Why is YouTube so bad at the moment? With Twitter and Facebook failing hard, why does it seem the YouTube algorithm is failing even harder?
Social media platforms change constantly. Not all of these “improvements” are for the better. At the risk of sounding my age, most changes seem to be for the worse.
It’s one of the many reasons you should think seriously about having your own website. (As discussed in this blog post.)
On your website, you control what people see, read and comment on. You choose the tone of voice, the images and the personality of your brand. If you change direction, it will make sense – because you are the one who provides continuity.
But what happens when your favourite social media platforms make decisions that make no sense at all? Or change hands? Or both?
A farewell to Twitter
I used to recommend Twitter to everyone who wanted a website.
It was a good place to drop urls. I had enjoyable interactions with musicians, writers and journalists who would have been impossible to reach otherwise. My favourite was when Neil Gaiman (yes – that Neil Gaiman!) answered my question about one of his books.
Very occasionally, I tweeted something that was liked or shared by several people, and was rewarded with a little burst of endorphins. Once, my reply to a tweet was read by a producer and I ended up on prime-time TV for almost exactly 15 minutes.
Even though I followed almost exclusively positive people, my feed had been #relentlessly #negative for #years.
And when Elon Musk announced he was buying Twitter, I realised it was time to move on. His intentions did not seem balanced, and it looked like the platform was set to become even more toxic.
Which left me with Facebook and Instagram. (We’ll get to Youtube in a minute.)
I came to Facebook late, but finally took the plunge around 2007, after moving to France. It was a way of keeping in touch with friends around the world and was largely positive. (I never did MySpace and Friend Reunited was in a death spiral.)
Over the years, Facebook evolved in a way that was generally useful. (No, I didn’t like the news feed idea and the design changes were generally poor. But I used to work with excellent designers and still care about these things.)
Lately, I tried to ignore the fact that only middle-aged people and older seemed to be using it. But I couldn’t help noticing friends drifting away, for various reasons.
The straw that broke my camel’s back was the decision to invite a certain politician back to the platform. The only way I could show my disapproval was as a statistic. So away I went, taking several accounts with me.
Last platform standing
Now I just have Instagram. I know this is run by the same group as Facebook. But Instagram remains a positive platform to stand on.
There are issues with annoying advertising and recommended posts from irrelevant accounts. And there is a push to become more like Tiktok. (Copying someone else is never exciting.) But, for the moment, it serves a familiar purpose: To connect with friends – and people who would otherwise be beyond reach.
I did look at Tiktok. It’s the wrong demographic for most of my activities. And the effort required to create the content is unlikely to be rewarded.
But what’s happened to YouTube?
I also have several YouTube channels. My main one is for my work as a musician. I’ve uploaded a few dozen videos. Some of them have achieved good viewing figures.
I’ve also explored the suggested format of creating #shorts and long-format videos, in an attempt to please the algorithm. And it didn’t work. Certainly not well enough to justify the many hours of effort required to create the content.
The algorithm is not as evolved as I would like. I want the freedom to create whatever content I desire. And I want the algorithm to find the audience who would benefit from it. Instead, it doesn’t even seem to reach the audience I already have.
My complaint is similar to the way we had to write website headlines back in the early 2000s. To pacify the Google algorithm, we had to write headlines using a specific phrase. This had to be repeated in text, captions, as titles of images, in alt tags and so on. It was suffocatingly uncreative.
Over time, that algorithm has learnt to accept phrasing similar to the target phrase. And it actually punishes content that uses the same phrase, thereby banishing all your old blog posts to a virtual limbo. The algorithm giveth a little and taketh away a lot. (Years of carefully written blog posts, in this case.)
I’ve begun to notice the videos in my YouTube feed are no longer interesting. I am constantly offered videos I have already seen. The same few dozen videos for days on end, slightly rearranged. Mixed with YouTube mixes of videos I have already seen (with no option to opt out).
The algorithm appears to be failing in every possible way.
What do you think? Why IS YouTube so bad at the moment?
It’s possible that some people have stopped making content for YouTube. Perhaps the rewards are not high enough. Or maybe they have moved onto another platform altogether. Or maybe they’ve decided to stop being slaves to the algorithm (as Grace Jones might have sung).
What are your thoughts? Because I would love, actually, to know.