Hey, kids! Let me tell you a little story with some commentary about a company called SourceFed. First, the short history: Sourcefed was a YouTube channel started by Philip DeFranco as part of YouTube’s original content initiative, which ran for just over five years. The channel built a name for itself in the first year and a half before DeFranco sold the company to Discovery as part of his portfolio Revision3 in 2013, which led to more exposure and bigger changes. The company saw hosts come and go from its YouTube channel, podcast, and other outlets that focused on pop-culture content but always pushed forward because the people they hired loved what they do. In March of 2017, despite the channel coming back from a series of slumps and issues, a merger with Group Nine Media eventually led to the channel being canceled. (I know, we’re skipping a lot, but their five-year bio is not the story here.)
Now, keeping things in perspective, SourceFed being canceled wasn’t what you would call a major blow to YouTube content. But the channel itself and all of its properties were pretty cool and the people behind it were really passionate about it and creating stuff that you couldn’t easily find on 800 other channels. And it sucks to see a team of about 40 people who loved what they do get laid off by a corporation who most likely saw what Discovery was putting into their budget and decided that wasn’t for them. Of course, we’re not in charge of anything at GNM, so we have no idea what the hell led them to kill the channel or what kind of money was behind it. So we’re in no real position to say if it was the right call no matter how we feel. But… when you shamelessly rebrand their channel as your own and move forward with resources you already have, we sure as hell can comment on that action.
If you’re not totally familiar with GNM, they own NowThis, one of the companies that produce those short social media videos about the news with text across the screen and instrumental music underneath it. You’ve probably seen a few this week alone while pretending to work in the morning. When SourceFed was canceled, everything they were working on was halted, which included their channel SourceFed Nerd. On May 4, GNM changed that channel’s name to NowThis Nerd, and this little video popped up.
In 156 seconds, Michael Calabro basically tells you “Hey, remember that channel we killed and all those people we laid off? That sucks. But you know what? We’re geeks, too! We’re taking over and things are gonna be great!” What he doesn’t mention is that the channel didn’t start from scratch, and instead, was building itself off the audience of subscribers SourceFed worked so hard to garner. The video states that they have the same goals in mind as SourceFed did, which doesn’t make a lot of sense when you fired the people who were making it in the first place. What’s more, the company isn’t taking down any of the old SourceFed videos, since they’re monetized and are a source of income, so the company is earning money from content it didn’t even create or want to continue making. It would be like if Machinima somehow bought out RoosterTeeth, canceled everything they did, rebranded their channel “Machinima After Dark,” and kept all the Red vs. Blue episodes on the channel.
To say the company is receiving backlash is an understatement. The comments section for the video alone are ballistic, loyal fans went insane on Twitter and Reddit, several YouTube channels covered the change and firmly stood behind the SourceFed crew in what is clearly a cheap ploy to market their company as “the new cool kids taking over.” All of the videos that have followed the announcement have received almost unanimous dislikes, with people unsubscribing from the channel and continuing to do so daily, sending the channel below the one million mark and falling. Even on Twitter, the company failed to secure @NowThisNerd, which someone else took up and have now dedicated that feed to posting anti-NowThis Nerd posts. Like this one, featuring comments NowThis deleted from the channel by former SourceFed staffers and others in the industry calling them out on this.
— NowThis Nerd (@NowThisNerd) May 5, 2017
It appears NowThis are just riding out the storm and hoping the comments eventually die. (Because, let’s be honest, people eventually do move onto more important things in their lives.) Most of the commentary they’re receiving is pretty even-handed as people are telling the hosts that they blame the company and not them. But moving forward as a brand, how can anyone take the company and the brand seriously? You already had an established channel of experienced people who were respected by their peers and could have easily been incorporated into the new system. But instead, they fired everyone, kept their work, and are now moving on as if it were a speed bump down the highway to success. I’m sure there are people working there who believe it will all get better eventually, as they push forward with uninspired and sterilized videos with a beige-colored background about “what makes a Marvel sequel good.” But in the long-run, they pissed off a lot of fans and industry people who know better. Sure, the loyal NowThis audience may follow them over, but for the majority of people in the know, there’s no way they’ll have any credibility for the next few years.