Through going to conferences and talking with people about Common Craft, it's apparent that people have no idea how Common Craft could be a successful business. From their perspective, they can watch the videos for free, so how does it work?
I want to answer this question because I think it's important context for understanding why we make the decisions we do.
In business terms, we are a "B2B" company, which means business-to-business. We make videos that are focused on helping businesses, schools, and other organizations accomplish their goals. These customers buy the licensed, high quality versions of our videos to educate employees, students, and website visitors. Our revenue comes from organizations and individuals who want the better versions, but also the permission that comes with licensing.
Now let's talk about the alternative: B2C or business-to-consumer. Being B2C means making products for use by everyday people. In which case, we might charge for viewing a Common Craft video, perhaps through a membership service or pay-per-view. Our revenue would come from individuals who pay to watch and learn from our videos. We decided not to be a B2C company.
Here's one way to look at why this makes sense: In the B2C model, it's more difficult to build brand awareness. Only paying customers would see the videos. We decided early-on that we would give our products to consumers via sites like YouTube to help spread the word. These versions of the videos would educate, but also have ads for Common Craft. Over millions of views, this helped build brand awareness and lots of links to our website. A percentage of these viewers might think "Man, I love that video, but I need a version that's more appropriate for the workplace" or "I'd love to show this in my presentation, but I need a downloadable file." These needs illustrate demand on the B2B side that comes as a result of giving our products to consumers.
Our challenge is to find ways to continue to provide free videos to consumers while increasing the awareness and demand for the licensed versions for workplace/professional use. From this perspective, I hope you'll see why we're making videos on things like Insurance. Our focus is not making something cool for You Tube, it's making something valuable for individuals and organizations with specific goals.
A note on custom videos: Making custom videos is a part of the Common Craft business model, but is not our focus and more easily understood than licensing. This article on Read Write Web explains our move away from custom work.