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Surviving the YouTube Redesign

While my blog titles as of late may sound sensational, they are only a reaction to the first major overhaul of the site… ever. Since YouTube began, the site has functioned more-or-less the same with only cosmetic upgrades from time to time. We, the YouTube community, have not really had to go through such a radical change yet that actually affects the fundamental viewing experience for millions of visitors every day.

After my last blog post, I received two emails from YouTube, one from the head editor (who is in charge of the various category editors and what’s featured, etc.) and one from the head of the Partnership Program. I cannot post what those emails said; I can only tell you that the redesign may not be as doom and gloom as the blogs (this one included) have made it out to be.

That said, here is my biggest concern with the redesign. Currently on YouTube, Britney Spears and I are equals. Our videos both appear in all search results, both of our videos appear on the same honors lists, both of our videos have the opportunity to appear as Related Videos to any video on the site. This is called Discovery, to use a fancy analytics term. Currently, it is theoretically just as easy to discover one of my videos on YouTube as it is one of Ms. Spears’ videos.

However, after the redesign is complete, this will no longer be the case, from what I understand*. Separating Premium Content from User-Generated Content (UGC) will not take away any of the audience we already have, but it will immediately stop all growth of our audience, aside from word of mouth.

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, behind Google. If your UGC video ranks highly in any search, new viewers are able to find your videos every day. New viewers mean new subscribers. If our UGC videos no longer rank among the Premium videos when searched, or honored, or related… our viewership growth is going to hit a brick wall. With viewers growing bored of YouTube, or moving on to other sites every day, we count on new subscribers to take their place. Without the new subscribers every day, yes, our audience would start shrinking.

The best way to combat this redesign is to make your own views. Don’t rely on YouTube to send viewers to your videos, as they’ve done in the past via search results, spotlights, features, honors charts, related videos, etc. You need to put in the legwork again, like back when you were first starting out and didn’t know anyone else on the site.

  • Let people know when you make a new video. Update your twitter friends. Embed it in your blog. Post a link to it on relevant forums. Put the link in your email signature. Do video swaps with your friends (you feature their video on your channel and they feature yours). Just get it out there.
  • Ask for help. It never hurts to ask. People are always willing to help, but most of the time they need a “call to action”. Ever wonder why the vloggers who ask for comments or ask for ratings have hundreds more of both than the vloggers who don’t? Simple. They asked for them. Ask your friends to pass along your video link to just two other people. If your video mentions, or would be interesting to, a bigger YouTuber, send it to them, ask if they’d share your link with their viewers. They certainly aren’t obligated to, and you wouldn’t want to send them every video you make. But I’ve found the occasional ask for help has yielded amazing results.
  • Reciprocate. No one likes the kid on the playground who doesn’t share. If you see a video that you enjoy, throw the link up on twitter. If you see a video that is amazing, let it spend a little time in your autoplay, or make a video response! If others see you promoting good videos and smaller YouTubers, they will be more willing to do the same for you. Always practice what you preach. And do it because you want to help, not because you expect anything in return.

When you take YouTube out of the equation, and rely less on them for views, then changes like the one we are due to see this Thursday will impact you less. No one can fault YouTube for the changes they are about to make. They are losing money, and are trying to fix that. While not everyone sees eye-to-eye about how this can best be done, it does rally the troops and give us a reason to remember why we’re on the site and care so much about this change in the first place: the interaction.

*this is based solely on speculation and unconfirmed reports from other blogs and online media sources. YouTube has, as of yet, made no official statements about the redesign, so we won’t know for sure until Thursday. Either way, the advice given in the article is still relevant and useful, even if the redesign does not impact us as much as we’ve been told it will.


39 Responses to “Surviving the YouTube Redesign”

  1. Paul Says:

    I did not know that YT hadn’t made an official statement - I’m sort of bothered that there’s been all this fuss other something without definitive facts.

  2. fallofautumndistro Says:

    @Paul, if it were just one place reporting it, it would be easy to ignore. But hundreds of blogs and online news sources have been buzzing about the change, and have even nailed down the date. This leads me to believe that someone at YouTube has leaked the information about the redesign, and while that doesn’t make it an official statement, I’m sure the blogs reporting these changes won’t be too far off the mark either.

