Welcome Earthlings!

Alien artifacts found on Mars. But the aliens in this case are earthlings! The Mars Rover Perseverance encountered the back shell and parachute it used to descend to the surface of the red planet. And its helicopter took an aerial photo.

Welcome to my New Blog!

Hello everyone!

Lately I’ve been very interested in reclaiming my content from all of the various platforms I’ve put stuff on over the years. For a long time I would put posts like this up on Medium and post it separately to Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

But the home base was never mine.

So I am establishing a new home base for my text based content. And from here I’ll be linking out to all of my other stuff vs. the other way around.

I initially built this with a really neat open source project/app called Hugo. What I liked about Hugo is that it goes back to the simpler days of the web where plain old HTML is served up vs. some prone to hacking blogging engine that will need constant updates.

The problem is that it was a real pain to work with. Image processing was a mess and a real manual process. I couldn’t just drop something in. And I had to re-sync everything and run a process every time I made a small change.

WordPress is a little more than I need but it’ll work for this project insofar as workflow is concerned.

This rabbit hole all started with a recent video that I did on podcasting and culminated with a deep dive back into RSS.

I’m not sure how often I’ll post here but I am going to be experimenting with automation to see what cool things I can do with this.

Stay tuned!

CMM469: Entrepreneurial Content Creation Syllabus

CMM 469: Entrepreneurial Content Creation Syllabus

Course Description:

In this course we’ll explore ways to earn a living as an independent content creator making commodity video content for YouTube, Amazon and other platforms. Students will learn how to create effective product review videos, optimize those videos for search engines, and measure their performance with analytics tools.

Given that this field is so new we’re going to learn things together. While there are important concepts that you need to learn, a bulk of the work of the course will be hands-on video content creation that we will collectively evaluate and improve.


Our Mission:

  • You will learn the foundations of modern independent content creation including ethical and legal considerations.

  • You will learn how to produce content that is concise, informative, entertaining, and discoverable.

  • We will work collaboratively as a class to improve our work product by sharing feedback and ideas for improvement.

Grading:

Attendance 20%

Participation 20%

Test on Concepts 10%

Your Produced Content (5) 50%
 

Content will be graded based on effort, applying foundational concepts that you have learned, and improvement from one piece to the next. As this is a collaborative learning process, attendance and participation are critical components of your grade.

Deadlines: We will evaluate your produced content collectively as a class. Therefore late work will not be accepted unless you have an extenuating (and documented) circumstance that prevents completion. If you anticipate a problem that will prevent you from completing your work and/or attending class you will need to notify me ahead of time so that we can appropriately plan for your absence.

Cell Phones / Computers: Your phone and other electronic devices will be silenced and put away during class unless we need it to shoot or edit video. The only screen you will be looking at is the projection screen at the front of the classroom. If you have a problem paying attention in class it will impact your participation grade.
 

Plagiarism : Copying work that is not your own will result in an immediate failing grade. Any scripts you write will be your own work. Any video you use will be your own video unless it is a transformative fair use and its source is properly cited in your production.

Class Communication: I will only be on campus once a week and will be communicating with you via University email and Blackboard. You must regularly check your email and blackboard account for important class announcements. Please feel free to contact me via email whenever you have questions or concerns. I will do my best to respond to you promptly.

Snow Days & Virtual: The best way to learn is in-person. You need to be in class with your peers to be successful in this course. I will not simultaneously stream the class and will not record it. However, if weather or some other extenuating circumstance prevents me from safely traveling to the University we will switch to Zoom or Google Meet at the same time our class normally meets. 

 

Content Creation

You will produce five pieces of video content over the course of the semester. At our first class you will choose a “vertical” to focus on and produce content on that topic.

You will not be graded on production value, so a smartphone and a simple video editing app will suffice. However you do need to ensure your scenes are well lit and your audio is clear without distracting background noise. Video length needs to be sufficient to cover the product or topic that you are covering in the video.

Your finished videos will be presented to the class where we will collectively offer feedback. You can then revise it based on that feedback and submit it to me for grading.

You may also wish to publish it on social media platforms like YouTube. While it will be helpful for our collective learning process for these videos to be made publicly available this is not a course requirement if you are uncomfortable doing so.

Course Schedule, Topics & Assignments

Schedule is subject to change so please check Blackboard regularly

Week 1: January 25, 2022:

Introduction to the class & review of the syllabus. I will show you a few examples of independent content creation and talk about how I earn a living doing this work. We will also look at and critique a few of your favorite content creators.  

Assignment: You will choose a content vertical for the semester and bring a product or item from that vertical to our next class.

 

Week 2: February 1, 2022:

We will discuss the ethics of independent content creation including Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines regarding proper disclosures of compensation, free product, etc. We will also do some “live reviews” of the items you chose and brought to class.

