For those of you who don't know: YouTube is like those people you know who are always doing something to their house. They can't just live in the house and be happy, they have to change the floors, or redecorate, or add a room. And once you think they're done, they start building a deck or painting the house a new color. And visitors to the house will remark, "Oh, I used to love how you had the house this one way," and the owners say, "Yeah, we got tired of it (shrug)." But is YouTube's constant remodeling causing some popular YouTubers to lose views and revenue? It depends on who you believe.
The Case Of Onision, Mad YouTuber, Vs. The "Broken" YouTube
Onision is a popular vlogger on YouTube who has nearly 700,000 subscribers. He used this forum to voice his concerns over a broken YouTube (warning – some bad language):
Onision wrote this article on Crovati showing the statistics that show that many popular YouTubers are losing a huge mass of subscribers. The point that I think Onision is absolutely on the mark about is that the site is getting too complicated and is forcing too much Google+ on its new members, requiring a Google+ account to start a channel. In the video above, he says, "If I was a new user to YouTube, I would leave," continuing that thought later on, "If YouTube was the way it is now, back when I started, I would not be where I am today."
The thoughts about YouTube "dying" seem just a bit on the knee-jerk side, though. Since Google owns YouTube, the chances of it becoming a "MySpace" kind of story seems pretty slim. Maybe some sort of upstart will be the new YouTube, but it's still awfully simple to share videos using them and it's the first thing (and many times, the only thing) people think of when they want to share with others.
Also, this complication is not nearly so complicated as Onision is saying. OK, so you need a Google+ account and "everyone I know has already stopped using it," but who says you even need to use it in the sense that you use Facebook? You can have an account and not be active on it. Google+ certainly hopes that's not the case, but in reality, opening up an account and barely using it won't hurt you in any real sense. Still, the point Onision makes about even needing the account could turn lots of people away just for the fact they don't want to go through the extra hassle. The point I make doesn't even matter in that light.
Onision further videoed his disgust (some bad language):
So after #SaveYouTube started trending in a big way on Twitter, the YouTube Creator Blog came out with this post that said the loss of subscribers is not due to people getting frustrated and leaving, but they have been "scrubbing" old accounts that are inactive:
In the past few months we have been scrubbing YouTube of inactive and closed accounts. Why? Because these accounts had been inactive for years, were not linked to our more up-to-date and secure systems, and, well, nobody uses them. This had the knock-on effect of some creators seeing a drop in subscribers. However, this change benefits partners in the long term by giving you a better understanding of who is engaging with your channel. Accurate data is key, and as such, we will now be removing accounts from subscriber counts as they are closed. As the accounts are inactive, these changes won’t affect viewership.
Still, Onision was seeing that views were going down and that many, actually active, accounts were being scrubbed. YouTube says this is because of the new dropbox feature that switches stuff to "Highlights" rather than "Everything," and people, not seeing their usual videos on the home page, think they've lost the subscription:
Understandably, many people were saying, "Why even have that choice?" If I'm subscribed, why would I want only the videos you think I want?
The YouTube Creator Blog says:
Back in March, we announced changes to the algorithm that serves up suggested and recommended videos, giving greater weight to a viewer’s time spent on a video, rather than to their click. We did this because flipping through channels to find something to watch is different than actually watching, and view counts that accurately reflect engagement are more useful. What does this mean for you? Well, if people are clicking on your videos, but not sticking around to watch, your videos won't get shown as often in suggested and recommended videos and growth in new views may slow. The best way to prevent this is to create compelling videos that people stick around for. Also check out the the Analytics Audience Retention Report and these optimization tips for how to drive engaged views to your videos.
This is something we've talked about recently. Engagement, not views, is driving today's YouTube. What they find most important is when a viewer sticks around and watches the whole video. What constitutes a "view" might have also changed. In fact, I'm going to say with an almost certainty that is what has happened. The view counter has always been a mystery. If someone watches a 5 minute video for 1 minute, is that really a view? Probably not. Remember, views have gone down across the board while engagement has gone up. YouTube has been looking for these engagement numbers to sway advertisers.
So what Onision is saying is probably true, but with a caveat. He and a whole bunch of other YouTubers are losing views, but the ones that they see are based on engagement. He mentions Shane Dawson a lot in these videos. Quite honestly, guys, I can't stick around on a Shane Dawson video for very long. If I click on it, and don't like what I see, and leave, how does YouTube justify to an advertiser that someone was truly "engaged" in the video? I imagine that their subscriber base (especially someone like Dawson) has grown up a bit since their channel launched and perhaps they want something different for a change.
Here's what Philip DeFranco had to say about the "broken" YouTube (go to 7:02, there is some bad language)
He has a bit of a different take, but he's made his show "future-proofed," and because he's constantly thinking ahead, the new changes haven't affected him as much. But he does think that some of the new YouTubers are getting screwed. And that might be true considering engagement is key: new guys can't rely on a click to build a viewership anymore. But they also aren't getting featured, or given any help whatsoever. But hey, hard work has become more and more key: use of social media, sharing, getting people involved, etc. There's so much work that has to be done outside of making the video now.
More and more hard work might mean less people making videos, but at 72 hours a minute, I'm not sure where YouTube is dying for content. And they are constantly tinkering, which hopefully means that some of the things that need to get fixed will. For now, I see nothing on the horizon that will seriously challenge YouTube or be the "death" of it. Understandably, some people are upset about the loss of revenue and what they perceive as a loss of views, but that's where it's time to adapt, rather than hope it gets fixed.
Hat tip, Megan O'Neill at Social Times.