YouTube Roasted Its Creators for … YouTube’s Algorithm
Brands: They’re just like us! Or so their social media feeds would have you believe. Over the past few years, an increasing number of companies have allowed social media managers to go wild roasting competitors and posting memes. While there’s a certain dystopian energy to Denny’s tweeting like a basement-dwelling stoner rather than a multi-national restaurant chain, these posts are mostly harmless.
Which is probably why whoever authored a recent tweet from YouTube’s official Twitter account wasn’t expecting blowback for what they wrote. But there was blowback, and it was swift. The original tweet was just as swiftly deleted.
TODAY IN INSTANT REGRET: YouTube posts joke. Immediately deletes and apologizes. pic.twitter.com/9i7mm4moES— Def Noodles (@defnoodles) October 4, 2020
Like other corporate tweets, it followed the format of a popular current meme:
Absolutely no one:
Creators after talking for 15 minutes: Alright let’s jump straight into the video!”
If an average Twitter user had written this, it’s hard to imagine it would have gotten much of a response. It may have even earned a few likes. Similar tweets and memes about long-winded food blogger posts have been passed around for over a year now. But coming from YouTube, the tweet immediately rubbed people—especially creators—the wrong way.
Even if you aren’t familiar with YouTube’s corporate practices, it’s easy to see why the tweet is in poor taste: It makes fun of the very people who make YouTube able to make money. Videos create space for ads, which creates ad revenue. Without creators, the model would quickly crumble.
But the swift reaction from YouTubers points to a larger problem they all live with: the pressure to create longer and longer videos to stay relevant. Hence, the 15-minute intro videos, which many of them may not want to make in the first place. And hence, the blowback.
While social media algorithms can be somewhat of a black box, in this case, it’s known that YouTube has long sought to increase engagement (or time spent on the site), and has fine-tuned the algorithm to keep more eyeballs on the platform for longer. In recent years, creators have noticed how the algorithm has favored creators that make videos with longer average watch times. They are also, increasingly, competing against content farms that mix and remix the same hack videos over and over again. These companies can also create multiple clickbait channels that push out the same few videos with misleading thumbnails. Australian baker and YouTuber Ann Reardon has an excellent rundown of what these independent creators are up against.
So how are small creators to respond? One easy, low-budget way to create videos is confessionals or long-winded intros. And, of course, the creators get the blame for the sensationalist videos promising a CONFESSION with teaser text like “Baby? Divorce?”
Similarly, creators are often the ones getting criticized for the rise of drama channels that break down fights between influencers or celebs. But, of course, these also perform well in the algorithm, creating a feedback loop in which it is profitable to make them. A feedback loop that YouTube created and is capable of changing.
Of course, YouTube’s social media manager is no more responsible for the algorithm than Wendy’s Tweet-writer is responsible for the chain’s patties being fresh, not frozen. But as YouTubers feel the margins continue to narrow and pressure continue to rise on their video earnings, it’s little wonder that a tweet dismissing their problems would sting so much.