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Fake Views? Rumble Video. What Is Going On?
The YouTube rival people love to talk about, but how many are actually using it? An honest, comprehensive assessment of Rumble from a user and fan
I read this article & added to it a little withLIVE on How Did We Miss That on 10/1
Let’s talk about Rumble, the video platform.
As someone who’s been amplifying & creating anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist independent media the past few years, I’ve seen YouTube censor plenty of creators. Channels and people I watch have been demonetized, others temporarily suspended for “TOS violations” that are never clear, a few were outright kicked off YouTube and had their channels and content erased. Every time that happens, the are inevitably a bunch of people who suggest to switch to Rumble, which is also Wall Street-owned, like YouTube, but has positioned itself as much more hesitant to censor content & creators than YouTube.
Rumble, in addition to Rokfin & Odysee, are 3 lesser-known platforms that cater to political independents, those who question government narratives and video creators & publishers fight the corporate media apparatus.
Rumble has developed itself a reputation for catering to “right wingers,” but a platform is only comprised by the creators who choose to publish to it. I’ve heard similar accusations thrown at Odysee and BitChute, another video platform that refuses to censor creators.
We have channels on all 3 platforms for both Indie Left Media as well as(links at indieleft.media & inn.network). All have their benefits, drawbacks, idiosyncracies & challenges to work with as a content creator.
None of the three even come close to the number of viewers, engagement or chat volume as YouTube - for the same stream.
Our Rokfin channel has over 4,000 followers, yet YouTube crushes Rokfin in views, despite only 1850 YouTube subscribers. Funny, but our Rumble channel, which only has about 750 Followers, consistently somehow rivals or beats YouTube in terms of livestream view counts.
Disclosure: I have no insider knowledge here. The only evidence of what’s happening I have are my eyes, ears, observations, logic & stats from my own channels, plus what’s public.
To be completely honest, I didn’t really want to write this post, but it was inspired by my buddy, who has the uncanny ability to inspire the following process:
find an issue that is important to me
peel a scab I’ve been seeing that few others seem to see, talk about or care about
inspire me to wax rhapsodic about it on Notes
realize this really belongs in an article (or a series) because it’s too long
go to my Dashboard & open up “Create New Post” - and here we are
Here is Rich’s Note:
I have lots of feelings about Rumble. And they must be doing something right, because as I am writing this, the AP, the narrative managers for the establishment, just published a hit piece about them and the content they refuse to censor, mostly around the coordinated hit against Russell Brand and Rumble’s refusal to demonetize and deplatform him at the request of the UK Parliament.
Who Is Rumble?
They’re a publicly traded company on the NYSE, stock symbol RUM 0.00%↑ . They sell themselves as an anti-YouTube, champions of free speech.
They started appearing on my radar about 2 years ago, when they signed a deal with, & others. I signed up for a free profile that day.
That same day, an article titled "Rumble, a YouTube rival popular with conservatives, will pay creators who ‘challenge the status quo’" was published in the Washington Post which gave a lot of light to the announcement. I’ve been uploading videos since then, and when they enabled livestreaming without a monthly subscription, we were early to jump on that, too.
Rumble Acquires Locals
A couple of months after I signed up for a free account (in October 2021), Rumble acquired Locals, a Substack-like competitor (newsletter/website) that forces creators to paywall all their content for $19.99/mo each subscriber (and goes up from there).
Locals attracted personalities like Tulsi Gabbard, Kim Iversen & Niko House early on in 2019-20. It allowed creators to have a more intimate conversation with their fans, since everyone was paying to be there. I am not a fan of this model, as it only works if you have a following willing to shell out $20/mo for your content (most smaller creators don’t - looks like you can set your monthly as low as $5, but there is no free tier option for subscribers). Here is the latest webpage catering to creators. Since acquisition, Glenn Greenwald has moved to Locals exclusively, abandoning his Substack (he likely is also a big investor in RUM 0.00%↑ shares/options).
