Opinion General

YouTube needs to change its algorithms

For the past few years, YouTube has failed to ensure equity and protection for content creators whose livelihoods depend on their flawed monetization algorithm and their broken Content ID system.

From its humble beginnings in 2006 to 2018, YouTube has become a worldwide social hub for videos of virtually limitless potential, and the widespread appeal of YouTube has enabled content creators to monetize their channels for advertising and build entire careers and enterprises around them. However, as of late, the YouTube AdSense algorithm has disproportionately affected high-quality channels and content creators and forced them into fraught and unstable financial standings.

In 2012, YouTube had altered its algorithm from favouring views to favouring watch time for videos. Let’s Play (LP) gaming channels benefit the most from this system, as they are naturally long videos with minimal editing required, which enables frequent upload schedules. Most other channels (animation, film, history, DIY, criticism, etc.) who take longer to create professional, high-quality, and sometimes shorter content are left to pick up the scraps. These worthwhile creators must often rely on donation sites like Patreon to financially support themselves and their channels directly from fans, which is always a difficult proposition since your financial security lies in the hands of internet strangers.

For some YouTube personalities, it’s a race to the bottom in order to get the most amount of views, to prolong watch times, and to ensure subscribers in order to maximize their ad revenue, such as ensuring their videos reach the 10-minute mark for maximum coverage. Within their videos, YouTubers can stretch their content extremely thin, structure their content to garner as much attention for the terminally attention-deficit or even outright lie through obvious but enticing clickbait videos, usually featuring over-sensationalized titles and thumbnails. While these YouTubers may be unethical and reprehensible, they are merely gaming the YouTube algorithm to its maximum extent for ad revenue. They are playing by the unspoken rules that disproportionately favour certain channels over others, regardless of quality standards.

Furthermore, many channels do critical reviews of popular media like movies or video games and the system of Content ID can automatically issue takedown notices by copyright holders if your content somehow matches their repository of media, be it music or films or video games. Regardless of the legal protections of Fair Use, these takedowns can be intractable problems for creators that can lead to video takedowns, demonetization, channel strikes, or the threat of legal action by copyright holders. YouTube has, for the most part, taken a laissez-faire attitude to the automated Content ID system and critical review channels, most notably YourMovieSucks, as well as many other channels have financially suffered as a result.

Overall, YouTube needs to be more equitable and transparent when it comes to their ad revenue algorithm. It saddens me to see certain YouTube channels, whose content is informative, intelligent, entertaining, professionally produced, or all of the above, and to see them asking for donations to stay afloat while thousands of other self-absorbed and commercialized channels produce disposable garbage and get paid handsomely for it. I believe I speak for many when I say that YouTube needs to modify their advertising algorithm and fix their automated Content ID system to equitably reward and protect high-quality content creators.

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