YouTube may still hold the numbers, but it’s also going through an identity crisis. The current situation is endangering the quality of the content with which YouTube has been amusing us for the past decade, but also (and more importantly) the mental health of content creators. Hey, this is serious business.
This hot mess is due to three reasons, on which I will elaborate accordingly:
- Platform’s own limitations (and recklessness).
- Stiff Competition.
- Conservative, even retrograde policies.
Chapter one – The Algorithm
The lack of new tools or features that help creators produce fresher content is turning YouTube into a glorified archive. The biggest in the world, for that matter – but an archive all the same. The public’s crave for instant content will have to be satisfied somewhere else. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, so I will just say that YouTube is just making all the wrong choices.
On the other hand, and over the past year, YouTube started performing ‘experiments’ or making changes in the platform without the creator’s consent. Recently, they began trying a new algorithm that shows viewers what to watch based on their watch history, rendering the subscription button useless. They also randomly (‘as an experiment’) replaced creators custom made thumbnails with images generated by YouTube, shocking and enraging creators in equal parts.
The algorithm may also be responsible for the notorious quality decadence. Apparently, you have to post constantly if you want to enjoy the favor of God Algorithm. This has reportedly led career YouTubers to spectacular burnout, sometimes creating the need to take a break from screen…or early retirement altogether. Let’s not forget that we are talking about teenagers, or people in their early twenties.
Those who decide to keep up with YouTube’s rhythm are deemed to produce mediocre content – lest they risk mental breakdown. Some resort to severe clickbait, or abandon the boundaries of good taste altogether.
Chapter two – The Assembly Line
IGTV certainly has a long way to go, but it’s already clear that Instagram’s new feature poses a threat. YouTube has offered six figure contracts to all-star creators who agree not to post their content on IGTV (Lily Singh was the first to sign up).
Twitch has bitten another big chunk off of YouTube’s user base, the gamers. But Twitch is still a niche platform, and IGTV is the envisioned menace. In the past six months, Instagram has turned the hit photo app into this sort of Victorinox knife: there’s the stories feature, but you can also start polls, post gifs, ask your followers questions…only Excel sheets are missing. Jokes aside, the app just keeps offering engaging tools that makes it much easier to attract eyeballs.
Chapter three – ‘Traditional’ Values
Beyond the ‘no hate’ campaigns facade, YouTube has been running ads for gay conversion therapy and companies that were vocal in their criticism of the LGBT community. Demonization and demonetization are the two sides of the same coin.
It’s 2018, and diversity is here to stay. However, YouTube has been targeting (and punishing) creators for posting LGBT related content. In what ways? Demonetizing older videos, removing others altogether – all of this under the utmost arbitrarity. When posting videos, users would find that terms such as transgender or even trans are not eligible for advertising. Some creators have even come across anti-LGBT advertisements being run during their very own videos, many of them about the creator’s experiences as a LGBT person.
Were it not true, this video would be ridiculously hilarious. And ridiculous. And hilarious.
If YouTube is indeed running such biased filters, the timeliness of its content will necessarily take its toll. It is surprising, it is shocking, it is outrageous. But if YouTube wants to re-direct its content towards families and adults looking for the biggest archive of music videos, it’s their business. People take it to social networks because there is a social need for expression, and that cannot be stopped. Luckily, this day and age there is no lack of online places where the targeted and oppressed can express themselves. They’ll just have to take it somewhere else.
YouTube has made a reputation out of maxims such as ‘no hate’, ‘love is love’ and many more. It has a history of anti-bullying campaigns and Gay Pride week live-coverage. Why taking ten steps backwards, then?
Once again, it is 2018. I rest my case.
Bottomline, the most talented cookies of the jar are abandoning ship. Poor communication between the company and creators, demonetization and even discrimination are discouraging the most progressive and creative YouTubers from remaining faithful. A brain drain waiting to happen.
At this rate, YouTube might find itself out of ‘fresh’ content. It will still be the first place where little children and the forty-somethings will turn to, but YouTube will cease being the melting pot of ideas it once was.
If one were to sum up YouTube’s motto in a completely inappropriate, non-academic way, it would be ‘all take and no give’. The company is spending all its brain power on the development and re-development of this cruel algorithm, spending none whatsoever on new features that would make things easier for content creators. Same goes for revenues. YouTube’s got to eat, of course, but YouTube runs on ideas and the ones who actually come up with those just get coins in return.
Sooner or later, YouTube will have to face that its legitimate value lie not in the platform but in the talents that they somehow managed to recruit over the years. That recognition, and that recognition only, is the action needed to save the streaming platform we all got to make part of our lives.