Just like Google, YouTube is constantly updating their algorithms to get their customers the best experience. Or what they think is the best experience. Most YouTube viewers are there for a specific set of videos or YouTubers, occasionally changing their viewing habits. In the past, this wasn’t a big deal, as most viewers continued to be subscribed to and watch the older channels they had previously liked. However, YouTube’s new algorithm is changing that.
I became aware of the new change thanks to jacksepticeye who posted a vlog on the changes. He specifically talks about the changes from the perspective of a content creator, but what he says holds true for both creator and consumer. From the consumers side, the new algorithms have changed the recommended videos and channels based on the most recent user activity and trending videos. Best case scenario is a few recommended videos and channels that the consumer actually likes. Worst case scenario is users being unsubscribed from channels they hadn’t watched in several weeks.
But while these changes are important for consumers to know, what about content creators? How have the algorithm changes from even earlier this year impacted YouTubers? It turns out not in a good way.
Content Creators versus the YouTube Algorithm
Jack has posted numerous videos over the past months on the algorithm changes. These videos cover everything from comment changes to changes in views and subscribers. He has expressed his disappointment at the changes to the comment section from when he first began back in 2012. The comment section had gone from all comments he replied to on top to most popular, which made it difficult for him to connect with his audience. A very recent algorithm change caused his views to drop by 30-40% and caused a drop in subscribers as well. And it’s not just him; many users in his industry experienced the exact same drop in views and subscribers. YouTube even unsubscribed him from several of his friends because he didn’t always watch their videos, and the same thing occurred to his friends.
This isn’t the first time the YouTube community has criticized the YouTube algorithm. Searching the term “youtube algorithm” on YouTube brings up many videos bashing or giving tips on how to beat the YouTube algorithms. Many find the algorithm updates choke content creators YouTube was built upon. One blog states that YouTube’s algorithm hurts animators because their algorithm certain elements of animation videos. These are “high dollar content,” meaning they have high production costs, and videos without personalities. The last one makes some sense, given the number of personalities on YouTube. But there are more than just personality users. Businesses and animators are a large chunk of the non-personality driven videos.
What’s Wrong with the Recent Update
Unfortunately, it seems the newest algorithm update is screwing with more people than usual. Many users, watchers and content creators alike, have complained about seeing video suggestions for The Bee movie memes and even porn, when they have never shown interest in such videos. Most likely, this is an accidental consequence of the update, but it’s still important to note.
Other consequences of the update include some YouTubers losing subscribers for posting videos while keeping them for not. This is extremely problematic for smaller and lesser-known channels, and the YouTube community is not happy with this. Even more problematic is the apparent trend to promote virality over originality, which encourages clickbait titles and shady tactics to bring in views and subscribers that won’t stick.
The worst part? YouTube’s algorithm is not public. Changes aren’t often announced to users, making changes only apparent after they’ve been put into place. This can catch many YouTubers off guard when they begin suffering from the changes. And, as said above, it’s already happening. One YouTuber, H3H3 Productions, gave examples of the viral videos YouTube promotes, and another famous YouTuber, PewDiePie, gave examples of the view drops.
What’s a YouTuber to do?
So what can content creators do? The best thing is to stay true to your current model. Continue to create and upload at the same rate, providing the same or better quality content so your subscribers don’t look elsewhere. Being aware of your audience also helps focus where your channel should go and provide the content your subscribers want. Engaging with them also helps build the sense of community YouTube has become know for. But also let your audience be aware of the changes so that they know for themselves to by wary of what’s happening to their subscriptions.
Businesses on YouTube can do the same thing. Stick with what your audience wants from your company but don’t resort to clickbait and shady tactics like faking news and virality. The thing about being truly viral is that it needs to be spontaneous. Asking to go viral or promoting something in order to go viral can be seen as deceptive, especially on YouTube. Instead, focus on engaging your audience meaningfully through responding to comments and having discussions about things pertaining to your business.
Sadly, there isn’t much any one content creator on YouTube can do about the algorithm changes. There’s a chance with all the negative feedback YouTube has received that they may think users are crying wolf. However, this should not deter any YouTubers from defaulting to the new viral videos and clickbait-style titles that are so rampant across the site. YouTube has always thrived off of original content creators. Doing a random viral challenge is still fun and promoting originality if the user puts their spin on it and doesn’t let those types of videos clog their usual content.
Remember, YouTube is a community. And to be a community, content creators must engage meaningfully, not for the likes or views, with their audience. Viral videos aren’t going to build that community for you or anyone. You need to help build it yourself. Let’s just hope YouTube’s executives can see that as well.