Assignment : Shoot and edit your first video review. Yes it’ll be rough but you have to start somewhere! 


Week 3: February 8, 2022

No cringing: We’ll begin by watching and critiquing your first video production! Following our critique session we will discuss optimizing video discoverability including the fine art of thumbnail creation, titling and video descriptions. For those comfortable we will get your YouTube channels established and your first video uploaded.

Assignment : Refine your first video and upload it if you choose to post it publicly.

Week 4: February 15, 2022

No net: We’ll begin with an overview of how to work with clients and meet their expectations. We’ll also dig through the vast amount of analytics data YouTube provides content creators which will form the foundation of understanding how to refine your content to meet the needs of the commoditized content marketplace. Following that we will review your first videos as a class. Then we’ll look at getting your YouTube channels set up if you choose to do so. 


DUE: Video 1 – Assignment : Shoot video 2

Week 5: February 22, 2022


All about the money: we’ll look at the various ways content can be monetized and how you can earn a living as an independent creator. Topics will include ad revenue shares, viewer revenue, affiliate marketing, and more. We will critique and evaluate your second videos.

Due: Video 2 DRAFT. Assignment : Refine videos 1 & 2 to stay caught up. . 

 

Week 6: March 1, 2022

Avoiding the Suits: Copyright, Fair Use, and Automated Content ID: No you can’t use Justin Bieber’s latest hit in your video if you hope to earn revenue. But the law does have carve outs for “fair use” of copyrighted material if you have an army of lawyers to defend you. 


DUE: Video 2. Assignment: Study for the quiz on all of our lecture topics to date. 

Week 7: March 8, 2022

QUIZ on our prior lecture topics. This will include copyright, fair use, ethics, FTC guidelines and analytics. After you’re all done with that we’ll discuss “tending the garden” of your online communities. How should you react to negative (or positive) feedback? 


Assignment: None – have a nice break

Week 8 : March 15, 2022

SPRING BREAK

 

Week 9: March 22, 2022

Roll your own QVC: Live streaming is a big part of the modern content ecosystem and the latest trend is “live shopping.” Where streamers are taking the place of a live salesperson that would normally help customers at a retailer. 

Assignment: Produce your third video

 

Week 10: March 29, 2022

Amazon Influencer program: Amazon has a video platform that is as profitable as YouTube for many creators. We’ll look at how it works and how to get started. We’ll also critique your third video.

Due: Video 3. Assignment: Sign up for the Amazon Influencer Program if you choose to do so

Week 11: April 5, 2022

Going Long Form : We’ll look at the dark art of podcasting and try to make sense of the many hosting and platform options available. We’ll also look at how some podcasters leverage platforms like YouTube to aid in discoverability.

Assignment: Produce your fourth video

 

Week 12: April 12, 2022

InstaTikTokBookTwitter : Can you repurpose longer content for shorter platforms? Absolutely. We’ll look at some of what you produced and figure out ways we can upload shorter clips to other platforms to promote what you’re doing. We’ll also critique your fourth video.

Due: Video 4. Assignment: Produce your fifth video

 

Week 13: April 19, 2022


Looking back: For those that opted to go public we’ll take a look at your YouTube analytics and see how your content performed and what we can try to do to improve its discoverability. We’ll also critique your fifth and final video. 

Due: Video 5. Assignment: Refine your past videos if you feel you could have done better on the earlier ones

Week 14: April 26, 2022

Workshop: Need some hands-on help? Bring your footage and we’ll work together to spruce things up. This will be an open ended session to help you finalize your channels and get things put together for final grading.

Week 15: May 3, 2022


All that you know: All of us will share our reflections on the semester and what we’ve learned. We’ll also have a final workshop session to spruce up your work. All content needs to be finished by May 10 for final grading. 

FAQ: Disclosures on the Lon.TV YouTube Channel

So lots of people ask why I’m now making these super long disclosures on the videos I make. The reason can be best summed up by watching this video:

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The tl:dr is that I feel as though influencer marketing is broken. Too many reviewers on YouTube are not disclosing the fact that their videos were sometimes bought and paid for by ad agencies or brands. It’s ok to take advertising and endorse a product, but it’s not ok to hide the fact that compensation and/or free product was sent in exchange for the review. In the interest of making things more concise I have created this FAQ to better answer exactly what I’m going to do moving forward.

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Why do you take so long to disclose things?

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US law requires that I make these disclosures in the video itself, not the video description or anywhere else. If your favorite YouTuber is not making disclosures in their videos they should be.

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I’m a subscriber and I’m tired of your disclaimers, can you stop or just run a ticker on screen?

