Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Clickbait Conundrum

In a market of oversaturation, what does one have to do to stand out and would also be the most rewarding? Creativity? Nah. Hard work and commitment? Please. Be unique? Even that term is oversaturated now. No. You know what Youtube rewards the most? Clickbait. The art of pulling people in under false pretence, not delivering what you claim your content would deliver, and pasting sexy-babe.png into your thumbnail and highlight specific ass-ets with those shiny, totally not annoying red arrows. And you know what the best part of it all is? It has been accepted.

"98% will not see the difference!!!1!!1!" False. "GTA 6 giveaway!" False. "Half-Life 3 gameplay uncovered [super rare gone wrong in the hood]!" False. False. FALSE! The real question isn't why it works, because I think we can all agree on why this pestilent method works (you just wanna click on it, ya know?). No. The real question is why it's still on this damn site. Why? We'll get to this later, in more detail, but it's the first question that I continue to ask myself. Every day. Till my head hurts. Does Youtube think so little of their own status? Is our culture just fucked?

Seeing as I hold extremely little merit in the dark pits of the site that is called, no one performing the aforementioned arts will read this and even if they would, they damn sure wouldn't change a thing. And why the hell should they? Revenue, increased watch time, subscribers, views; they all mirror one statement: clickbait is good, clickbait is rewarding, and clickbait is the way to go. Clickbait no longer sends out a negative resonance, as it sends out a positive one. No longer is it frowned upon, as it is widely acclaimed as profitable. No longer is clickbait used by scummy channels with an already questionable positioning, as it is used by some of the biggest channels now. And the worst part of it all? Everyone seems totally fine with it.

Clickbait excels at one key aspect: the potential to go viral. And you know what 'viral' stands for in Youtube HQ? "Mad money, yo." I wouldn't blink twice if I saw an actual poster with a similar wording, hanging over Susan Wojcicki's head, as she ruthlessly tells her 10 secretaries to leave her be as she is counting her stacks of hard-earned cash. In a whole different topic, one that I am dying to discuss in the near future, Youtube is a company. Plain and simple. It needs to earn money, and it needs to be profitable. Down the line, and the end of the track, that's what Youtube is about, and what it should be about. You think Youtube is doing everything from the kindness of their blackened souls? You think Youtube will stretch one limb to stop this revenue-train? Because viral not only means more views, but, most importantly, it also means new visitors. New visitors on their precious toxic dump site of content. Visitors that will potentially bathe in that very waste for hours on end. No. Don't count on the company to change, because they are doing exactly what they need to do. Instead, count on the users. But nothing has ever felt more unrealistic than that statement.

There are numerous reasons why Youtube's visitors have apparently accepted clickbait as a normal method of communication, and there are different levels of clickbait as well. One of the biggest reasons why I personally think clickbait is normal, is the humor that accompanies it. Nowadays, specifically the bigger channels, employ clickbait, claiming it's 'funny', because that way, nobody will blame them. "You can't get veews without clickbeet anymore!" or they just use an equally oversaturated meme. It's this culture that has made it acceptable to use clickbait. After all, it's just for fun right? Nobody should take it seriously!

Remember that slur I used not too long before, where one can claim he or she is not able to gather views if he or she does not use clickbait? Well, sadly, it's getting pretty damn close to actually being exactly that. The current need for relevancy is ironically achieved by irrelevant content. The need for a higher quality of life is received by a mirrored pile of poo of lower quality content. I feel it's important to highlight the different forms/levels of clickbait. There are low levels of clickbait, like a GTA 5 video mentioning "Epic" in the title while we all know there is nothing "Epic" about anything in that whole video. Harmless. Time-wasting? Yes. Heck, I did that. Come at me. Or the always annoying "I QUIT!" video, where you leave with the message of that person leaving for week, but you'd wish they actually would quit. Originality? Nowhere. Harm done? No.

But there are also higher levels of clickbait. Shall we call it... AzzyBait, by AzzyLand, gladly showing you her enormous bosom for a quick but insane stack of money. Or ClickJimmy, by LispyJimmy, well-known for "humorously" dubbing GTA 5 videos as GTA 6. But it's funny, you know? Countless of others have mastered, nay, perfected the arts of clickbait. The only kind of satisfaction I get from any of, if you don't count Azzy's bosom, is the comment section. Shredded. Every single one of them. But seeing as their screens are blocked by dozens of stacks of Benjamins, who really gives a shit?

