Hi world, believe it or not, I started cracking on this blog entry a week earlier. I got excited because I’m writing about my favourite social media website and yes, it’s YouTube! I’m on most of the popular websites but none of them stole my heart like YouTube did. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm dwindled in the past few days after hours and hours of researching and internalising the whole #YouTubeisOver debacle.
I believe that I don’t have to describe what YouTube is and so let’s get straight to it. This hoo-ha has pretty much died down and it occurred in the last few months of 2016.
Let’s begin with this quote from an article from Forbes Online – “The only thing that is new in this controversy ended up highlighting just how bad communication between creators and corporate has been this whole time.”
Here’s the breakdown, throwback to 2012, YouTube adopted a new design dubbed as the Cosmic Panda design. This new layout changed its home page dramatically and the face-lift affected the YouTubers drastically. Basically, instead of the trending videos, us viewers are presented with a mixture of content from subscribed channels, a few recommended and trending videos followed by more recommended videos according to categories. Here are some of the videos picked out according to my YouTube watching habits and history.
The content creators saw massive dips in their viewership. Of course, they were infuriated and upset that they were not informed of the change earlier. If YouTube had taken up the discussion and new proposals with their users, they could have possibly worked out a design that could probably please both parties (corporate YouTube HQ and the YouTubers).
So, that was the past and everybody on YouTube had to get used to the changes after complaining and ranting on social media. It was not just the big YouTubers, even as a mere viewer, I recall having to re-discover the platform after every change. I still remember raging after I couldn’t find the “History Button” on YouTube. (I felt like a grandma using YouTube and getting frustrated because I couldn’t seamlessly navigate around the website).
But we got past that and then in 2016, it happened again but this time, it was not just simply dropping in viewership numbers. No, it directly affected the livelihood of the content creators. YouTube started demonetizing videos (if deemed inappropriate according to their policy) without informing the video creators. Popular YouTube stars such as Philip DeFranco, PewDiePie and many others started lashing out and against YouTube for the brash and sudden move, again, without informing them. You can find PewDiePie’s video below:
I would like to emphasise on his sarcastic quip “It’s the ‘YouTube way’ isn’t it? Why would they talk to their creators? I mean it’s not like we are the core of their website?” He goes on for close to seven minutes about how YouTube is suddenly demonetising material that is NOT family-friendly. Although their policy has been in place for years now, they only have begun demonetising these non-advertisers-friendly content recently (leaving their creators in the dark). Only after suffering from the backlash, YouTube started sending emails to their creators explaining why those videos were NOT advertisers and family friendly and thus specifically for those videos, they will not be able to earn from advertisement. (A bit too late I think?)
Furthermore, these videos that have been demonetised are deemed as “controversial”. But what exactly constitutes controversial or offensive material? It is an extremely subjective term and like a million other words in the English language, the semantics are arbitrary and they can mean very different things in different context.
A classic example that has been featured on most of the articles that I’ve read is this amusing demonetisation notice the vlogbrothers (Hank and John Green) received from YouTube:
But I digress!
The main point is that many YouTubers saw this as a form of censorship and hmm that term is usually associated with which form of media…? Yes, mass media. Therefore, this triggered the #YouTubeisOverparty consisting of a long string of famous YouTubers coming together on Twitter (cue social activism).
As you can already tell, YouTube is full of changes. In this current day and age with new competing social media platforms coming and going, it’s without a doubt that YouTube is making a modest attempt to stay relevant. Apart from layout changes, YouTube is known to make various changes to its algorithm without informing its users. This has caused YouTubers like PewDiePie to make speculations such as the likes don’t matter, the more dislikes the better or more comments increase the chances of clinching a YouTube main page feature. However, all these are merely conjectures based on YouTube trends. For more backed-up theories, here’s a video from The Game Theorists regarding the probably YouTube algorithm changes and the future of the website:
To summarise the key points, YouTube has moved away from viewer statistics and is focusing on the amount of time people spend watching the videos (watch minutes). This is to combat the popularity of videos that thrive on clickbaits (an enticing thumbnail or title without the quality content). Apart from watch minutes, YouTube favours the channels that encourage the viewers to come back for more the next day. This also means that channels that make very regular quality content will eventually emerge among the rest as it gets recommended more often than other competing channels.
Additionally, the video turn-over rates are extraordinarily high as the new and upcoming videos are supposedly produced daily, in with the new and out with the old. Apart from repercussions such as “creative burn-outs”, the individual or small group of creators will eventually be edged out by large organisations such as ellen, Buzzfeed and other similar traditional media companies. These companies are compatible with the new YouTube system because they have the resources and manpower to churn out daily quality content.
To cut to the chase, censorship and daily quality content… it’s very reminiscent of… traditional mass media. Is YouTube following the footsteps of its predecessor, the Television?
I truly love YouTube and yes, it’s not the end of YouTube (as of now) and here’s a glimmer of hope! According to Mat Pat from The Game Theorists, there’s still hope and it lies in our hands, the viewers:
Because we (the users) are the reason why YouTube is YouTube, we have the power to change it and challenge its algorithm.