There’s a troubling truth that every content creator has to face: the fact that most if not all of the platforms for which he creates content belong to someone else.
That may be Google, Meta, Medium, Newsbreak or any of a million other sites.
Now on the surface of things, that’s not terrible. After all, if you don’t own a site, you’re not responsible for its upkeep — its hosting costs, its employees, etc. All you have to do is show up and create content, hopefully with a paycheck soon to follow.
But the scary reality of that paradigm is one of which we would all do well to be aware: if we don’t own the platform, we can’t guarantee our access to it.
Let me explain.
Renting a room in a building you don’t own
YouTube is the second largest search engine on the web. Google, who owns the site, invites content creators from all walks of life to join and upload videos of anything from funny cat memes to professional-quality vlogs and documentaries.
Arguably, it is one of the best places to upload for serious video creators.
Even someone who produces high quality, valuable content that the masses seem to love and share could easily find his channel terminated in an instant. Many a content creator has awoken to an email from team YouTube with news that his channel was unceremoniously terminated for violation of the rules.
Now, sure, if the rules were indeed violated, termination is certainly fair. Yet many people seemingly have had their channels removed without any violations at all — not even so much as a copyright strike. Fortunately, sometimes these channels are reinstated when their owners respond to YouTube asking for a review. But many aren’t.
In an instant, days, weeks, months and even years of hard work and lost sleep can be erased because a platform you don’t own decided you were no longer welcome.
You say it could never happen to you.
You say you always follow all the rules.
And yet… It could.
An account can be mistakenly terminated by a well-meaning human or caught up in an automated moderation sweep by an overzealous bot. It happens.
When that happens, you might be able to reason with someone in charge and be reinstated. But sometimes that’s not really an option or the answer is “no.”
All that you’ve built gone. All the hard work up in flames.
It could happen anywhere.
Protecting yourself by owning an asset
But here’s the thing. If you own your own platform, who can ban you from it? No one but yourself.
If you truly own an asset like a website (that you host and can back up) or an email list, no one can take that from you. No one has the authority to ban you with a click, instantly torching all that you’ve built.
This is why I so strongly believe it’s vital for content creators to build websites or to build email lists. These are digital assets that can’t be taken away by YouTube or any other platform.
Even if your web host decided tomorrow that your content is no longer welcome, you could easily get back up and running on another. Or if your email service provider booted you, you could import your list to another service.
Sure, it would be a hassle to have to do that, but you wouldn’t be losing your business in a moment’s time because of someone’s errant click or an algorithm’s overzealous activity.
The last thing that any of us wants is to wake up one morning and discover that our hard work has vanished through no fault of our own. And yet it can and does happen.
But if you have an asset of your own to fall back on, even if you lost an account on YouTube or Medium or another platform, you wouldn’t be starting back from square one. You would still have something you can use to generate an income and grow.
And that’s the point.
Don’t be afraid to use the big platforms while you build your own.
Lest someone misunderstand me, I want to make sure I’m clear on this. I 100% believe in using YouTube, Medium and other platforms to grow. They are, after all, extremely popular and valuable tools for building an audience and attracting attention for your business.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with writing on Medium. I do so myself, and I highly encourage everyone to learn how to earn money on Medium. It can be a lot of fun. And YouTube certainly is a huge resource as the second largest search engine on the planet. It’s where masses and masses of people go every day to find entertainment, tutorials and a wide variety of helpful content. It makes sense to capitalize on that.
My point is that these platforms shouldn’t be your only platforms. At some point – hopefully some point soon – you need to build an asset you own and control, something that no one can take from you. It’s only then that you’ll be truly independent. Because until that time, someone – no matter how well meaning – could flip a switch or click a button and a big piece of your business or maybe even all of it.
A little encouragement
Look, I don’t say this to scare you. I say this to help you realize the reality: if you don’t own a platform, you have absolutely no control over your continued use of it. Certainly you should follow all the rules of any platform you use and ensure that anything you create falls well within the established guidelines so there’s no even so much as a question about whether or not your account should be terminated.
But that doesn’t mean your account couldn’t still be terminated.
However, let’s bring it back home and take a deep breath. The odds that your account on any of the big platforms would be terminated if you’re following the rules are extremely slim, and in the event that your account were to be terminated, you can typically appeal the decision (being nice and calm, hopefully).
Those of you who have been reading my content for a while know that I love writing on Medium and that I highly recommend it to anyone who loves to write. I wouldn’t recommend that if I thought that Medium was on a banning spree, terminating accounts left and right without cause. They aren’t.
And the same goes for YouTube and any other platform. If you follow the rules, you’ll most likely do just fine.
But it’s always best to be prepared by being as independent as possible, and that means creating an asset that no one can take away from you.