The first week of February 2016 will forever be remembered as one of the most controversial sequence of days in all of online video history. Why? Simply put, YouTube creators Benny and Rafi Fine of the popular The Fine Bros. channel tried to introduce a new program called React World, which would allow other creators to license their own versions of the "react" video format popularized by The Fine Bros.
A little less delicately put, the Fine Bros. made a business decision which led to a very poor reaction from their peers.
The announcement of React World did not go over well with the YouTube community, as well as many die-hard internet users. Reddit users campaigned against The Fine Bros., accusing the siblings of trying to trademark a video format to which they have no legal claim. Various YouTube creators brought up the past copyright takedown strikes they received from The Fine Bros., or accused the siblings of trying to bring a traditional Hollywood mentality into the indie-skewing online video community. The internet is still dealing with the aftermath of this kerfuffle, and rightfully so.
When your job involves dealing with content creation on a regular basis, you should follow a few simple rules to ensure your brand succeeds both in terms of wowing consumers and keeping up cash flow, without pissing off everyone around you. One, you need to know your audience and make both amazing content and transparent business decisions based on how to best serve that demographic. Two, you need to understand your industry and its overarching trends, perspectives, and flaws. And finally, you need to have a long-term, cohesive content strategy which benefits your brand, your audience, and even your industry as a whole (or you risk being seen as a company which didn't care to help shape the industry's future).
With React World, the Fine Bros. failed to follow at least the last two rules. In terms of the "know your audience" rule, I'd like to think the Fines had their audience in mind when they came up with the idea for React World, which would provide fans of their React series with even more enjoyable content to consume. And in their subsequent explanations and apologies, the Fine siblings did seem to be as transparent as possible when discussing their reasoning behind React World. However, all that mattered little, because the Fines didn't seem to pay much attention to the other two rules of content businesses.
In terms of understanding their industry, you'd think The Fine Bros. would be on top of that. After all, Benny and Rafi have been around the digital world for quite a while, creating content in some form or another since 2004. I don't think it's too presumptive to say they should've known how adamant YouTube community members are about separating themselves from anything that reeks of corporate greed. And yet even within their press release about React World, the Fine brothers claimed they were striving to "remain true to the new media ideals of doing," all while implying they had to keep up with the digital media industry that has "become more corporate." Did they not realize they were playing a dangerous game with React World, a venture which blatantly seemed to contrast the indie spirit of the online video community? Or were they choosing to ignore their industry knowledge in hopes of a bigger paycheck?
And that leads us into the third rule of content businesses: focusing on long-term, beneficial strategies. It seems short-sighted of The Fine Bros. to want to implement React World when many other creators in their industry don't look favorably on enterprise-level ventures, nor do they want that industry to move in that direction. React World may have seemed like a long-term plan to The Fine Bros. in that it would provide a system for other creators to license the "react" video format for years to come. However, that doesn't mean it was also a program that would benefit the online video industry as a whole. As many other creators and internet users pointed out, the entire idea behind React World (licensing a specific video format) could potentially open the door to other big-brand YouTube creators trying to license their own preferred formats or even video-related words (as Mega64's spoof of React World pointed out). This, of course, would ultimately restrict the creative freedoms of smaller creators. And that's a recipe for stifling the progress of any industry.
Only time will tell if The Fine Bros. recover from the debacle created by their React World decision. In the meantime, let their mistakes be a lesson to other content creators. Whether you're an individual or a company who makes video content, don't throw the rules of a solid content business and strategy out the window, or you risk tarnishing your brand's reputation for good.