Rumble acquires Callin
This past May, it was announced that Rumble was moving into the podcast space, a natural complement to the video & Locals plaforms. David Sacks’ (former Paypal Mafia member) Callin was the target this time, They were paying creators to publish audio call-in shows with fans over the web & mobile apps. Sacks was given a board seat as part of the deal. It remains to be seen how this new acquisition will be integrated with Rumble video and Locals.
Now That We’ve Established Who Rumble Is
Back to Rich’s post.
A $60M Loss in 6 months is a massive burn rate. Not sure how long they can sustain and stay in business before running out of $$. Now that the establishment is after them, they’re pressuring advertisers to leave the platform (Burger King already caved) & likely there will not be many banks/VCs with open wallets thanks to their unwillingness to play ball with NATO.
Rumble: The Good, The Bad & The Whaaa?
I like Rumble overall as a livestreaming platform. I am hopeful for its future, they’ve been responsive when I’ve asked them for help and are improving it regularly, listening to the creators’ feedback. They’ll back up your YouTube channel automatically, which is nice but has issues of its own. If you stream to both Rumble and YouTube, your YouTube stream then backs up to your Rumble channel.
They definitely have holes technically, seem to know where they are and have a roadmap to address them.
Rumble has been busy spending money on tech, for sure. In the past year, they’ve introduced new interface on the desktop version, launched mobile apps for Samsung TVs, among others. They’ve built 2 studios in South Florida - Miami & Longboat Key. They launched Supporter Badges & Monthly Subscriptions w/ 100% creator rev-share through 2023. They launched the ability to offer Pay-Per-View, and earlier this month announced the Beta Release of the Rumble Cloud.
They are also financially focused on signing exclusive content creators. Like Substack, they get involved in elevating content creators and paying them for exclusivity. Glenn Greenwald, Russell Brand, Kim Iversen and others like Viva Frei have been paid large sums by Rumble to build studios & produce exclusive content for the platform.
Per the Washington Post article, “The company declined to provide financial details but Greenwald said the top creators’ year-long contracts will pay in the ‘midrange six figures.’”
More Rumble Exclusives announced in 2023: Dave Rubin, Donald Trump Jr., Redacted News, Rekieta Law, Bob Menery, Steven Crowder, DJ Akademiks, JiDion, The 1st Republican Presidential Primary Debate, Kai Cenat and IShowSpeed, RiceGum and FaZe Kaysan.
I have issues with them too - the elevation of channels like Dana White’s Power Slap and the political agenda they push (do I REALLY need an alert every time Trump gives a speech? No.). Are they really just a platform if they’re picking winners? (You can read about it on this below post, published on 9/11/23)
Livestreaming Challenges (for the tech geeks, but there’s much more below)
For the past year, every livestream has been issued a unique RTMP key (URL & password), which then needs to be plugged into your streaming app each time before going live. Why does this matter?
No other platform has this - they issue static keys instead.
You only need to plug in the info once for Odysee & Rokfin and the URL/password do not change from livestream to livestream.
We hear static RTMP keys are being tested now, but it’s been over a year already
This is yet another extra step, which can only be completed once the Rumble stream has been set up.
Rumble then provides you with the RTMP key to plug into your streaming app.
You can only create a new stream within 24 hours of going live, which is a challenge in itself.
It’s clunky, people have trouble figuring it out or they just don’t bother .
eliminates the potential for combined stream analytics - the data becomes very fragmented to gauge total viewer engagement across all platforms
All 3 alternative platforms mentioned at the top have this issue in some way, shape or form.
No analytics about viewer behavior while live, like average time spent on stream
No playlists or way to organize your videos and livestreams (though we hear that’s coming).
No shorts / vertical video capability (yet) - they announced something like that was coming a while back, but no word since.
Lots of great info in their Developer Documentation, but you’d never think to look there
Mobile app has no ability to share your page, amazingly enough.
