Joseph Choe

Really Simple Syndication

I worked more than two years at a company that dealt in the Internet “content creator” space, and I use those double quotes as ironically as possible. Here’s a bit of what I learned, which admittedly wasn’t all that much to begin with.

Invariably, YouTubers, streamers, podcasters, and others of that “tribe” are much the same. And when I say that, I’m not trying to cast any aspersions on anyone whose livelihood depends on these platforms. After all, I derived my livelihood myself from that space as well and even use many of the same platforms in order to promote my own work. Only that “influencers”, for lack of a better word, all have the same incentives driving their actions, which means they act in the same way no matter who they are.

Their livelihood derives from attention, meaning that eyeballs on their content can be monetized. And attention means engagement with the platform in question. This is why every influencer asks you to “Like”, “Comment”, “Subscribe”, “Write Reviews”, or otherwise engage with the platform, because these activities increase their own visibility on said platform. The so-called “gods in the algorithm” at work.

However, I think there must be another way.

Some amount of engagement with the platform is unavoidable. Getting others to see whatever it is you’re producing is a long, arduous task, and these platforms really do help in that endeavor.

Yet I think it is a mistake to be so dependent upon a third party, no matter how trustworthy they may seem today. And given how prone many of these platforms are to curation and censorship, it’s even more of a problem than many may realize. There are many stories of prominent influencers having the rug pulled out from under them by these platforms, even though such an outcome was predictable and maybe even inevitable.

Which is why, instead of asking for more engagement on another platform, I’d much rather drive traffic to my own website and my own feed that I am able to control. Such control should only be relinquished in the most rarefied of circumstances, and yet it is often the opposite that is true.

Though with the trend of some cloud computing companies pulling hosting for certain content they don’t like, perhaps even that is not a sure thing. It’s a never-ending battle.

It’s also why I don’t really engage with platforms at all. When I click and poke and prod at a platform, my attention is being tracked. Instead, I aggregate their content through my own RSS aggregator and try to leave as small a footprint on these platforms as possible.

Even YouTube channels have RSS feeds that can be queried and aggregated. It’s as easy as right-clicking the channel page, viewing the page source, and looking for the RSS alternate link relation:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" href="{channel_id}">

There are also services out there that will convert Twitter or other platforms without native RSS support into RSS feeds you can consume.

But RSS is still not quite as widespread as I’d like. These standards have been around for more than a decade, so it’s really sad that they’re not used more generally. People are reliant on mobile applications that are really just tools to track their online attention and movements.

In any case, it’s always better to exert some control over your own destiny. If your own financial future is tied up with a third party, you will come to regret it.