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Beware, a very long post, and there are no pictures! Context for those who don’t know… The past several months YouTube has been going through many changes. Starting with their big announcement of funding premium channels in association with major studios, networks, and “mainstream” celebrities, they’ve made it very clear their focus and priorities are shifting toward combating TV. Along with a drastic layout change, and a huge removal of inactive subscribers (“the Purge”), many Youtubers big and small have seen a huge drop in subscribers and viewership. I don’t feel like going in too much about the details of this, or whining about these changes because, well, change happens…you deal with it. Watch Ryan’s vid commentary, it’s funny. But Margaret Haley (official title: Strategic Partnerships [she oversees the YouTube Partners]) opened things up for discussion on her G+ account. There were tons of replies (seeing as it was first real acknowledgement from anyone at YT HQ) and I chose after a couple days and much reading to chime in. This is just my message to her and YouTube with my personal thoughts. Not my message to WF’s fans/supporters (that’s a totally different post, heh)…
Youtube is in a very precarious position right now. Like a teenage girl who is now realizing that she’s really pretty and desirable to the seniors and college guys, yt is at a point where it’s making some very important decisions that could hurt its reputation and relationships with old friends.
I acknowledge that yt has far bigger issues to deal with (in their perspective) than our sub/view count problems, like +Matt Lawniczak said. For the past 6 years that we’ve been active on the site, we’ve pretty much stayed quiet about all the changes, bugs, and tweaks. We just trusted that they’re doing what they have to do and are thinking of everything I’m already thinking of. Much like the trolls who leave comments thinking they know your channel/content better than you do and try to give ridiculous advice. So we kept quiet and tried not to be part of the noise. But lately, I feel compelled to speak, like the friend who sees the pretty girl getting caught up in herself.
There was a time not too long ago when the Partner Program was the crown jewel of yt. They were so proud to say that people could make a living off of making videos and helped teach them how to grow their audiences. Now, they are ready to shift, away from us small fries, and go play with the big fish. Partners, the ones who truly helped create the community (which is what made yt unique and successful) are the annoying friend who’s can’t let go of another more successful friend. “Remember the good ol days??”
I completely agree with +Hank Green that tastes do change, people grow out of things. Even great TV shows see their audience dwindle. Personally, I’ve been prepared and ok with this happening at some point. But it’s hard to believe that the global audience all decided at once to change, resulting in the partner-wide drop in view counts. This is definitely evidence that the submodule isn’t the best. However, yt will point to jenna, freddie, fps and say, hey look, people are still in the positive and doing well…it’s just you guys. Fair to say, but something is still amiss.
Purging old accounts is great. A couple years ago I joked that it’d be really interesting if yt treated subs like real magazine subs, where ppl had to renew after a year or two. It makes sense, so I’m not upset. But all the reports of active users being unknowingly unsubscribed is to me the biggest problem at the moment (I read the update). Also, magazines notify the subscriber first before letting them go. Does yt email or message the user first to let them know they are about to be unsubbed? This is necessary imo. (sorry if this is answered somewhere)
Morale is low. Whether either side wants to admit it, we are yt’s employees. Right now, the employees are working harder than ever creating quality content at a high rate, and yet they’re losing subs and views. As this thread shows, this is obviously making people unhappy and in a sense demoralized. What happens when employees aren’t happy? They want to change jobs, and this is where yt needs to be very careful. Yt should be very concerned that the majority of faithful and enthusiastic partners are being negatively affected by their current business and design choices.
Our channel like everyone has been losing subs, and our views have taken a hit, but we’re doing…ok. However, seeing this shift in YT’s plan has done something I’m guessing other partners might begin doing too, and that is, thinking of an Exit Strategy. “Let’s start to consider our careers beyond of yt. How can we shift away from yt and take our audience with us.” Thoughts like this, we’ve always had, but now it seems more necessary. If all these partners, maybe even the major ones, start to think like this, it will have major impact on the site. Yt might argue, well, others will come in to replace them. I wouldn’t be so sure. Most of the people being most vocal are the smaller guys, and they’re saying it’s near impossible to get noticed (save for the handful who exploded this past yr). So, the big guys will wanna move on/cross over, and little guys aren’t getting the right community assistance to become a big guy, and yt is looking at a very big void to fill.
YT was more than a free bandwidth. When we first started using yt, we simply saw it as free bandwidth to host our online shorts (we bought our own server from 03-06). But then we started to see how many people were using this site. The “community” is what made us change our viewpoint that yt was more than a video player, but a hub, outreach to new eyes…But now when we look at our video stats, only 10% of our views are coming from the sub module. All other traffic comes from our twitter/fb/website. If so few people are actually keeping up via subscriptions why not just tweet a link to a blip player on our website? We have our dedicated fanbase, could we potentially foster them elsewhere?
Yikes, I’ve gone on too long, apologies. Basically, it seems like the google heads in charge are more concerned with suits and stockholders, and not their customers, the viewers and creators (thank you Margaret for opening this up and showing that at least you seem to care). Sure, YT will still have its Rihanna’s and COD trailers to keep views going, but this just means that yt will become a lifeless video viewing site, and not this awesome hub for democratic, diy, engaging content, which is what set it apart. This might be what yt wants. They want to be like tv, they want to combat hulu. But, why? For the money, I get it. But they run a very big risk by doing this. The whole reason people went to YT was to find an alternative to tv, so why try to become like very thing people were trying to avoid? I’m all for original, long form, highly produced content. (At Wong Fu Productions we’ve been proponents of that mission from the very beginning). But not at the cost of catering to A-listers and industry folk. Seriously, like that teenage girl analogy, she’s become infatuated with the senior quarterback who’s only recently begun to look her way.
In closing, I remember another site who was a GIANT pioneer in social media. They even came out around the same time as yt. But then, people became frustrated with the layout changes, UI, complexity, and priority towards ad dollars. Sounds very familiar right? I joked with friends a couple yrs ago, pondering, Could there ever be a day when we look back at yt like we look at Myspace? We all scoffed, “HA, no way.” … I have faith in yt. =)
and that’s all I have to say about that.
+Margaret Healy you are great. Thank you.
Thanks for the great support on the thread (read here if you’re interested). Margaret tweeted me later and said she read it carefully and sent it to many people at YT HQ. Not sure if it will make any difference, or if it even matters (not like this is the end of the world, although many people are acting like it), but all I wanted to do was share some ponderings. What are your thoughts on YT? Think it’s fine? Terrible? Better than ever? No way it could go down Myspace’s path right? Right? haha