  3. MiniDave Says:

    As you can imagine, I’m a bit worried about this. I know at the end of the day its not all about Subscribers, but what is the point in making videos if they’re not going to get many views. At the moment I have around 360 Subs, and I enjoy making videos at the moment. If it does change, I feel as if I will be getting the same audience, which will be no fun as I want to branch out to a lot of people. Now, as a Non-Partner, even without the changes, I feel YouTube don’t care much about the users who aren’t making them money, and this proves my point, if the changes happen, that they’re gonna promote the stuff which gets them a lot of money.

  4. Jeffrey Says:

    Really good blog post and good advice. I just feel like Youtube is slowly losing the community feel but like you said this is losing them money. So it seems like there is no good outcome. I guess I just have to trust their decision and hope the Youtube experience doesn’t change too much.

  5. Levi Beamish Says:

    Brick walls are nothing we can’t handle right? I mean there are many ways to grow an audience as you said its gonna be a lot of word of mouth from here on out. I’m just kinda annoyed not about my audience or your audience but the sites audience I mean if its moving to pro content the people visiting the site are just gonna be here to watch and thats a shame because I’d like more and more people to get involved and make videos and participate in what we’ve got going on. I love that audience participation aspect I don’t want to see the site just become some new TV channel for gorking idiots.

  6. Beccah Says:

    If youtube is no longer going to help promote our videos, don’t you think we should get a larger cut of our adsense earnings after the redesign?

  7. nick Says:

    This bothers me even more now. I am still relatively new to the youtube community. I have right around 13 subscribers, and upon hearing this it doesn’t seem like I have much hope in gaining many more, as I haven’t had time to develop “friendships” with youtubers out there that would be able to really help me out. And by the sound of all this it seems as though it will be harder to develop those “friendships” needed. Whether you like it or not, those with fewer subscribers tend to not get taken seriously when they ask to make a collabs or anything related. I tend to think that people like you (Alan), John and Hank, Chrlestrippy, Michael Buckley, and the rest, don’t have a whole lot to fear when it comes to subscribers and views. I know I am going to share your videos, as I already do.

    Anyway, thanks for giving us this update and your take on it. Now I am off to partake in the youtube community and have fun.

  8. Arielle Says:

    Alan,
    Thanks for this little blog. While I too am worried about the redesign, this blog gives me a bit more hope. I am just starting out on YouTube and am slowly but surely gaining subscribers. I thought I was toast with the redesign, but hopefully with your advice I will be able to survive. Only time will tell now.

  9. Channei Says:

    Good advice Alan.

    However, I think one thing that should not be forgotten is just how small a dent Hulu made into youtube’s over all views since that site went up. The new format of course is driven by the desires of the advertisers. But if Hulu wasn’t able to steal huge amount market share away from youtube’s user generated market share, I wonder who much the new “premium” content will steal the audience that has come for the user generated content. Let’s not forget that Oprah entered the stage with much fanfare and despite a big splash was never able to get much beyond one tenth of Michael Buckley’s subscription numbers.

    If the community of user generated content continues to thrive and create videos which are watched by large numbers even after the site changes are put in place to drive traffic toward the new premium content, then it would only make sense not ignore that community’s potential as an important source of revenue. Like you wrote in the previous blog there a ways in which youtube could better tap into this resource. And if we stay focused on doing what we’ve been doing their hand will have to give more thought on how to nurture grow and profit from the community.

  10. blackturtle.us Says:

    It will be interesting to see how absolute the partition between user-generated and professional videos is. Will pro videos show up in the related videos accompanying user-generated videos, but not vice versa? Will the two groups be completely separate? There could actually be some advantages to segregating the two groups providing that there is a large enough audience that is interested in user-generated material!

  11. Thee Stranger Says:

    “No one can fault YouTube for the changes they are about to make. They are losing money, and are trying to fix that.”

    You make good points but I disagree with that one. Google were the ones that paid an absurd amount for YouTube. They decided to have a global audience use up their bandwidth. They’re the ones that failed to convince enough advertisers to spend their money on the site. They’re the ones that have been imitating instead of innovating all the way back to when Livevideo was considered a serious competitor.

  12. Castaa Says:

    Interesting Alan, thanks.

    It’s funny because I was urging one of the project managers at YouTube to separate and distinguish the professional content from the amateur content at last year’s SF YT gathering. Since much of the most daily popular videos on YT is simply “illegally” posted TV content which already has a critical mass of an audience that pushes it above the noise level. So I wanted a way for users to be separate of that competition. But maybe that isn’t such a good idea in retrospect.

