Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why my blog may go away soon

If anytime in the near future you come here to my blog and you get some kind of page error or redirect from blogger, it will be because Google terminated my account and deleted my blog.

Yes, that is right. It seems I have managed to kindle the wrath of the capricious head god of the internet, Google, and my YouTube channel, gmail account, and most sadly, blog now teeter on the edge of annihilation.

It's a story that goes back three years.

It was 2009, and while I had had a YouTube channel for a couple years before then and tried many series of videos ranging from travel vlogs across Europe to 3D animation software tutorials, I had never encountered run-away success with anything.

Then one evening in early fall, as I was dealing with a huge infestation of mice in my house, I randomly had the idea to set my camera in front of a mousetrap. Five minutes later, I had the video that would define my online money-making career to date. A slow motion video of a Victor™ mousetrap in action.

It wasn't successful overnight, rather it grew slowly but steadily until late 2011 when there was a significant uptick and views went from around 100 to six or seven hundred a day. By this time it was around 200k views and I was earning a steady couple dollars a day from it in advertising revenue.

Then, a few months ago, late this summer, after spending weeks attempting unsuccessfully to start a tech review website and accompanying YouTube channel, I applied a few of the simple traffic and SEO strategies I had learned to the mousetrap video. Views went through the roof and continued to climb, reaching a steady 5-6k by September.

While the video was hugely popular, it wasn't long enough to be effectively monetized. It was late summer so I set some more mousetraps. I got more videos of mousetraps that were longer, meaning more ads could be displayed on them.

While these videos didn't generate much traffic on their own, I became very successful and routing traffic from my one uber-successful video to these, while keeping great audience attention.

My short-term financial goal for adense was to be earning $120 dollars a month by November. That's when my student loan grace-period ends, and I knew I would need that much at least to make the monthly payments. By the time I uploaded my forth mousetrap video, I was tantalizingly close to that with around $100 a month, and I was extremely thankful that despite being chronically unsuccessful at finding employment since I graduated, I now wouldn't have to worry about my student loans.

That was when the problems started.

While all the ratings on my videos have always been overwhelmingly positive (85%+) there has always been a vocal minority––of the militant animal lover type––who were outraged at the videos. YouTube is full of haters and trolls though, so I was never particularly worried about them, and any malicious comments were always shouted down by the vast majority of my viewers who loved my videos.

As my channel became more successful though, some of these angry people started flagging my videos. As I said, my first mousetrap video had been there for three years and received 200k views, during which time Google earned lots of advertising revenue and never had any issue with it.

Then last month, I got a message that one of my videos had been removed for violation of YouTube's community guidelines. There was no option to appeal, and the video fortunately wasn't one of my major revenue sources. So I took the strike on my account and carried on.

A few weeks later I received an email that another, older video had been deleted for community guidelines violation and being my second strick in six months, my account access had been suspended four two weeks. This one was non-sense on stilts, as the video was of a mouse not-getting caught in a trap, and and it wasn't even harmed in anyway. Obviously haters from my other videos had just been going through my account and flagging all my videos regardless of their content, and some half awake Google content screener in India who thinks rats are sacred had approved the flag. I appealed the flag, and YouTube sided with me, removed the strike from my account and reinstated my administrative access.

After the first incident though, I had started making the transition to videos of live-capture traps, hoping that angry animal rights vigilantes would be less likely to sabotage them. And it was working. The same demographic who had been leaving hateful comments on my account before started saying how they "appreciate[d] my ethics."

I also started reviewing traps and posting Amazon affiliate links to them on external websites linked to my videos. My revenue increased several fold, and by two weeks ago, I was comfortably over $100 a week and had a clear-cut path to increasing that by three to five fold in the next couple months.

After almost a year of having no money, financial stability, and maybe even financial independence were finally on the horizon. Last week I invested in about ten new live-capture traps to test and review, and they should be arriving tomorrow in fact.

But last Saturday, things started to unravel.

Another one of my videos––this time one that had been there even longer––was deleted. I contested it, but my appeal was almost instantly denied. So now I'm locked out of my account for two weeks, barred from appealing for 60 days, and have two community guidelines strikes on my account. Which brings me to why I won't be surprised if I lose this blog in the near future.