The head of LispyJimmy is one that I would want to take a look into. Just to take a poke at his brain to see if A) it still functions, and B) if there's any section that would control his feeling of guilt. Stupid questions, both, I know. But as I stated earlier, in relation to Youtube, is there no feeling of remorse. No feeling of losing respect of others. No feeling of betraying yourself as you are spitting on the hobby you so enjoyed doing while only delivering one cancerous video after another? Seeing as his brain would probably overload from feeling two emotions at the same time, I'm guessing the answer is a solid "No". Just as solid as the claim that he steals every bit of 'his' originality.

Here comes the real ranty bit. Ranty isn't a word? Neither is clickbait. Deal with it. Youtube, as a platform, is getting close to being a cesspool, where bacteria thrive, and normal functioning organisms perish. I know I'm breaking the number 1 rule, but Youtube is now a fight club, where the one kicking his opponents in the nuts will emerge victorious over the person playing a little more fair. A pond, filled with Scrooge McDucks, where simpletons like myself, have very little to pick from. Going back to RetardedJimmy one last time, how is someone like that still allowed to post content? Besides the fact that I know why, and we all know why, it grinds my gears. It grinds my gears so hard it makes me want to not buy GTA 6 anymore when it comes out. That's a lie. But still.

Thankfully, as always, there are content creators, bigger ones too, that have set out to do what they wanted to do, and still do that same thing. No tricks. No shitty methods. Just passion. Jesse Cox, Vanoss, Milimate (huehue), you name them. Thing is, for this to change, we need to change the way people act. Which is impossible. Almost just as impossible as finding a decent GTA 5 video. And whether you like it or not, clickbait will become the standard. I, for one, will never choose this path. Not because I'm some social justice warrior, but because it would kill everything I've worked for, including my principles.

Youtube is often mentioned as the successor of TV. But TV is censored as -beep-, so Youtube would have to be censored right? How did it come to the point where it is acceptable to earn lots and lots of money, and lots of it, by plain lying to your audience. Crux of the matter is, content creators often complain about Youtube not taking responsibility, and that their creating is their job. Get real. Please. Can you imagine going to a plastic surgeon because you saw an ad somewhere that said "Enlarge one boob, get the other boob enlarged for free", only to find a fat, hairy and little man sitting there to just touch some boobs? Basically the same. Not really. Clickbait's probably more vile. But with that statement I'll conclude my blog. I just really wanted to get the word 'boob' in here. Because clickbait.

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Community Conjuration

Soooo... yeah. I'm writing my first blog now, as we speak. It's something I wanted to do for a very long time but ironically never had the time for. The main reason I started on a Monday is because it's a Monday. It's the one day where I have a gazillion thoughts running through my head, but never have a place to put them. Twitter? Nobody cares about serious stuff. Facebook? Uhm... Tumblr? Yeaaaah... Website? Ain't nobody got time for that. So, I decided to use Blogger. Because Google.

But this isn't about me. Well, technically it is because it will showcase my own experiences, but the first topic I want to desperately discuss goes a lot further than just me. Because even though I am a part of that very topic, there's something strangely ironic about being part of it. Today's topic is YouTube's community, or rather, 'community'. Don't get your panties in a bunch just yet, because I love the community. I actually do. There are just profound reasons as to why it is getting increasingly difficult to advocate for that community even though, again, I am forever grateful of its existence.

For those that know me, and my channel (PLUG!), I am not serious. I take life as it is, and do the same with any hobbies I choose to undertake. For those that know me a little better however, I can be quite serious. And I do the same with any hobbies I choose to undertake. So in essence, my thoughts are always divided by a feeling of not wanting to take things seriously, and a feeling to do exactly the opposite. It is this general state of mind, found especially on a Monday, that made me want to write a lil' sum'n sum'n about the community that everyone starting YouTube finds themselves in. It's a vibrant place, mostly, but its increasing toxicity makes you want to answer that one question: is it even worth it?

