Being a millennial, I often find myself alone at night watching YouTube videos for hours with no end in sight. I watch Vlog based videos for hours, and will often wonder: What has my life come to? Do I really care about the new dog that some untalented hack has bought? Am I gaining enjoyment out of staring at someone else’s holiday?
Like all teenage basement dwellers, these questions often come to my mind, and I simply shrug them off with a quick visit to PornHub. The evolution of YouTube has been from being about 3-minute videos about cats to individual personalities making millions. Whilst the quality of content has vastly improved on the website, it consists of largely mediocre content. It is not rare to find 10-15 minute videos of people just talking and showing nothing gaining millions of views. YouTubers who repeat the same shit content on a daily basis often just shouting into a camera are in abundance. Challenges are a blatant indication of a lack of innovation and creativity. Collaborations are an indication of the development of this YouTube community which is a guarantee for more views.
What are the reasons behind this? I believe it comes down to is attention spans and focus. The idea of short attention spans is not revolutionary. Younger generations seem to have shorter attention spans and seem to be unable to focus on a given topic for more than 5 minutes. Quality content such as: detailed reviews of movies, comedic shows etc, all require longer running times of 20-30minutes. People have too short an attention span and instead settle for short shit content such as the videos by Comedyshortsgamer. This will always limit the evolution of YouTube into richer content because people see YouTube as a mental stress relaxer. Not as a place of great focus. I am to this day to hear someone say “I am really looking forward to that tv-show on YouTube”. This is not to say people are dumber. Our generation is the smartest of any of the previous generations, but the perception of YouTube as a place of mental relaxation is often which lends itself short shit content.
The second problem is the level of focus required. Focus is related to Youtube as a place of mental relaxation. The success of Vloggers or beauty vloggers is because it requires little to no mental effort. Watching a tv-show or even a movie requires a certain level of mental effort. YouTube is not seen as such a place. People have a desire to perform multiple activities at the same time, but only attach a very small level of effort. I am sure people do not ever just watch a 15minute vlog of a YouTuber just discussing their plans or their holiday. Therefore whether a video is watched or not can be seen as a combination of two criteria: duration and complexity. The quality of content is rarely a determinant. The personality and look of the person is far more important. You can give me several examples of quality YouTubers but for each of them there are at least 4 YouTubers who are frauds. How else do you explain a react channel where one man stares at one screen for 5 minutes, mumbles for 30 seconds, and then goes on to obtain a million subscribers. Short duration coupled with limited complexity, along with familiarity creates the optimal YouTube video.
I just mentioned it but another key criteria is familiarity. The feeling of relating to another person makes them feel like they are part of a larger community. This is why react videos are so popular. “I saw that video, here is someone else seeing the same video, I wonder what their reaction is?”. A react video leads to the potential for a viewer to subconsciously create the perception of a friend. Which is often why when a reactor disagrees with popular sentiment with valid reasoning it leads to a disproportionate number of dislikes. The power of familiarity is often underestimated. Familiarizing yourself with a topic requires little mental effort. Seeing the same video by the same YouTuber reduces the mental effort that has to be attached because of familiarity. Of course, this concept has much wider applications such as explaining stereotyping. I am by no means a psychologist, but the concept of the “availability heuristic” does explain the growth of YouTube compared to slowing growth of other media platforms such as Netflix.
I believe the diversity in YouTube content is going to shrink. Why? Because there is no need for it to diverse. There is no reward for diversifying content. The original YouTubers diversified into areas such as: gaming, beauty, comedy and vlogging. All that has happened for the most part is that each of these fields have grown but the similarity of content is mind-numbingly similar. Gaming is the same. A bunch of people shouting at the screen whilst playing, and shouting obscene language for no personal reason. Well, there is a reason but it doesn’t add to the quality of content. Words such as “fucking” or “asshole” grabs the attention of the viewer with minimum mental effort. It also appeals to the rebellious 11 year olds who shouldn’t be on YouTube. Beauty is a commercial. I am not going to attribute more time to this category just because of how mediocre it is. Comedy yet again has became saturated with the same shit. Poor skits, obvious observations, and boring challenges dominates YouTube. Vlogging is fascinating.
Not because of the content but because of how such stupidity can interest millions. If you told the most brilliant man 10 years ago the following: “People are going to make millions by describing a normal day” he would laugh at you, but you would be correct. Content on YouTube is not patented. Success on YouTube does not require talent or creativity. If I have a friend or relative who is a famous YouTuber, I can collaborate with them and use a challenge that has been done previously to obtain a million subscribers within the space of a couple of months. A new video concept, within the space of a week leads to every major vlogger making the same video. People are lazy. If a video with less effort can obtain more views because of familiarity, why not create it? Essentially success on YouTube is highly dependent on the connections you have not on talent. You can make millions by doing nothing more than repeating the exact same content shared by another 100 people, as long as you know even one YouTuber.
I am aware that I have been slightly scatter brained but the final topic I would like to discuss is the development of YouTube in the future and whether YouTubers are going to enter TV. The simple answer is no or at least in a very limited capacity. When an untalented YouTube hack who has convinced himself of his talent is given the opportunity to move towards a tv or music platform he/she is unlikely to achieve major success. There are of course exceptions such as Charlie Puth or Justin Bieber. Vloggers are never going to progress further than their channel or maybe a reality tv show. They do not have the skill to make it in stand up or professional comedy. There are certainly some YouTubers that could such as Nigahiga, but they are mainly a comedic channel with some focus on vlogging. There is a reason why the Smosh movie was utter dog shit, and why the new KSI movie looks fucking miserable. Studios know when providing the opportuinty to YouTubers to create movies that it doesn’t matter what the quality is, but stupid fanboys will always attend the movie. This will always limit their movies to a straight to DVD treatment. Music by KSI is fucking miserable. It is a joke. He cannot rap, and he should honestly stick to making FIFA videos if he cares about content. Even though the new song by Superwoman wasn’t miserable, it is still at best average.
Ultimately, YouTube has a community feeling where everyone feels like a family and an underdog. They do not mind each other copying video ideas, because they want traffic on YouTube to grow. YouTube is not seen as a place of competition. As cut-throat as it may seem, for content to improve in quality there has to be greater competition. People always complain about people not paying inheritance taxes or the rich remaining richer as their wealth is passed on and not earnt, but no one complains when one cunt can easily scrape of the success of a relative or friend with limited effort. In terms of effort and hardwork, there isn’t any. I personally haven’t seen one video by Comedyshortsgamer where he has put in any effort besides the most basic form of editing. At least his brother made original content and worked for a year or so without success and stuck to it. He showed determination and is now receiving the rewards. The success of YouTubers for the most is not deserved and largely based on luck. I know I’m coming off as a bitter person, but what I hate more than stupidity making millions is when deserved success goes unnoticed. Arguably my favourite YouTube channel called “RedLetterMedia” only make original content, and do not rely on YouTube cliches or collaborations. Relying on quality over mediocrity, yet they still have less than 500,000 subscribers after 4 years of consistent content.
YouTube does have plenty of great content which I do enjoy. They have diverse channels, but currently, it is a saturation of mediocrity which is preventing original content from shining through. If YouTube wants to grow as a place of more serious content, it has to change its algorithms to encourage different content and perhaps create patents for video ideas. As contradictory as it may be to the “Youtube” spirit, it is a needed step that has to be made for the content for YouTube to improve in quality.