YouTube's Commentary Crisis
May 11th, 2021 at 1:50 PM by Kugee
So, I'm getting pretty close to having used YouTube for a full 15 years at this point, and I'm starting to think more about the differences between then and now yet again. Other people have said it before, but YouTube used to be absolutely amazing, and now it's simply a mundane, frustrating experience to go through out of obligation or natural reflexes.
Exactly what happened this whole time? I think it's a combination of the obvious issues everyone complains about, but also things on a creator base level. I'm not referring to outrageous controversies, rather the usual stuff that you may think you may like, but could really be wanting something more. Not talking about Fortnite gameplay either; that's only part of a larger fundamental problem.
No More Surprises
It seems incorrect to say that there's nothing surprising about YouTube videos anymore. After all, around 60% of video titles or whatever have something so super enticing in them that tends to intrigue you and make you want to click on the thumbnail and figure out what this thing is that you won't believe. Yet by the end of the video, you might think, "wow, that is a thing"... but how many times have you encountered a situation like this? Is it really a surprise, or is it clickbait followed by a delivery of the same format?
There used to be a time where I could hop from one video to another and the two would be radically different while still being in the same faith. They'd each take their own approaches to accomplishing certain goals, helping shape a highly diverse content base for all of YouTube. Some people preferred to be themselves, while others would take the roles of fictitious characters, and some may try to deliver more organically while others may try to experiment wildly with their presentation. It was fairly easy to find something truly mind blowing, or otherwise a waste of 47 seconds of my life.
More importantly, there was originality to be found in a lot of places. Brand new ideas sprung up from all sorts of different creators all the time, things that were either very loosely based on something known or just something that nobody had ever heard of. It was an adventure that always led to something new and distinguishable, something anyone could remember.
Of course it still happens to this day, but either it's reserved for a select few fairly well known channels, or outright impossible to find. Everyone likes to complain about how YouTube is now just 9 year old Roblox edgelords, Logan Paul doing a thing, and everything going corporate, but there's another thing YouTube is choking on... talking for ten minutes or longer.
It's not just douchebag vloggers that do this. EVERYONE seems to be guilty of it now. Look around, what do you find? Talking about a thing. Talking over a thing. Talking about a thing over a different thing. Talking in front of a fancy backdrop. Talking and walking. Talking with a glorious face. Talking with a drawing of something. Talking and sometimes showing a screenshot. Talking at a computer behind a camera. Talking talking talking IT'S ALL NOTHING BUT FUCKING TALKING!!!
How the fuck did the expectations of YouTube content get degraded to this level?! There's nothing challenging about this format, it's the kind of shit that can be done in a blog post! A TEXT PAGE! 100 KILOBYTES OF BANDWIDTH CONSUMED! What am I even doing on YouTube if everything's all just commentary shit? Is there something different I can find? Whatever it is, it's too hard to find now because it's buried under poisonous thumbnails and the same old bait!
It's gotten so bad that I've just been avoiding watching very many videos at all, even those from the channels I follow. Plus, I've often devoted very little time to watching videos in recent years, and if I found myself watching videos for much longer in a single day, well... it was a day miserably wasted. It doesn't even matter if the videos were good, because I haven't ever filled that hole that was cut open for many years.
Nothing even feels genuine anymore. Those that do, they don't feel different. I am a level 96 mage trapped in a dungeon grinding through the same monsters doing the same attacks, trying to doodle on the walls in between to no effect. Where is the creativity? Where are the things that I don't know I want? Why did The Website is Down die so soon?
give 5 money
A large part of this crisis in a lack of variety can easily be attributed to YouTube loosening its partnership regulations over the years. If all you have to do is game and swear a lot, the rite of passage is opened up to a lot more bland creators, and when they are financially compelled to keep making a lot of the same thing, those high up in the ranks begin to change the standards of video creation.
I know this from experience. In 2007, Smosh was among the highest ranking YouTubers, and being a comedy sketch duo, their works trickled down to plenty of other users who wanted to try making stuff in the same field, myself included. In fact, I had a small degree of involvement in a group of other YouTubers who were similarly passionate about bringing forth new ideas in their videos, many which were comedy skits. I never managed to reach their caliber nor was I very good at coming up with new ideas at that time, but even though the trickle down thing actually does happen on YouTube, there is a crucial difference between the Smosh wannabe era and now.
