You want a great read? Check out Nalts' article entitled "Seven Secrets YouTube Doesn't Want You To Know!” It's full of some great insight on how YouTube works and how it has changed and evolved. Some of this knowledge comes courtesy of Nalts' first-hand experience as a YouTube user. Some of it comes through some relationships he has with some insiders (I'm sure they were whispering when they told him some of this stuff).
He covers a pretty wide variety of topics, starting with the fact that YouTube is only monetizing 9% of their videos. That's a bit surprising, until he comes around behind that with one of the article's most insightful points: that the percentage of videos monetized matters far less than the actual profitability of monetized videos.
He also points out that there is very little human-powered editing anymore in terms of videos appear where. It's almost entirely algorithmically driven. Kind of makes sense for a company owned by the algorithm junkies at Google. I think they truly believe that math can produce better results than human beings, and they may be right… math doesn't have feelings or personal agendas. Of course, Nalts immediately follows that up with a point about how YouTube still plays favorites.
Anyway, the bulk of the post is essentially saying "YouTube is different now, and here's why.” It's incredibly well-written. I'd like to know a bit more about how Nalts obtains some of his information, because in some cases there's not a lot of source-citing. But I have no reason to doubt him. I'm just curious by nature.
The comments is where the post really gets interesting, as it kind of devolves into "I used to like YouTube, back in the day when I could get videos on the home page… but now that they're monetizing it and it's harder to get on the home page, I hate it.”
Now, let's be fair. I have never been a power YouTube user. And I'm not actively trying to make a living using YouTube. I'm sure these recent changes to how videos become popular and which channels get featured are exceedingly frustrating to long-time users who are now up a creek.
But the entire comments section smacked of déjà vu for me, and for a few moments I couldn't figure out why. Then it hit me. It's exactly the same thing that happened with Digg. Let's read the sentence again, with two small changes: "I used to like Digg, back in the day when I could get links on the home page… but now that they're monetizing it and it's harder to get on the home page, I hate it.” There are the same allegations of the website playing favorites and promoting the content of a handful of elite members while ignoring the content provided by the masses. It's the same basic chain of events.
What's my point? Any popular website goes through this same evolution. Around its initial rise to power, there's a base of core users who are very good at promoting their content using the service. Once it hits the tipping point, and the masses roll in (and your mother creates an account), it becomes a million times harder to promote your content using the service. The website changes their algorithm or business model to better accommodate the masses, and your tried-and-true method of doing things becomes obsolete.
It's the circle of life, baby. Facebook is the same way. If you were one of the original Facebook users, back when it was only for college kids, then you're probably also one of the many included in the current exodus.
It's not like YouTube could have stayed the same forever. They had to change and evolve, and they HAD to monetize. If they hadn't, we'd all be screaming about how stupid it is that Google let's YouTube bleed money (like we did for three years before they started monetizing—never mind that it's none of our business if Google wants to pour money down the drain). And anytime a major website undergoes major changes, there is just no way to avoid pissing off a big part of your audience—I don't even need an algorithm to reach that conclusion.
There will come a day when the masses abandon YouTube for another video service that does things a bit differently. Just as they left Friendster for MySpace, and MySpace for Facebook. Just as they left Yahoo and Lycos for Google and left Digg for Reddit.
Look, I feel badly for the people that are now struggling to succeed on YouTube, I really do. But I also feel bad for newspapers, phone books, telecoms, and all the other industries that are being forced by the economy and marketplace to change or die. Change always leaves a few innocent people in its wake. But you can't criticize YouTube for hemorrhaging money and then come behind their monetization efforts and criticize them for changing too much. Change by very definition… is change.
Good stuff, Nalts. We look forward to more in the future.
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