The webcomics blog about webcomics


It was a slow day in webcomickry (and honestly, appears to still be), but that’s not to say that there’s nothing of import going on. I’m not one to follow YouTube stars, but there’s no denying that they can be an enormous force for good and ill¹, creativity and crazy.

And it looks like they’re unionizing.

Hank Green — who I gather is huge on the Tubes (as teh kidz might say), but I really only know him as the brother of YA author John Green — made an announcement on Twitter about a … I’m going to call it a manifesto-cum-call to action over on Medium:

There is no system for protecting creators, many of whom have no experience in any industry, let along the notoriously cut-throat entertainment industry. I’m ten years into this and I kinda can’t believe that there’s still no centralized organization representing creators.
So I’m creating one.

The Internet Creators Guild is positioning itself as part PR shop, part lobbying force, part informational clearinghouse, part mediation service, part I’m not sure what, since the stated goals are hard to argue with, but also kind of nebulous:

Here are some things we want the ICG to do

  1. Help the press talk intelligently about online video.
  2. Share stories and strategies from professional creators that will be available only to members.
  3. Increase transparency about what creators do and don’t receive from MCNs, advertisers, agencies, and managers.
  4. Act as a bridge between creators and platforms and advise platforms on how to best serve creators.
  5. Help to clarify the role of new products and developments in the world of internet creation.
  6. Share useful information on everything from dealing with stalkers to understanding your audience.
  7. Advise conferences and events (including VidCon) on how to create great conversations about internet creation.
  8. Foster diversity in online video content, including but not limited to language, age, race, gender, and economic opportunity.
  9. Provide case studies of successful strategies for community building and monetization.
  10. Provide and explain sample contracts for sponsors, managers, MCNs, merchandise, and agencies.
  11. Unify the voice of online creators to create change.

Here are some things the ICG WILL NOT DO

  1. The ICG can’t get into the game of picking and choosing what kind of content is or is not good for the world. That must be left up to individuals to decide because otherwise the ICG will become the internet morality police, which sounds like an awful job.
  2. Riling up angry mobs. The ICG is committed to working with all stakeholders. The ICG will amplify voices and it will take positions, but it will always strive to understand the complexity of these issues, explain them to members, and work with other stakeholders to move forward.
  3. Tech support. Not sure what’s wrong with Premiere? Your upload is taking forever? YouTube is down? That’s not our thing.

It’s not on the list, but I bet there’s a newsletter.

Green’s up front about the ICG being focused on video creators since that’s where he and his advisory board have experience (there’s people listed as board members, but apart from Green I couldn’t tell you who any of them are), but leaves the door open other people who make their living on the internet to join. It sounds like the sort of conversation that webcomics had about a decade ago, where the consensus was there really wasn’t anything for a bigger organization to do. Then again, I don’t recall any webcomickers willing to pony up US$50,000 in seed capital and hire an executive director. That part aside, it seems like a bigger-scope version of Webcomics Dot Com, down to the US$5/month membership fee.

And I can’t help making the parallel between ICG and WDC, because I’m not sure what an organization of this type will actually be able to accomplish, beyond the we’re a resource for people trying this and also there’s some discounts from vendors approach that Brad Guigar² has taken with WDC. I have a feeling it’s very similar to ideals that, say, the National Cartoonists Society started with, but which these days is best known for giving out some pretty spiffy awards at a pretty nifty drink-up. Given the video-creator-heavy nature of the governing body, I hope that the ICG does better making members from outside the founding cadre (webcomickers? bloggers? Esty crafters? indy authors? you can call almost anybody an internet creator³) feel welcome than some NCS oldtimers have done with dames and coloreds and those webcomics kids.

Since I don’t know anything about the vlogger community, I don’t know how the announcement is being greeted (but given that it’s YouTube, I’ll wager there’s at least ten angry videos posted about how it’s a conspiracy/plot to steal viewers/way to keep me from the success I deserve goddammit), and heck, I don’t know if there are conditions in that community that would make this endeavour especially necessary, but I can’t help but feel that Green’s looking at a vast pool of creators, a small percentage of whom can be said to be financially secure, and trying to bring them all to the same level — an aspiration that’s probably at odds with both Sturgeon’s Law and basic economics.

I’m giving the ICG a 50-50 chance of making it to the end of year three, just because any new entrepreneurial project faces those odds. But if the likes of Ryan Sohmer or whatever Robert Khoo’s next thing join up? Then the sky’s the limit.

Spam of the day:

Join the Hustle, Build Some Muscle

If that’s not a Crossfit pitch, it should be.

¹ Don’t forget the three most terrifying words in English: YouTube comments section.

² Obligatory disclaimer: he’s dreamy.

³ If the majority of your business is creating content, you can be a member. is how it’s worded in the launch announcement.

One specific aspect of “vlogging” that may make this endeavour necessary, or at least more necessary than with webcomics, is that video creators have to deal with an oligopoly of video hosting platforms (YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion) on which they are entirely dependent (in practice at least).

For instance, YouTube has in the past unilaterally changed monetization options and/or removed them without allowing creators to keep using the existing option. Such an union would provide at the very least an interlocutor that could speak on behalf of the unionized creators on such occasions.

There are also decisions by these same actors that are particular (e.g. a creator losing his channel URL following a trademark claim, handled entirely by YouTube) for which such a union could provide advocacy.

Such a specificity is not mentioned in the announcement, but it’s the only reason I see for which such a union would be more necessary than for webcomics.

[…] I said that a big signifier of the future of the Internet Creators Guild would be if a Sohmer or Khoo joined up and now Sohmer has; look for representatives of disciplines outside of vlogging on the governing […]

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