I've been watching the whole controversy between Steven Crowder and the Daily Wire with interest. Not because I love drama and the resulting fall-out, but I think it has become a showcase in media contract negotiations and the state of conservative media.
If you aren't caught up on the whole issue, I would highly suggest you go back to Crowder's first video in which he highlighted sections of a non-binding agreement with the name of the organization offering the agreement blacked out. He gives heavy, passionate criticism of certain sections, and argues that those sections are tantamount to aligning with Big Tech.
The Daily Wire's Jeremy Boreing (co-CEO) took an hour to admit it was theirs, and respond in video form, going through the entire contract and putting forth why they offered what they did. He took the time to explain the thinking behind the whole offer, and noted that they considered it a start in the negotiation process...not a final offer. They gave it expecting Crowder to come back to the table to have a discussion.
From there, Crowder responded and continued to point out that it wasn't about the money for him (despite some insinuation from Boreing that it was about money) but about a penalty written into the agreement, stating that if Crowder were to receive strikes or any bans from the major platforms, his payment from Daily Wire would be docked. Those penalties ranged from 10%-20%, depending on the platform.
Crowder was adamant that the model Daily Wire uses does not have to be the industry standard, and that he can prove that another model can be used, which does not penalize the content creator.
Crowder's point boils down to this: if he took the contract, and people found out, then they would pile on to ensure that he was banned from the major platforms, thus taking a major chunk out of his payment from Daily Wire.
Daily Wire views it as a business proposition, and points out that if they do what Crowder wants, they're taking all of the risk and Crowder has no incentive to remain on the right side of the social media giants. Crowder uses this and some veiled comments to insinuate that Daily Wire is getting too close to Big Tech, and playing their game.
Ben Shapiro has come out on his show today, and while I have not watched it, the titles seem to defend Daily Wire. Tim Pool will have Crowder on his show on Monday to discuss the entire thing.
So why does this matter to you?
I have a couple of reasons. First, I think every content creator in the conservative sphere should be watching this entire process unfold, and should keep a very close eye on what is said. The conservative media sphere is treading on new ground, and fighting a new battle. We need to understand the landscape, and how to cooperate with each other as we break into new territories. Crowder is right: Big Tech is not our friend, and they have created a hostile environment for any conservative content creator. His heart is to protect the next conservative creator who is coming up behind him, and helping shift the mindset of the conservative business model. He doesn't accept that we have to play the Big Tech game, but Daily Wire does...at least until sites like Rumble are truly competing with the big dogs like Youtube. I'm sorry, but there is no “conservative” or “free speech” version of any of the social media giants that can even come close to the market share those popular companies have.
Crowder is passionate about the ethic of the whole thing, and the protection of the conservative creator. I don't for a second believe he is about the money in all of this. Of course the guy wants to get paid. Who doesn't? He needs to feed his family, his employees, and his employee's families. He needs to ensure that the Crowder brand has a future. I totally understand.
But I also can see the point of Daily Wire. They're a business, and as such, they're looking at Crowder as a product. They're asking themselves: can we pay for this product and make profit off of that product, so that we can invest that money into gaining more market share?
Daily Wire is going after the entire entertainment sphere. They're producing shows, kids programming, movies, intellectual specials, political shows, documentaries, heck I think even some comedy shows. They need resources to do so, and Crowder would have been a massive name to leverage and gain more revenue to produce even more content.
To take on the risk of that product suddenly losing it's value is a dangerous proposition for a business. The business mind of a guy like Jeremy Boreing is saying, “Of course increase the reach and value for the product, but how can I minimize my risk and increase my opportunity of reward to further the mission?”
Boreing has 250+ employees and their families to think about. In his video, he estimated the total cost to the Daily Wire would not just be the initial offer to Crowder of $50 million over 4 years, but closer to $100 million after everything is said and done.
That's a ton of money for the Daily Wire to tie into a single talent.
I also wonder: if the contract is that offensive to Crowder, why he sees something so different from what Jordan Peterson sees? I'm sure the contracts were somewhat different, but my guess is Peterson had a similar clause. If anybody is at risk of being canceled, I would argue Peterson is towards the top of that list.
