily shift roughly 10 percent of their audiences to owned-and-operated sites. “You can lower your dependency on YouTube now,” he said. It’s realistic for Maker to “build a viable co-exister to YouTube. In one year you could have 15 percent of your people moved over.

“The problem is YouTube has created a resentment," he continued. "The conversation amongst creators, it’s turned adversarial … [YouTube] wants to obscurify your ability to understand your relationship with advertisers. They want to create legions of dependents … It’s really socialism.”

“YouTube has no idea how precarious their dependency is on the YouTube stars and how fleeting it is relationships are," he said.

Of course, there are plenty of doubters when it comes to just how socialist the team behind YouTube is, or how angry the general creator environment is. Many make thousands, some millions, on the platform. And some have privately questioned Calacanis' motivations for going public with his positions, considering that until recently he was taking funding dollars from YouTube.

“YouTube’s been a tremendous partner,” said Fullscreen CEO George Strompolos, who just announced that his company has taken on funding from WPP, Comcast and others. “Just like with any media company, you want to distribute any place where you can make money. YouTube in particular is a tremendous place to build a company. But you go in with your eyes wide open. The notion of not putting all your eggs in one basket is not  really a new concept. But it’s a little strange that people are rallying against the mothership.”