YouTube’s changed. One of the top news stories over the course of the past two weeks revolved around PewDiePie, the video-sharing site’s most subscribed creator, claiming that he would shut down his channel after he achieved 50 million subscribers as a result of the Google-owned company trying to “kill” his channel. While he didn’t quite follow through on this claim — he instead deleted one of his other accounts with far fewer subscribers and videos — it did place a spotlight on the site and cause many popular creators to also make their voices heard.
So what’s the issue? The landscape of YouTube, as is the case with the internet on the whole, is forever shifting. As it and every other site is forced to seeks ways in which to attract new advertisers, its approach to achieving this is routinely forced to change. However, whereas most companies would find it beneficial to inform their employees of such changes, YouTube’s “staff” consists of millions of amateur video makers that range from earning $0 for their content to millions upon millions of dollars. As such, it’s somewhat understandable that the site has a particularly reserved attitude to transparency when it comes to its creators.
This has caused a great deal of anxiety among some of its most popular video makers, with many now speaking up as they find their number of subscribers and viewer count declining. With many of these people earning their living on YouTube, seeing their salary dip without any explanation is understandably scary, but some of the concerns many have had with YouTube supposedly attempting to turf them out in favor of more ad-friendly YouTubers seems to be unfounded.
YouTube is following the Netflix business model. It wants creators to develop lengthier content, and it wants that content delivered more frequently. As outlined in an interesting video by The Game Theorists (below), channels with longer videos that host daily content have experienced tremendous growth, whereas channels that don’t fit that description are experiencing a decline in views. This can be evidenced by searching ‘Hunger Games’ in the YouTube search bar; while you’d naturally assume that the results would bring up trailers for the film series, instead it brings up a ton of Minecraft videos clocking in at 15 minutes or longer, from channels that post more frequently than the channels that host film trailers.
While many of the more popular YouTubers have been pushing out content more frequently for a while now, as more videos inevitably means more ad revenue, their older videos that do not fit this new criteria are struggling to achieve the same kind of viewership. It’s a headache for sure, but it’s not evidence that YouTube is trying to kill some of its most popular creators, as has been suggested.
This doesn’t make it any less of a headache for YouTubers, though. Producing daily videos places a tremendous strain upon them to be consistently creative, and it’s certainly not a business model that is sustainable — if the majority of channels now believe that they must churn out more videos that last 15+ minutes a pop, the quality of these videos will inevitably face a decline. There are also plenty of channels that produce high-quality, high-budget videos that only last for a few minutes, something that may no longer continue to be sustainable if YouTube continues on its current path.
Considering that many YouTubers create businesses on the back of their YouTube success, with PewDiePie having set up the content network RevelMode that also includes creators such as Markiplier and Jacksepticeye, it’s completely reasonable that they’d be up in arms over these changes. Despite what many media outlets would have you believe, YouTube doesn’t consist entirely of teenagers making hundreds of thousands in their bedroom with minimal effort – most of the top creators now run entire companies dependent upon the ad revenue they generate from the site, meaning that any decline will negatively impact upon their bottom line.
YouTube must do what it needs to do in order to continue to appeal to advertisers in an increasingly uncertain period of time for the internet, though it’s unquestionable that both the site and its creators would benefit from more transparency in regards to what they want from them. Giving YouTubers a greater understanding of which content the site wishes to focus upon, along with advice regarding the most advantageous video length and upload schedule, could be hugely beneficial for all parties involved. Unfortunately, given the site’s history, it doesn’t seem likely that this will be happening any time soon.