I also am confused how Rumble plans to integrate Locals and Callin - the potential could rival and even eclipse Substack, with public video fully integrated.
I love the YouTuber “The Spiffing Brit” - he’s a gamer who likes to break games, find exploits then make videos about it. But he also finds PLATFORM exploits. This recent one about YouTube livestreams and multiple tabs/windows open and refreshing may (or may not) be relevant here, but I wanted to include it anyway.
I agree with Rich and others that Rumble’s view numbers are certainly in question. What do they consider to be a “view”? Rumble just added a “unique views” the other day to its stats vs “raw views” but what’s the difference? Are they saying people watched twice? Rich linked a video in his post from Jose on YouTube, who is using stats to speculate about Rumble inflating its numbers for Steven Crowder.
His case breaks down as follows:
Crowder was getting fewer than 2M views per stream on YouTube most of the time before he signed exclusively with Rumble.
He then went on hiatus, which is bad for a channel’s momentum - but concedes that Rumble was promoting his channel after leaving YouTube.
Rumble viewers are 1/6 as likely to leave a comment (0.2% on Rumble vs 1.2% on YT), which was also reflected in Crowder’s numbers.
Except, if Crowder’s audience was coming over from YouTube, why wouldn’t they also chat on Rumble, save for having to set up an account?
The preroll video seems to be picking up a lot of views themselves “waiting for the stream to start” but should that really count as a livestream view? “I'm pretty confident in saying that Crowder's live stream debut counts and possibly other streamers on Rumble are being boosted by counting views of people waiting for the stream to start“
“A sample of two weeks for Ben Shapiro and Tim pool's channels found they had similar issues - it seems that users on Rumble are just not interested in leaving comments or liking or disliking videos”
Looping Livestreams, Rumble Pushing Live Content
The above stream results were for a clip that ran at 8am ET - and played on a loop 10 times - as a livestream, a feature that Restream empowers subscribers to take advantage of, extending the time they’re live. What does that mean? This clip is only 12 minutes long, however when it’s looped 10x, we get 120 minutes of stream time out of a 12-minute clip.
If Rumble is pushing channels who are live to the top of feeds/subscriptions, as well as spotlighting live content, I have a much better chance of it being pushed to the top of news feeds as long as my video is live.
Combine that with the understanding that the time the average person spends watching videos is about 10-15 minutes, so as long as I’m live during those 10-15 minutes, logic dictates that there’s a better chance my video will be shown than if I’m not live.
Livestreams vs Uploads
Uploads get almost no views vs. the same thing livestreamed, partially because the homepage for Rumble showcases whoever is live up top.
You can see how prominently LIVE appears at the top horizontal navigation bar on the desktop version (which remains static as you scroll down). News & Politics categories aren’t featured at all without scrolling right on the navigation or way down on the homepage. I’ve been categorizing my shows as Podcasts, with the secondary category of Trending News.
I uploaded the same 12-minute clip to my Rumble channel last night as the one streamed on a loop above. It got nowhere near the views as the live version.
How Do They Count Views, Exactly?
My SPECULATION is that when a user on the mobile app is scrolling their feed, the preview of the video in the middle of the screen might be considered a view. Notice that they don’t show average viewing time per person. Watch the below short video of me scrolling the Rumble mobile app. Is Rumble counting each time I stop and the video starts playing a view (I did that 5 times in 30 seconds here)?
Something Doesn’t Compute Here
Rumble view counts on Livestreams already rival or beat YouTube by as much as double, yet the chat rate, likes and comments are not commensurate with the number of people they claim are watching. Rumble is showing the “Raw Views” publicly, not the “Unique Views”
Here are the results from a livestream run to both YouTube and Rumble on Sunday, 8/21 for How Did We Miss That on my Indie Left Media YouTube & Rumble channels, plus Indie News Network ‘s YouTube channel. Much more engagement came from the YouTube audience here as well. On about an equal number of views (187 combined on YouTube vs 196 on “unique” Rumble). The stark difference here is in the Like count - 51 combined between the 2 YouTube channels, but only 3 on Rumble.