Now, once more, I love the community. I have met many friends, some significantly closer than others, and it enriched my experience in ways I could not have foreseen. Most of us 'new YouTubers' started out in some sort of a community, whether it is Google+-, Facebook, or well-known websites such as DamnLag. And we all did it for the same reason: subscribers and views. Don't deny. Don't lie. This is why we do it. Sure, you'll get some feedback, meet some people, and crack some banter during collaborations, but at the end of it all, your main goal is to get your channel noticed. And there's nothing wrong with it. Hypocritical as I can be, I will not deny any of it. Of course it's great to see a new subscriber join your minimal fanbase. Or when you get a few likes and comments on a brand new video. But in the grand scheme of building your 'brand' and your channel, is it indeed rewarding down the line? Or is it disabling any kind of 'real' traffic to your channel?

There's no arguing that a large part of the community is supportive because of own potential gain. After all, by labeling themselves as 'part of the 'real' community', rather than the shitfest that is spam-nation, you're much more inclined to go seek out their content. Right? Because you're a nice guy or girl, who would gladly do something in return. But it isn't until you've not visited their channel for a week, after about 3 nice comments with a cute little timestamp, you figure out they weren't actually there for your content. And yet again, we do not speak of spammers here. That's a whole different breed. Enough saliva has been spilled on those pests. Ask yourself this: if you would not check out their content for 2 weeks, who would remain? Who would continue to watch your content if they don't get some dickrubs themselves?

Because THAT, to me, is the essential question. Because when we talk about what and who helps build your channel, I'm fairly certain the community drastically lowers in significance. Just for the sake of saying this, I am not talking about the real friends you made while active in the community. They're friends, not content creators. Well, they're content creators, but they're friends. Get it? Probably not. It's not you, it's me.

You may ask: "Why are you spitting on what made you get to your channel's current state?" I'm not. I am fully recognizing the importance of a community. The feeling you get from growth. The satisfaction and morning boner when you see a bunch of new likes and comments. But are they contributing to your channel's durability? Are they making your SEO-efforts pay off? No. They just don't. See, the tricky thing about a community is the lack of respect for each other. We don't see each other as content creators that put in hard work into our videos. Nah, f that. We see each other as an extra like and comment. And because of that, most will jump in, leave a comment and a like, get that sweet timestamp in there, and leave, subsequently leaving you with a feeling of devilement. More so than the US presidential election.

"So where is the damage Stefan? I see nothing but advantages!" Good question, worse statement. Yes, growth is extremely important in the early days of your channel, and a community like the ones mentioned before is almost always a key factor. No denying that, and I have nothing bad to say about that. But at the same time, wonders wonders, communities limit your growth. Members of most communities limit their own growth. Without getting too technical, you know what really makes you grow? Youtube. That suggested video bar. The search results. The way it annoyingly pushes someone's videos into their face if they watched multiple videos of a certain channel but that person hasn't subscribed yet. That's where it is. And you know what damages that? Communities.

I speak of generations of communities. I started YouTube around the same time as my 'generation' did. Because of it, some of those content creators are still my friends to this day. After a certain amount of time has passed, we started not being involved with the community that much anymore. "Bitch!", you might scream. "Turd!", you might yell. "Ungrateful!", you might state. And in an utopia of YouTube, I would agree. In this current state, no. As an example, my retention, you know, that most important factor when it comes to ranking in search results, increased from 35% to 45%-50%. And that's over the course of the last year or so. Obviously, though arguably, I've increased quality of my content. Made it better, funnier, less cringey*. But you know what strikes me most? The incredible decrease in likes and comments. It's almost as if there's a direct correlation between my comments and likes, and my retention. What the hell? And I'm not the only who has seen this happening.

The main point of me scribbling down is not to put the community in a dark shade, surrounded by trust issues and clouded by bad experiences. Au contraire, everyone should start out in a community. The point I'm making, or atleast trying to make, is that you should be wary about who you connect with, and who you 'return the favor' to. After all, there's nothing wrong with watching content of other creators you enjoy watching. Spin it any way you want, but at some point, you need to let go. While a small portion will always be with you (romantic right?), the largest portion functions as poison, making your channel ache and bleed out slowly. I guess my point is, in a way, to not be afraid of decreasing interaction. Because ironically, it's the worst possible way to measure your current state.

* debatable