If I get a third strike, Google will terminate my account. Not just my YouTube account, my entire Google account, meaning gmail, Google+, and, most sadly, my blog. When I first created my accounts on YouTube and Blogger, they were both independent companies. Then Google bought out YouTube, and a short time later blogger as well. So now, a completely unrelated event on my YouTube channel may be about cause the termination of my blog. (I feel like this holds some kind of geopolitical analogy for protecting the sovereignty of nations, but I won't go into that).

The obvious solution to ensure my Google account doesn't go on the chop-block is to manually remove the remaining video of a lethal mousetrap in action. Unfortunately, I can't even do that for two weeks because my administrative rights are gone––giving some Google employee somewhere a chance to kick me while I'm down if they so desire, and delete my account while I don't even have the option of doing what they want me to do to rectify the situation.

Assuming that doesn't happen (which it may) and my account survives the 12 days left to me regaining access, I will have a very tough choice.

The one video that I feel may be in danger of getting me another strike is also my flagship video. That is, the one that generates the 5-6k views a day that I can then re-route through my other videos. The live trap videos may be producing lots of revenue, but they can't if no-one watches them. So if I delete my flagship video, my revenue will basically go away. Of course I can undelete it in six months when the strikes expire, but just stop and think how much money I will have lost by then:

$100 a week for six months.

That's like $3,000. And that's assuming no increase in revenue growth––and there has been a steady increase for the last four months. If it keeps up at the rate it has, I should be earning more like $300 a month by the beginning to 2013. And that's not counting the loss in momentum from removing the video and the re-publicizing it. There's no guarantee I'd ever even get back to $100 a month and the end of the six-month hibernation.

So I have to ask my self the question: Is guaranteeing the safety of my blog worth a possible $10,000+ loss? Is it even worth a definite loss of $3,000––when that's currently the only thing making my student loan payments?

I think on the stock market they call that the decision between "extreme fear" (doing the obsessively safe thing) and "extreme greed" (doing the extremely risky but profitable thing). Only in world markets I believe they want to strike a balance between those two. I don't seem to have a balance available.

I don't know what I'll decide, and this is really all getting to me a lot more than I should be letting it. But that's all my problem. I just wanted to let you know what was up, in the event that this blog is no longer here next time you look for it.


Joseph said...

This blog post... I laughed, I cried, I got angry... that the pathetic opinions of ax-grinding commie twits have the power to shut down and shut up someone like you who is posting content like this.

YouTube hosts bazillion videos of people who feed live bait to their over-sized snakes, lizards, frogs, and fish. They're horrifying to watch, but people can choose not to...

Yeah. What Google is doing here really ticks me off.

Taiduk said...

what a ridiculous situation- where are people's brains situated these days?
sorry you've been the victim of this sheer unadulterated stupidity (there must be a better word than that, but at this moment it eludes me...)
maybe, at the end of this, sanity will yet rule?? hoping so...

Andrew said...

Thanks for your support guys. Really means a lot to me.

Jessica said...

This makes me so sad! Hang in there!

Lindsay said...

I agree with Joseph on the laughing, crying, and angry point.

Can you export your blog and upload it on a different Google account? That absolutely sucks how just because YouTube has melted into Google, now your blog is at risk. As if this whole core issue wasn't ludicrous enough! Mice are not sacred. They sure are cute, but they're not not supposed to be inside.

I'm sorry.

Andrew said...

Yeah, I do periodically download export files from my blog, so if worse comes to worse I can upload that to another account or a Wordpress if I want to. I'm afraid I would still lose my photos, but it's better than nothing.

Jonathan Hinterberger said...

That is ridiculous. I can't believe some of the mumbo jumbo politically correct stuff people throw around these days! And then that it's catered to!
Sorry about the situation, Andrew! :(

Maryah said...

And how many videos on Youtube filled with barbaric and inhuman content are viewed, promoted, and shared every hour? It doesn't make sense.

This is frustrating.