Voov Media – A Cautionary Tale

I just need to get this off my chest, so I can breathe again and get back to making things. My blood pressure has been up for the past 6 months now.

When my dust mask video went viral, I got several requests for permission to use it. I gave permission to everyone that asked. I also got several requests for mask sales collaboration and YouTube reminded me (again) that I was eligible for monetization*. It would be nice to get some cash coming in, but I’m going to do my thing broke or otherwise. During the heat of all this, an offer came that I took seriously.

I feel obligated to say that I did not make one red cent from the attention that video got. Money is not what motivates me. It was incredibly rewarding to have made something that so many people found useful, albeit by chance rather than design.

Voov Media found the video and sent me an email wanting to use my work on their platform. They were offering me 25% of the ad revenue. I looked them up and didn’t find much. They have a (low effort template) website, their instagram is dead, and their Facebook page is private. This gave me some concern. A little bit more digging revealed that they are/were successful enough that at some point Facebook wanted to buy the company. I took that as assurance that they weren’t just the same desperate and sleazy marketers as some of the others.

The agreement was straight forward and bare bones. I have been a contractor for years and I know what kind of traps to look for. I have written contracts myself. The most important thing that matters to me when I am evaluating an offer like this is the exit strategy. In this case:

“Either Party may terminate this Agreement, with or without cause, with immediate effect upon written notice to the other Party, unless otherwise mutually agreed upon.”

Good to go. If I don’t like what they’re doing, I can end it on a whim. This will come in handy if I ever pick up a real sponsor.

I signed their agreement the first week in May, and this is what they sent me:

“Thank you so much for confirming all necessary information and sending back your agreement. We have received the signed agreement. Please allow us up to 4 weeks to get your first video posted. We will notify you once it’s posted and follow up with a “Preferred Payment” form. You can expect payment at the end of every month, for the previous months earnings.”

Fast forward to May 31st, and I’m wondering where my “Preferred Payment” form is. More time passes but the virus has a stranglehold on the world, so I have other things to worry about.

June comes, and I get another email asking me again to sign an agreement. They are setting up a new portal for their content creators. Ok. I sign the new agreement and create an account. This is good. Now I can track what they’re doing.

But they’re not doing. I have no indication that they posted anything anywhere.

I found the FAQ on the new site and it says that creators are not only must alert Voov of new content, but it will also be “evaluated” before it will be posted. This is textbook bait and switch.

Near the end of October I sent them an email to complain. I got an automated response:

“We are looking into this matter and will get back to you shortly”

They didn’t do that either. About a week later, I sent them a very nasty email. I won’t repeat here what I wrote, but I’ll give you an idea of my opinion on companies like this:

AHEM.

Content creators CREATE things for other people and (sometimes) also to make money.

Content curators cannot exist without content creators, and necessarily depend on FINDING things that other people have created and USE them to make money.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

I didn’t go looking for them. They came looking for me. And from where I’m standing, it looks like Voov Media is just another desperate and sleazy internet marketing company looking for a cash grab and making false promises.

*YouTube changed its criteria for monetization just as I had reached the benchmark for payout. I got the check, and then got kicked out of the program. I wasn’t too mad about that because it was an early goal of mine just to see it I could get there. The way to become successful is to set reachable goals and then try to achieve them. When my ticking stick video blew up, I became eligible again. I really don’t want to subject my audience to advertisements anyway, so I never turned my ads back on.

My Homespun Philosophy

I’ve been posting woodworking videos on YouTube since around 2007. By the time I started trying to get serious I was already qualified for the partner program. I was successful for a little while. My numbers were good and I was drawing a lot of views from Instructables.com. All my articles were getting featured by the editors. I even won honorable mention for a hand tool contest. But there was resistance.

The biggest obstacle to getting a regular show going has been resistance from almost all the people in my life that I thought I could expect support from. I’ve been in construction and remodeling for half my life, and I have been working wood just as long. When I started talking about what I wanted to do, I was genuinely unprepared for the way most of them were reacting.

It was as if I suddenly announced mumble rap was my true calling in life.

I’ve already accomplished some remarkable things, both online and in my personal life. If I never achieved anything else at this point, I could call my life good. But there’s something else I want to do. I have a powerful motivation to share what I know. It comes from decades of dealing with people that appear to enjoy belittling others to make themselves look superior. I’ll explain by way of a quick story:

Once upon a time,

A man was killed in an accident. His wife was left with several children and one on the way. He was a busy farmer and there was work to be done, with or without him. As you may expect, the community reacted immediately. There was a lot to do, so lots of people showed up. A gate needed fixing, and that was my assignment.

While I was setting up for my task, I noticed a young man looking around for something to do. He was obviously there alone, and I saw him approach two older gentlemen gearing up for a crown molding project the farmer had left unfinished. When I looked back again, he was gone.

I found out later that when he asked them if they needed help, he was asked in return if he could read a tape measure. He said no, and they turned him away. Not long after that, he left and didn’t come back.

The end.

This is an example of gatekeeping and I hate it with a burning fury. I have many more stories like this, believe it or not. I’ll tell them too, and other stories about horrible bosses and peacocking egomaniacs.

Do you need someone to show you how to read a ruler? Pick me. I’m going to make a video on that. I’m going to make a video on how I sharpen my pencil too, because it’s the first tool you should understand. Sharpening your pencil is woodworking and becomes the first lesson about working with grain.

I’m planning a video series I’m calling Kinderhook Woodcraft ABC (Absolute Beginner’s Course). It’s a sloyd type exercise based on the way I work, starting with sharpening a pencil, and ending with making a small box. I use the sharpened pencil to mark a joint. I use the joint to make a tool. I use the tool to make a box. And it’s going to be free.

Because I am the keymaster and I want to open the gate.

I have no formal training, so it is my own philosophy on working with wood. My “homespun philosophy”, as one less than kind viewer once scoffed. It can be summed up perfectly by this quote from a legendary chair maker:

“By all means read what the experts have to say. Just don’t let it get in the way of your woodworking.” – John Brown

The word “kinderhook”, by the way, comes from the Dutch “kinderhoek” and means “children’s corner”. It’s also the name of an area in a rural part of Virginia near where I lived when I was younger. I took the name for a couple of reasons. First, because of the impact that period of time in my life had. The second should by now be obvious.

I aspire to share everything I’ve learned about woodworking in specific and carpentry in general. I will also share stories about how my woodworking experience has affected my finish carpentry skills.

Just bear with me. It’s happening at the speed of molasses. I am profoundly alone in this venture, and I’ve just had the rug pulled out from under me again. I guess I should tell that story too, because someone out there needs to hear it. It’s not about woodworking, though. It’s about greed.

Looking at you VOOV Media. Shame on you.

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