Here are the results from a livestream run to both YouTube and Rumble on Sunday, 9/24 for INN Rando Roundtable on. Much more engagement from the YouTube audience. More likes, more live chats too. Funny enough, this was the one stream where the YouTube viewers was more than the Rumble unique users (186 on YouTube vs 155 on Rumble).
Here are the results from a livestream run to both YouTube and Rumble on Sunday, 9/24 for Nobody Wants to Work Anymore on. Much more engagement from the YouTube audience. More likes, more live chats too. On about half the views (105 on YouTube vs 455 on Rumble).
Rumble also allows for 3rd party site video embedding and monetization, which would be helpful to Substack creators that also publish to Rumble.
Follow The Money:
Rumble lost $10M/mo on average in the 1st 6 months of 2023, after losing $40+M in the last 3 quarters of 2022. That’s a total of around $100M in losses, without counting Q3 2023, which is almost over and likely to burn another $30M or more.
According to the balance sheet below, they raised almost $300M in 2022, looking at the difference in cash on hand from 12/31/21 to 12/31/22. They’ve already spent as much as $90M of the $337M they had on hand as of the end of 2022, estimated through September 2023.
They’ll likely need to cut that burn rate at some point, hopefully it comes more from picking content winners and paying them for exclusivity, rather than at the expense of platform innovation and development.
Creators Are Not Making Big Money:
Unless they’re being paid for a Rumble exclusive show, my guess is that most of the creators on the platform are not making much, if at all. There is the ability for users to subscribe monthly or leave a one time donation (“Rumble Rant”), but based on the fractional level of engagement as YouTube, it doesn’t seem possible Rumble is paying out the kind of revenue that most creators can survive on Rumble income, the way some survive (or at least used to!) on YouTube income from subscriptions & SuperChats. Anecdoatally, here’s how much INN hs earned in all of 2023: $3.48. Call the accountant! Remember that Rumble also keeps 30% of livestream donations/rants, and starting in 2024, monthly subscriptions too (like YouTube).
Unanswered Questions To Be Addressed:
How much runway does Rumble have left, financially, if they’re currently losing $10M a month (and that burn rate has been accelerated in 2023)? I don’t want to continue to invest time in a platform that won’t be able to stick around.
How do they count views & unique viewers?
What if someone is logged in but watches on mobile, then switches to desktop?
What about on the same desktop, but multiple browsers?
Does it count if a video previews for a second in the scrolling news feed on mobile?
How do they determine how many people are watching live?
How long will they continue to pay big money for exclusive content from popular creators?
What is the long term plan to integrate Callin with Rumble and Locals? Will we see an integrated platform to eventually rival Substack?
Will Rumble play nicely with Substack, a Locals competitor, to allow for easy embedding of Rumble videos in Substack posts, like YouTube videos, allowing Rumble creators to monetize with ads on embedded vids on Substack?
In my estimation, Rumble has about another year to 18 months maximum at this burn rate before they need to think about raising another capital round, if they’re not already working on it - based on the reportedly explosive average monthly user growth over the past two years (44 million monthly active users as of the last earnings call).
We are basically taking Rumble’s word for it that they’re getting the same views as YouTube despite a fraction of the total monthly average users and a fraction of the engagement from the people who they claim are viewing, so I think I’m justified in questioning the accuracy of the views per livestream & views per video upload and how they’re counted. It seems that the view counts are definitely questionable.
I would love to see Rumble invite an independent analytics company to validate or accurately report on viewing time, engagement etc and prove the numbers that Rumble reports to creators and viewers, on both livestreams and uploads.
Rumble should also add an update to the livestream reporting to the development roadmap for the creators to gain actionable data about user activity during a stream and once it’s over.
They’ve got a long way to go, but these changes are not hard or expensive to implement and I am hopeful that they will listen. We will all be watching closely.
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