While YouTube controversies are aplenty, PewDiePie has certainly been at the head of controversy hall of fame as of late. First he was dropped by Disney for some outrageous things said and done in his videos. Then he posted an "apology" blaming the media. While the situation may have snowballed out of control, the entire controversy and subsequent attention just highlights YouTube's many issues on the giant video platform.
Over at Polygon, a YouTuber talks about the issues content creators face and how PewDiePie ended up in this situation. It offers many of the same complaints we've heard and keep hearing: YouTube subscriber counts are messed up, subscribers aren't receiving notifications, the algorithms are constantly changing.
PewDiePie actually tried to highlight this in his "50 million subs and I'll delete my channel" stunt last year. Surprise, he didn't delete. He claimed it was a message to YouTube about the issues many creators had noticed. That, and it also lined his pockets with some nice cash.
These complaints aren't new, and they keep popping up. YouTube has become a behemoth in the video world. And, as often happens, it becomes too big to manage, relying on unclear algorithms and bots. YouTube wants to make money for itself above all, but when they start alienating the content creators that generate income for their site, the creators start leaving for better options like Twitch.
YouTube previously came under fire last year when creators suddenly found the metrics had changed. Subscribers weren't getting notifications of new uploads. Subscriber counts were also dropping like flies in very abnormal numbers. YouTube denied that there was any glitch with subscriber counts in December when creators first noticed something odd. Their numbers were dropping and they didn't know why. It turns out that there was a bug causing subscriber counts to drop by two for every one lost, which YouTube quietly fixed earlier this month. But not before putting out a patronizing video claiming everyone was wrong. Oops.
Content creators already have it rough. They need to be interesting to get the views and subscribers, and to keep them. They need to push out video after video in order to stay interesting and relevant, hoping that one of the videos will pick up and that people will keep watching.
Unfortunately YouTube is constantly changing the algorithms which pick what videos are featured where, or even who is notified. Even for subscribers, they don't always receive notifications for channels' videos. A common complaint is that the recommended videos are often heavily promoted on users' feeds rather than their subscriptions.
Then you come to the problem that even bad attention gets views. Unlike in real life, where bad behavior results in an immediate reaction from people physically present (Polygon likens it to a lukewarm reception at a comedy club), bad behavior online just generates more ad revenue.
There are many people who will subscribe to and watch videos just for "hate-watching." This still generates views and ad revenue. If someone makes a controversial video and it gets a lot of thumbs down or a barrage of hate comments, this still generates activity, making the video more likely to get featured. It doesn't matter if people love you or hate you, the numbers are what count in the end.
YouTube started censoring based on content, but they haven't seem to have done a good job of it. In light of PewDiePie's controversy, YouTube may try to restructure their policies or algorithms. Creators sure would love if YouTube was more transparent in these things. Or maybe they'll just ignore the situation and continue to make money. Streaming is still new as a career, but YouTube is far from being a viable competitor to Twitch despite their new gaming section. YouTube is going to need to make some changes to keep creators.
What do you think YouTube should do?