None of us had any expectations that we would be making money on these videos. Therefore, it was natural to take risks and try to innovate and invent wherever possible. As soon as one starts relying on something like video creation for financial support, a layer of fear builds up that prevents people from realizing their full potential. They're forced to continuously meet expectations that grow more and more demanding, and do not even have room to innovate a lot of the time. Those that fall too far out of the scope either have to bail out or find external sources of funding - Patreon, sponsors, affiliate links, and the like. (Even that wasn't always the case in 2007; look at Smosh's log back then, they didn't have to upload multiple times every week and they did very well with earnings!)
The consequences of the broad monetization of videos have been dire for the soul of YouTube, if it is even there anymore. For what few creators really try to do something different, they are often not rewarded kindly. How do I know? Because I don't know about them, otherwise I would've found them by now. Even when I have a tendency to frequently search "windows 95" and "pentium ii" and sort the results by newest first on YouTube, I hardly ever find anything worthwhile. The atmosphere that site has these days likely prevents those that would make something so creative from even bothering to do so, or maybe they don't even know they can. I mean, who uses the search bar anymore? Your chances of getting off the ground in 2021 are next to impossible unless you can appease the algorithm somehow.
A Dying Breed
I've strived to keep the spirit of old school YouTube alive, which is basically just making whatever the hell I want. I prefer to be the antithesis of what a channel is expected to be, but I get the feeling that trying to be so different with most every single one of my videos has only made me lonely. I was previously taking influence from a select few other small creators I really loved watching, but considering their antics have made me too uncomfortable to associate with them anymore, I've largely been on my own for a very long time.
Truth be told, I haven't found a single channel related to technology that is so daring that I can be left on the edge of my seat craving the next thing from them. That's not saying I haven't found any good channels at all recently, as there are a handful of great ones I follow... just none that really break any ground. The closest active channel I can even think of would probably be Jerma, but isn't that around game streaming? For what little I've seen of him, he was pretty funny, but the subject isn't something I'm interested in.
I know I could just try to make more videos, but with what little that's given me, it's too hard to be compelled to do so. I've tried so hard to make something that could be another smash hit, but my channel is absolutely dead in the water. All that's left now is to drag its carcass to shore and light it on fire, which will be done in due time. I'm already doing just that, if only at a slow pace; for instance, I recently put out seven videos worth of previously unpublished materials in only two days, something I would never do on a regular basis.
As of now I'm more engrossed in working on Razorback, which has allowed me to get back a fuckton of freedom to be as flexible with how I push out new content as I please. In the long run, I'm certain it'll get me so much farther than any of my YouTube videos ever have. But it's mostly only text and images, leaving the video portion starved.
If there's one kind of video I'm dying to make again, it's probably a live action, multi-actor video. I haven't been too keen on being so public for much of the last decade, but I remember getting a couple of my friends to drop by on a fairly regular basis to film six skits in late 2009. They definitely weren't optimal, but every time I look back at them, I know I was really getting somewhere with them, only for this routine to die off quickly. If I were to get back to that idea, I'm sure I could make one hell of a video with the more extensive background I have now. Maybe someday I'll figure out a way to pull it off, but it could be yet a long, long time before that ever happens.
As I've been writing this, I found myself getting suckered into a video, and it just so happened to be a two hour commentary of a game series I really liked. The commentary was good, but it came back to my mind once again - this is more commentary shit, more of the same old talking that is flooding YouTube. I sure as hell wasn't going to sit through two whole hours of that!
The fact that these talking videos have to be made in such large quantities makes everything worse... if anything, that's why I don't subscribe to very many channels despite their orders. I can't possibly want to be bombarded with constant eyesore notifications of the same kind of talking. How can so many other people subscribe to hundreds, if not thousands of channels? That's just gonna make it impossible to keep up with everything...
Eventually, the larger collective is gonna have to ditch this simplistic thinking that talking in front of a camera or microphone is the basis for what content should be, and start figuring out new ways to present whatever comes up. If this drags on as it is now, I'm convinced that more viewers will start to become burned out as well, and then there won't be much left for creators to turn to.