On the surface, YouTube is as powerful and influential as it has ever been. We've all seen the stats. And we've all tried to tap into the exposure that comes from successful branded YouTube campaigns.
However, a storm is on the horizon, and it’s growing increasingly difficult for YouTube to weather it without suffering some significant damage.
There are two big problems facing YouTube at the moment, and they are both being caused by the same thing: size. YouTube is a behemoth. And its size is both a blessing and, increasingly, a curse.
Size perhaps isn't an adequate explanation on its own. More specifically, discoverability is the problem. With all of the content uploaded every day, it is incredibly challenging for content to be found by the people most likely to watch it.
So two things are happening as a result of this virtual “messy room”:
1. More effort is being put behind the promotion of video content so that it can stand out and be found easier.
2. Niche audiences have started to seek out alternatives to YouTube, especially younger audiences.
A great example of a trend we're likely to see more of is TinyTube.com
, which is essentially a YouTube for kids that focuses on educational content and only features videos appropriate to the age group. Time will tell if this audience-specific video sharing community will stick around, but the concept alone has a lot of merit.
YouTube might eventually have an answer to this particular problem, but it does highlight the serious deficiencies in which YouTube suffers from in relation to its structure and awkward categorization approach. The key categories in which videos are assigned are terribly narrow. If you have ever uploaded a video to YouTube, you'll probably have experienced the “which category does my video” dilemma. It's frustrating, but not beyond repair.
The more terminal problem facing YouTube is the view generation tactics employed by some users, which are unethical and, in some cases, fraudulent.
A number of view-count programs are in existence and what they do, quite simply, is generate fake views. Why is this a problem? View counts equate to success and popularity. Plus, YouTube's recently launched partner program rewards uploaders with money for the views they generate (so YouTube can reach more people with its ads).
Now YouTube is doing all in its power to protect the validity of view counts, because its whole existence is based on it being a true representation of what's hot and what's not. But if you take a look at the blogs and videos being posted by some of the more active YouTube users
, you'll find that the fake view count issue is only getting worse.
I'm not a programmer or algorithm specialist so I can't provide any deep technical insight, but as we know, where there is smoke there is often some fire.
This also presents challenges for people genuinely providing services that help make content more discoverable, especially those who optimize video content for discovery. Their results are likely to be called into question because of the action of a dishonest few.
Like any good YouTube video, let's finish this up with a dramatic ending.
YouTube is one of the most powerful websites and social networks in the world. It is only going to become more powerful as video content becomes more accessible by mobile devices. But as we know, with great power comes great responsibility, and the jury is out as to whether YouTube can deal with the challenges being presented by its own success.
A version of this story first appeared on AdamVincenzini.com.