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No I can’t. I need to properly disclose things to be in compliance with the law. 85–90{9b3f03aa8663be41a10744a8d211f0911dd01c348dbc078d652ec54ea3f13c6a} of my monthly viewership does not come from subscribers so it’s important for people who have never seen one of my videos to know where I’m coming from and hear from me directly on it. Given how bad things have become in the industry I think an on-air read is more important to do vs. just running disclaimer text on screen. Other YouTubers should be doing the same.

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Do you pay for everything you review on the channel?

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While I purchase many of the products you see reviewed, some come in directly from brands or indirectly from a brand through the Amazon Vine program (see more on that below). My preference when accepting products from a brand is to have the product come in as a loaner that I can send back to the company when I am done with my review. Often, however, a company doesn’t want the product back. In those instances I will either integrate the product into my workflow on the channel, sell the product to help offset my production expenses, host a giveaway for viewers, or donate it to a local school. It will vary based on the item. When a company doesn’t want a product back I will tell you that in the video disclaimer.

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Do you ever get products in to review ahead of their official release date?

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Occasionally I do, yes. And when I review a product ahead of its release I will tell you that the company reached out to me to review it ahead of its official release. This is important to disclose because there are sometimes economic advantages to the channel when we’re given an opportunity to review a product early.

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Are you paid for reviews?

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No, I will not take money for a review. But I do produce sponsored posts for brands from time to time and I may appear on a brand’s channel or website talking about products I feel comfortable endorsing.

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Tell me more about sponsored content!

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I will disclose what posts are sponsored in the video itself and in its description. My YouTube thumbnail will also be dark green to separate it out from the yellow thumbnails that indicate the video is a review. Sponsorships usually involve a brand or agency paying and/or sending me product free of charge for the production of the video. You can see an example of a sponsored post here.

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What is your criteria for accepting sponsorships?

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It must be a product I feel comfortable recommending to others. If I am not comfortable with a product or think it stinks I won’t take their money. I’ve turned down many of these offers in the past and will continue to do so.

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If you get something for free will you still call it a review?

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I have thought a lot about this question. The answer is yes, it will be called a review so long as the brand is not directing input into my editorial process. If a brand asks for certain things to be in the video or requires a video be looked at prior to posting it’s no longer a review and will be labeled a sponsored post. When the yellow band is on the thumbnail and the video title is a review it means that nobody (except me of course) has provided editorial guidance.

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Do you participate in affiliate marketing programs?

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Yes. Affiliate marketing programs provide the channel compensation for sales driven by affiliate links that you will see in our video descriptions and sometimes in the video itself. If you click an affiliate link and purchase a product we receive a portion of the sale. These links will be labeled “affiliate link” or “compensated affiliate link.”

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What is the Amazon Vine program?

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Amazon Vine is how I got my start doing this! You can read more about the program here, but this is how it works: Amazon receives items that a brand wishes to be reviewed on the Amazon sales platform. Amazon offers it to reviewers who are members of the Vine program based on an algorithm.

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When I was an Amazon Vine member I reviewed the product on Amazon’s site and also uploaded the video to my YouTube channel. There is no direct communication between the brand and me, and Amazon is the one doing the matchmaking. Amazon and the brand have no editorial control over what I post in the review.

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**Did you get to keep items from the Vine program?n**

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Yes every item received through Vine is a keeper. I was required to hold onto the item for at least six months and then I was free to do what I want with it. It’s important to note that every item received through Vine is reported to the Internal Revenue Service in the United States and I was required to pay taxes on the value of the items. So there was a cost to participating in the program if I didn’t donate the item to a charity (which is what I often did).

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How do I join the Vine program?

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Nobody knows how they got into the Vine program, myself included. Amazon says they look at your reviewer ranking and how engaged and helpful you’re being with other Amazon customers. So try that :).

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Why should I believe you?

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I can’t make you believe me. But I am making a very strong effort here to be up-front with viewers as to the nature of my business relationships. One of the challenges new media creates is that there is no longer a “firewall” between sales and editorial. I am the CEO, host, video editor, technical director, business manager, sales manager, and probably a few other things too. So I have established these guidelines for myself to follow until such time the channel is large enough for a sales department :).

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Changes to this document since publication:

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4/27/2022 – Moved the document to my own server (away from Medium) and also updated the Amazon Vine language to indicate that I am no longer a member.

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12/14/2020 — Added language about affiliate links & pre-release access to products for review. I also swapped out the old video embedded at the top with a more recent and relevant one.

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Contact

My email is lon@lon.tv.

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While I would love to help everyone who is experiencing technical problems I don’t have the bandwidth to help walk you through a technical issue.

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The best place to get technical help is through our Discord and Facebook Group.. I am in them frequently and we have some great regular viewers who can help too.

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If you are having trouble with Plex definitely check out the Plex forums.

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