The other day I posted a raccoon video on this website. If you haven't seen it, you simply haven't been paying attention.
It's the one about the raccoon up in the ceiling at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, calmly watching over the baggage claim area.
Since I posted a link to the video on Twitter, it has appeared on CBC, Global TV, CP24, and NBC. It has been on the front page of Reddit. It has been retweeted 11,000 time, liked 25,000 times, and watched almost 1.5 million times.
To put this in context, my regular posts on accounting get about 4000 views on Twitter. I figured I was doing well until the raccoon changed my perspective.
The Accounting Angle
I wondered in my original post where the accounting angle was in this story. It didn't take long for it to emerge. Within 24 hours, a company called Jukin Media contacted me and wanted to license the video. I told them I had already given permission to CBC, NBC, and a few other mainstream news organizations to show the video. Jukin's rep said that would be no problem, they would respect those arrangements and look after the rights moving forward, if I was interested.
I was. Why not? I wasn't going to monetize the video myself, and all I could really hope for, besides providing a cute video for everyone's entertainment, would be to gather more readers to my website. Since I would retain the rights to the video under an agreement with Jukin, I was happy to sign up with them.
Treated Like Royalties
I know you are wondering, so I'll tell you: the agreement with Jukin gives me 70% of the amount earned from selling rights to the video. Jukin keeps the rest. They've got expenses and I don't, so it seems like a good deal to me. They pay me only when the royalties amount to more than $50 US, so they are obviously used to signing up videos that may not earn anything. Maybe mine will be among them.
One of my reasons for signing up was to gain some knowledge of how this industry worked. Jukin monitors websites that try to repost the video and asks them to pay for the rights. It does the monitoring in conjunction with Facebook, which has developed a video matching technology. If anyone tries to capture the video off my website and reload it in a different format or resolution, the technology will figure it out. It's similar in concept to facial recognition technology.
There were two factors that helped convince me that Jukin was worth signing up with. First, they worked with a company I recognized, Facebook. This gave them legitimacy in my eyes. Second, their website for video owners to sign up uses very simple language. "Were you the one holding the camera when the video was taken?" No legalese, just straightforward questions.
Certain parallels to accounting seem obvious to me now. They have to do with monitoring, legitimacy, and clarity.
Monitoring is what accounting does best. Pervasive accounting technologies capture our every move and help ensure we behave properly. Think about the checkout counter at a grocery store. The trail of accounting information, from scanning an item to using your bank card, ensures that the clerk doesn't pilfer the cash and that customers only leave with what they bought. At the other end of the corporate ladder, the grocery store's CEO and CFO are under scrutiny from the board of directors and the auditors. Whether all this surveillance works is besides the point. Formally watching each other is itself a demonstration of power, and we all buy into it.
Legitimacy is another huge aspect of accounting. When you go to a bank for a small business loan, having clear and professional-looking accounting statements helps convince the loan officer that your business is legit. When you go to the stock market for your IPO, having financial statements that have been audited by a big accounting firm helps convince investors that you should be taken seriously.
Clarity, on the other hand, is not a hallmark of accounting. In fact, the very opaqueness of accounting is considered a strength. The ability to understand complex accounting reports is a hallmark of legitimacy in the corporate world. Accounting is therefore a useful barrier to entry. It keeps the riffraff out of high level business discussions. Learning accounting may not, in itself, get you a seat at the table, but failing to learn it will leave you excluded.
Which is why you should stop watching raccoon videos and read the rest of this website.
Yes, the video is definitely mine. I shot it at 3:58 PM on Friday, May 5, 2017 at Pearson International Airport, in the Terminal 3 baggage claim area. I didn't post it until Saturday morning because frankly, I had way more important things to do on Friday than post a video. Like catching up with my wife, who had been away. Pro marriage tip: always catch up with your spouse before posting stuff online.