Back in the day, YouTube was all about the “Community”. There was no revenue sharing, everyone (including YouTube itself!) was just trying to figure things out as it went along. Video quality was routinely terrible, but at the same time, it was full of people experimenting, and trying to “figure out” how to make YouTube the powerhouse that it inevitably has become. What YouTube and creators understood back then was that so long as the site attracted lots of creators, and lots of viewers, it would eventually figure out a sustainable business model. So the most important thing was to ensure there were ways to encourage creators to stay on the platform experimenting, and the original magic sauce that did this was “the Community”.
You didn’t need to be a creator to be in the Community. You just needed to care about other creators enough to support them by hitting subscribe, showing support and encouragement with a comment and/or a like, and spreading the word about the creators you like. The Community would lift up worthy creators, and tear down perceived bad actors. And the most passionate YouTube fans were often creators supporting other creators.
The Subscriptions box used to be the beating heart of the YouTube Community. This was where people kept up with friends who were posting, and where, in the absense of ad revenue, people would reward good creators with likes and comments.
There’s no question that the transformation of YouTube since monetization has been natural, inevitable, and you could even say mostly a good thing. Why is it that Google gets money from ad clicks on videos and creators just got likes and vibes? YouTube did the right thing enabling monetization, and it transformed the site over time. But it must also be said that it transformed the Community.
The biggest change I think is that while there is no question that the quality of content on the site has improved dramatically, for those chasing the dream of making a living out of YouTubing, it matters more to chase the “algorithm” than it really does to chase “subscribes” and “likes”. These help, and engagement with followers is still a part of professional YouTubing. But it isn’t the be all and end all that it used to be. It’s also better business for YouTube to be able to recommend fresh channels and content, and to drive views toward content that data shows to be engaging, and that’s good for advertisers also. There is no question that there are good reasons that the algorithm has gotten better and better, and YouTube has hardly updated the subscriptions functionality at all in ten years, which has become more of a niche feature for hardcore users and old timers.
However, this explosion in scale of YouTube means that Community has started to take a back seat to big data analysis and dollar chasing. This makes sense for the biggest and most popular channels on YouTube, and YouTube itself, but there remains a massive “longtail” of creators and fans on YouTube, still trying to get their channels started/noticed, or happy making videos for smaller audiences, that is getting drowned out by the noise of the hordes being herded towards “watch next” videos and away from their subscriptions box.
In Japan, I’ve seen the YouTube community go through a rise, a fall, and a recent resurgence. I think the original rise was based on Community genuinely first being the key to success on the platform. The fall was linked to the site itself reorienting toward data after monetization, and Community no longer being as critical or as worth the hassle to deal with. I think it is coming back now, not because YouTube has changed, but because “long tail” YouTubers have learned that while monetization is nice, for most YouTube will be a hobby, and whatever size channel you are, having a base of loyal subscribers that come back to watch your content and support you – a strong Community – is as good in many ways as having a nice adsense check.
I’m a creator, and I made myChan to make it easier to get back to supporting my creator friends, and letting other YouTube fans support the channels and networks they love. It’s basically a tool to give the features YouTube would have if it had developed as a community based site rather than an algorithm one. It means parents don’t need to nervously look over chidlren’s shoulders to check the algorithm isn’t taking their kids onto unsafe content. It means people who want to catch up their friend’s channels don’t need to get distracted down recommended video rabbit holes. And it means we can all watch the content we go to YouTube to watch, without constantly needing to click back and forth just to stay on that path.
We love YouTube and the way it has grown, and the way it rewards creators. With myChan, you can enjoy a version of the site that makes it easy to watch YouTube by supporting creators and puts YOU in control of the content you watch.