And to the Daily Wire's point: what good is a product that is canceled? They're then tied into a 4 year contract with a broken product? I'm sure there is a work around, but it is an obstacle.
This entire fiasco is frustrating, but in the end extremely useful. I don't agree with Crowder airing the contract and pointing to it and lodging his complaints publicly. Not only this, but he recorded a conversation he and Boreing had, which to me says he had plans to air out his complaints about Daily Wire.
That reeks of ill-intent, and a belief of ill-intent on the side of Daily Wire. He even said that he's only recorded his conversations three times. So one of those times is to record a supposed friend of ten years, because you didn't morally agree with the INITIAL offer they gave you? Look, I'm not on team Daily Wire on this, but I wasn't impressed with how the whole situation came about.
Daily Wire, in all reality, had no choice but to respond publicly and give their defense of the matter. And I have a feeling this battle is only going to get worse. Crowder is not one to give in or back down, and the Daily Wire feels their character has been grossly marred by a supposed friend.
That leads me to a second point: we all should be watching not only for the state of contract negotiations in the conservative media sphere (and it has been oh-so-educational) but we should be reflecting on the chaos of public feuding with people on the same side as us.
I think both sides need to chill out and really have some back room out and outs. They need to shake hands at the end of the day and realize that they are all on the same team. I don't believe it's fair of Crowder to castigate Daily Wire as being a Big Tech lackey, and I think Daily Wire would do well to really become introspective of how they're going to help protect and promote their conservative talent with an eye on what those people can do in the future: whether with or without them.
I don't like that Crowder aired it out in public. He stewed on this thing for several months, and then brought the whole thing out in the open, and obviously was ready for the battle. You don't record friends who you're having a personal heart-to-heart with. If he wanted to use it as a teaching moment, he could have kept it extremely vague, discussing things like, “Look, in the past, we've had some contract negotiations where the contract stipulated that the content creator would assume a portion of risk if being banned by Big Tech. Here's how to watch out for that, and here's how to get around that.”
It wasn't that though. If it was a teaching moment, it was a cheap veil of teaching over something that stuck in his craw that he couldn't seem to remove.
As for Daily Wire, they need to not buy into this. I'm already dreading watching the Ben Shapiro response, because I have a feeling he's just going to pour fuel onto the fire in defense of his own company. I hope that's not the case, but I'm not carrying much optimism.
This brings me to another point of view in the whole situation. I believe you need to watch Tim Pool interview Crowder on Monday. You can go to Timcast IRL to view it, and it is likely going to be extremely enlightening. Pool has been around the media sphere for a long time, has worked for big organizations, and is on really good terms with all parties involved. The best part is: he won't back down when he sees something that he feels is wrong.
I actually feel better that he is going to have Crowder on. I think he'll let Crowder air his heart and how he sees it, and Pool will redirect the thinking where he needs to, without throwing the Daily Wire under the bus.
Pool has built a very successful organization for himself, and has done a lot for the independent media culture. He's not necessarily a conservative, but he has had his own battles with Big Tech, going as far as to really go at a couple of higher-ups from Google and Youtube on the Joe Rogan podcast. He has guts, and somebody with guts and a clear head needs to be a part of this whole thing.
I don't like drama, and to me, this reeks of the old Youtube personal battles that used to overwhelm the site. People would go after each other, doing response video after response video. I'm so grateful the drama died down, but I fear this may spark another round. Crowder is always willing to get into a public drama fight, and I fear that Daily Wire isn't willing to just put out another single video and say, “We will not comment anymore on this topic. We have opened up private channels with Steven Crowder, and we will respect his privacy, even if he doesn't respect ours. Our goal at the end of the day is the furthering of the conservative movement into every sphere. Sometimes, we don't see eye-to-eye, but at the end of the day: we're all on the same team.” If I had to guess, I would say they're almost as willing to be in it for the long haul as well.
So stay out of the drama, and be careful not to get heavy into one side or the other. But learn from this. Grasp every lesson you can about contracts in media, the state of social media, the conservative sphere itself, and how to conduct yourself publicly.