Two of the biggest names in right-wing media are currently battling it out, forcing their conservative viewers to take sides in a feud that perfectly encapsulates the modern internet culture wars.
On one side: Steven Crowder, the most subscribed right-wing content creator on YouTube. On the other side: The Daily Wire, a conservative new media company founded by Ben Shapiro which employs a number of other popular right-wing pundits like Jordan Peterson and Candace Owens.
And at the heart of the feud: a $50 million contract and YouTube’s monetization policies.
So, what’s this fight all about?
Big Tech vs. Big Con
It all started when Steven Crowder took to his daily show, Louder with Crowder, earlier this week and ranted about the details of a contract offer he received from a conservative media outlet. Crowder did not share many details regarding the contract. For example, he didn’t mention how much the deal was for or which outlet the offer was from at the time.
However, what Crowder did share with his audience was that he was upset at some very specific terms in the deal. Specifically, Crowder focused on what he viewed as a major conservative media outlet kowtowing to Big Tech.
“Big Tech is in bed with Big Con,” explains Crowder in one part of the segment. “The people you thought, the people I thought, were fighting for you, a lot of it has been a big con.”
Crowder then explained that as part of the contract terms, if YouTube was to demonetize his channel, his payments would be cut until the channel was monetized again. For those unaware, YouTube shares advertising revenue with creators who are accepted into its Partner Program. If a creator breaks YouTube’s policies, the company can demonetize a channel and that creator wouldn’t be able to make money via YouTube ads for a period of time.
“If any of the major platforms issues a content strike such that Crowder cannot be monetized on such a platform, the fee will be reduced by 25 percent,” Crowder read from the contract.
Crowder’s overall point, as he explained to his fans, was that a big right-wing media outlet was essentially enforcing Big Tech’s policies – akin to censorship in the conservative mediasphere – and punishing independent creators like himself if they run afoul of those tech companies’ rules.
It didn’t take long for Crowder’s viewers to figure out that the unnamed company Crowder was referring to was Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire. And here’s where things get really interesting. With Crowder’s fans leveling attacks at The Daily Wire, the company felt the need to also go public to defend itself.
The contract details
Soon after, The Daily Wire released its own nearly one-hour long video(Opens in a new window) with CEO Jeremy Boreing going through every detail of the contract and sharing much of the information Steven Crowder left out.
That’s when we find out that this offer, which Crowder called a “slave contract,” was for the sum of $50 million over 4 years. In addition, Crowder only needed to work 4 days a week and produce 192 episodes of his daily show per year. And, as Boreing stresses throughout the video, this was only the initial offer and the company was ready to negotiate with Crowder.
And then Boreing gets to Crowder’s main issue: The Daily Wire’s terms regarding Big Tech’s policies. The Daily Wire CEO explains it simply: Crowder misunderstood the terms of the deal. According to Boreing, the terms central to Crowder’s complaints weren’t the company’s underhanded way to enforce Big Tech rules, they are a way of dealing with the realities of making money. If Crowder, who retains full editorial control over his shows productions, breaks YouTube policy, for example, and his show gets demonetized, then The Daily Wire can’t make money from YouTube ads on Crowder’s show.
There are other details Boreing brings up that amp up the drama, such as when Boreing pushed back on Crowder’s claims of independence by pointing out that Crowder has always worked for major outlets funded by billionaires and that Crowder is likely unaware of how much he actually brings in from paying subscribers to his premium content because his employers always took care of that part of the business. For example, Boreing says that offer was initially made when The Daily Wire found out that Crowder was leaving a competing conservative outlet, The Blaze, and knew he’d be a free agent.
Now the conservative online mediasphere has a full-blown civil war on its hands.
Crowder hit back after The Daily Wire video to reveal he had secretly recorded discussions he had with the company. Other Daily Wire personalities such as Candace Owens have entered the fray to defend their employer. Owens, for example, has described(Opens in a new window) Crowder going public with all of this a “bitch move.” Crowder’s fans have fought back against Daily Wire fans and vice versa.
But, putting the in-fighting aside, there are some big takeaways here.
First of all, the obvious: A right-wing YouTuber received a $50 million offer to keep creating the same content he has already been making. There’s clearly big money in conservative media, bigger than many probably realize. To compare, CNN’s Anderson Cooper reportedly(Opens in a new window) receives a $12 million a year salary. The Daily Wire’s offer to Crowder, which he turned down, is more than that.
However, it should be noted that Crowder likely turned it down because he thinks he can make more than that. The whole reason Crowder aired his grievances is to plug a new website he launched, “StopBigCon,” which is simply a call-to-action to join his email list, meaning this whole blow-up has been a way for Crowder to build out a large and highly lucrative subscriber base.
It’s also worth noting that The Daily Wire’s terms regarding YouTube monetization make sense if you keep in mind that the contract involves Steven Crowder. The YouTuber has been demonetized and suspended again and again on the platform for breaking YouTube’s content policies. In fact, there have been times where Crowder has come close to losing his YouTube channel altogether based on his consistent policy violations. Since The Daily Wire was going to give Crowder complete editorial control, these terms can be viewed as a sensible insurance policy.
And finally, one more thing to focus on here is the admission from conservative media that for all their complaints about the Big Tech boogeyman…Big Tech treats them quite well. Crowder’s entire career was built off YouTube. The Daily Wire was ready to reduce Crowder’s pay by millions if he was suspended from Big Tech platforms like YouTube. Crowder was able to turn this all down because of his large following on Big Tech platforms.
If Big Tech’s supposed misdeeds against these creators — censoring and deplatforming and shadowbanning and generally targeting these conservative figures with tyranny — are so terrible, is that not balanced by the fact that Big Tech also gives people like Crowder huge soapboxes worth $50 million contracts? Many people know the online right-wing mediasphere drums these controversies up for clicks and cash. It’s just nice to hear them so openly admit it.