    I guess we’ll wait and see how this effects subscribers and audiences sizes. On the surface, it is quite discouraging since I know a lot of my new subscribers come from searches and related videos. And you are correct in saying subscriber growth is vital in maintaining an audience size.

    It also seems unlikely that YT is going to try to kill or abandon support for the user generated content unless they feel there is little chance of it ever being a money maker for them over time. I doubt YT gives up on it.

  13. EthanLoomis Says:

    I agree with Levi… audience participation is pretty much the only reason I am on youtube. I am encouraged by other people’s creativity and that is what drives me. I think that’s pretty much true for everyone. If youtube just turns into another consumer site instead of one primarily for creators, that would be a tragedy. But Alan from what you said it gives me hope… most people don’t “Discover” my videos anyway. I think the best way to get your name out is to simply join in on the discussion of videos in comments, rating, and subscribing to people that inspire you. Also, the fact that Cohenism keeps putting my videos on his autoplay has helped immensely.

  14. alex Says:

    you are right, alan, i suppose. but saying that, it is nearly impossible for a new user to get any views. without any subscribers already, it’s going to be practically impossible for us to get anyone.

  15. Russell Albert Says:

    Your tips seem to only be of substance to those who “have already made it” on YouTube. What about us little guys, with less than 100 subscribers? Sure, we can put in some more legwork–but I already feel as if I’m a hamster running in circles…

    Come Black Thursday, I might as well close up shop and scout out another site on which to share my videos.

  16. LiveAndLetDice Says:

    Another great blog,

    I think we all just need to trust that there’s enough good people at YT in influential positions saying “hey we can’t just fck over the very people that have made us so popular”. I, like many, am just starting out and whilst I keep hearing how much harder it is to make it that a year or two ago I have no intention of jumping ship to another site, to me that doesn’t make any sense - yes you may have 10x less competition to get your videos seen, but you’ll have 10,000x less audience.

    It’s in YT’s interest to have both the premium content and UGC working for them as best they can - they’d be foolish to abandon one half of that. Tidying up the site may in fact be a good thing and although they’re dividing the content into these 4 sections, there’s nothing to say that users won’t have the option to view results from each of them along side one another when they search. Our videos may even be more visible with improved sorting, and if traffic to the site increases further with improved premium content and big sponsors driving people to the site then there will be even more people to discover your videos…
    You may call me optimistic, or even naive, but I’d like to think that Thursday may bring an improvement to the YT experience. Change is never easy until one has acclimatised to the changes - I suggest we look forward to seeing what the changes will be because they will undoubtedly present us all with new challenges and ideas. Whilst a few big YouTubers could perhaps successfully pull away from the site, the rest of us need and enjoy it, so lets just wait and see what we all have to work with in 48hours time!

    See you on the other side ;)

    PS - Alan, you should be thrilled, you get to right the NEW Youtube Guide!$$!

  17. LiveAndLetDice Says:

    write* (don’t worry, I’ve punched myself for that inexcusable error).

  18. lukeb3000 Says:

    As a relatively new YouTube user (with not a great deal of subscribers) all this change is of great worry to me!

    I do however think that the core community can easily over come this, I feel the core community is more about the friendships and the relationships and if we stick together we will be fine

    I am always trying to put in the ‘leg work’ to gain new subscribers, I think the ‘call to action’ is something I have over looked in the past! So if you are reading this please take a moment to click on my name in this comment and subscribe to me!

  19. Sergentpeper1967 Says:

    So I didnt take the time to go through all of the comments on this post…but I thought that I would point out another way to share videos and links, at least with people you know. I found out a few months ago that you are able to link your youtube account with your facebook. And everytime you favorite or upload a video it posts it on your wall, and lets others know via their news feed that you have done one of the above actions. I figure that this is one really good way to pass videos around, and it requires no effort by you (Other than uploading or favoriting a video). I do know this works well too, since I get comments on facebok about some of the videos that I favorite. Hope this is helpful to some of you.

  20. lava9nine Says:

    It sounds like Google is taking an almost hostile stance against community-made content, treating it like competition, by gearing the search to favor commercial content and ignore the dog on the skateboard. I can understand their wanting to include more ’salable’ content, but why at the expense of the community?

  21. Andy Says:

    i don’t think there is much to worry about, i’m sure us underground youtubers will find a way to overcome this.

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Viral Video Wannabe...

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…is written by Alan “fallofautumndistro” Lastufka, co-author of the book, “YouTube: An Insider’s Guide
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