Why is YouTube terrible?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com


Check out some of the following videos, selected from top channels, all made within the last few months. Videos like KIDS in JAIL!!, How Guys Sleep, This was the FASTEST selling video game of 2006, Epic Epic Stunt, Ambercrombie & Fitch CEO Is A Dick, TWERKSANITY!!!, all have millions of views and subscribers but about $20 of production value and content investment between the lot of them. Even the best one, from The Young Turks network, could have been made in the studio of a high school media class.

Except the teams producing these videos are earning millions of dollars from it. This is what these people do for a living. As of 2012, there were literally thousands of YouTube partners making more than six-figures a year in advertising checks from Google alone, meaning that this is a damn well paying job to boot. As Benny Luo, founder and writer of NewMediaRockstars.com, a site which tracks YouTube closely, explained, there are “YouTube channels making $80,000-$100,000 per month in ad revenue.”

Yet from what I see, their content has barely graduated from the original formula: webcam + person telling jokes that would get you booed off the stage of any comedy club / songs that no one would dare sing at even the worst open mic nights / low budget skits that would make Michael Scott squirm.

Make no mistake, the YouTube partners are professionals. Just really bad ones.

So, that raises the question: Why?

Why are YouTube videos still so terrible? Why hasn’t video content tremendously improved over the last half-decade? Why hasn’t the infusion of capital translated into quality art?

I ask for two reasons. One is pure fascination: How can someone do this for a living and be so bad at it? Two: YouTube has begun describing its viewers as Generation C–could it be that Generation C is just dumb or has low standards?

My answer is simple: Behind it all is the same old pageview problem we talked about in this column for the last year.

When content is 100 percent advertising supported and there is no paid subscription component, the quality of the content never rises above mediocre. The content may be cute, it may be controversial, it may generate lots of clicks but it will rarely, if ever, be good.

I like this, down in the comments:

This is the worst thing ever written. If someone can spend $20 to make thousands, you should be ADMIRING them and trying to find out how they connect with people vs being jealous and spiteful. “High Quality” doesn’t equate to “high interest.” That’s why most of the Google funded channels failed. The hate by old media is hilarious; I can’t wait to see your downfall soon.