Did you know that ever since YouTube became a megasite, they began an epic battle on two fronts in order to streamline the place into this neat little corporate friendly cubicle? These two fronts are as follows:
-Reducing the amount of unauthorized copyrighted material on the site
-Reducing the amount of non-advertiser approved, user generated content on the site
YouTube’s copyright hysteria didn’t kill widespread access to conventional media; it’s now easier than it ever was than say, when I was a kid, to listen to just about any song you want without having to buy new raw material. But they very successfully killed the individuality and intellectual expression that we had in the pre-Google era of the website. This is painfully apparent to me when I watch opinion videos uploaded around 2007-2008 and compare them to opinion videos uploaded after about 2014.
There does seem to be this intuitive sense that’s tough to explain in which most Youtubers become more or less the same the more popular they become; they start using very similar and very ostentatious video thumbnails, generic introductions, even start repeating some of the same talking points, regardless of what side of the political spectrum they are on. I’ve seen this even on TYT, a network I’ve long felt to be a real outlet of the people.
There’s one YouTuber I’ve followed closely for years, who I won’t name, who seems to think that Google’s changes to YouTube somehow made the website’s “airwaves” easier to broadcast to for users with smaller fan bases, simply because the site’s changes did in fact make growth harder for some large youtubers (some of the stars of yesteryear, such as Fred, are now more or less irrelevant). However, he conveniently forgets that his own channel tailspun into obscurity JUST AROUND the time these new changes were implemented. I’m not entirely convinced by the cover story that he simply gave up on video game reviewing for the reason that he didn’t find it sufficiently profitable. Making youtube videos about video games is a low cost to no cost endeavor. Since most people who are interested enough in video games to review them online are going to be spending time playing them anyway, turning a screen recorder on each time they do and turning them into “let’s plays” or reviews isn’t something for which you have to sacrifice much time. It’s more likely that the guy is collateral damage of some of the same policies that killed his channel growth and he just doesn’t want to admit it.
Content access may not be where YouTube won, but they certainly succeeded at turning the vast majority of users into consumers, as one other youtuber predicted (a video that by the way, fell on deaf ears), rather than content generators, and it’s a far emptier and washed out venue for it.
So why did this transpire? The specifics are for another post, but long story short, Google wanted to make the website more ad friendly, and there were too many people posting at the turn of last decade that for one reason or another, didn’t match the controversy-free (see: they asked too many thought provoking questions…) image that helps mass advertising succeed.
Having once immensely enjoyed the freshness the site had in the late 2000’s, I fear this is a frontier that like the early United States, or the post-war economic prosperity in North America and eventually Western Europe, may never return.