Come 19:00 this evening, YouTube will lose one of it’s biggest stars when Felix “Pewdiepie” Kjellberg deletes his YouTube channel.
The creator announced last week that when his channel hit 50 million subscribers he would delete the channel. “YouTube is trying to kill my channel. It is happening, it’s clear if you watch my analytics it’s all going down,” Kjellberg said in a video (this link may be dead if Kjellberg goes through with his threat).
“I’ve decided that the only way to stop my channel from dying – I know you’re going to think I’m joking right now, but I’m going to delete my channel,” he announced. To be clear the creator is not abandoning YouTube but is rather making a statement by deleting what is likely one of the platform’s most lucrative channels.
Kjellberg currently has 50 million subscribers, the first creator on the platform to reach this milestone. Only YouTube’s own Movies channel is close to Kjellberg’s with over 44 million subscribers.
Ironically, it’s subscribers that are the reason for Kjellberg’s decision, or rather how YouTube appears to be treating subscriptions to creators on its platform.
A number of creators including Ethan and Hila Klein of h3h3 Productions have accused YouTube of toying with the algorithm that shows users content from the channels they subscribe to.
In the video above Klein demonstrates how YouTube is not showing him the channels he is subscribed to. Instead of seeing the creators he likes, Klein says that YouTube is suggesting videos from channels that have an extreme amount of daily activity.
These channels often beg for likes and constantly encourage users to comment, often before the video has even begun. From personal experience these videos often have clickbait titles, are devoid of creativity and are so annoying you’d likely only watch it because a friend forced you to.
In another video (once again, link might be dead should the channel be deleted) Kjellberg addresses the fact that videos that have lewd thumbnails and feature pornography (pornography is not allowed to be uploaded to YouTube per its own guidelines) appear to be garnering millions of views, millions more than appropriate content which adheres to the platforms guidelines does.
The problem with this is that it affects views which in turn impacts the revenue creators generate from advertising on their videos. Many YouTubers have made making videos for the platform their full-time job and if their views start decreasing because of something YouTube has done, that is a problem.
This week YouTube responded to the allegations being made by Klein, Kjellberg and other creators saying that it had not made any changes to it’s suggested video’s algorithm.
“We’ve done an extensive review and found there have been no decreases in creators’ subscriber numbers beyond what normally happens when viewers either unsubscribe from a creator’s channel or when YouTube removes spammed subscribers,” a YouTube spokesperson told the BBC.
Who is right?
YouTube is my main source of entertainment. I don’t watch television, I seldom stream movies on Netflix and I don’t illegally download movies or TV series. This puts me in the position where I can say whether what Kjellberg and Klein are saying is true or not.
Below you’ll see a screen grab of what my YouTube Home page looks like. On a side note, if you watch a lot of YouTube videos at night the Dark Skin for YouTube Chrome extension is great.
It all looks above board because I subscribe to a number of those channels. Until you take a look at the subscription feed.
You’ll notice that only one of the latest videos from the channels I subscribe to is on my Home page. Instead of seeing the content of creators I enjoy I get repeats of videos I’ve watched, and suggestions from channels that I’ve watched one or two videos from. I also don’t subscribe to CollegeHumour, but you’ll notice 12 videos from that channel in my Home page.
You could argue that people should just go to their subscription feed but that isn’t how people use YouTube. The only time I visit the Home page is when I log in after work the rest of the time I’m either going directly to channels or letting YouTube suggest videos to me in the side bar and from Kjellberg’s and Klein’s videos it appears as if that is how many people also use the website.
For those that are already typing in the comments that this is a non-issue and users should turn on alerts and watch their favourite creators more closely I say that this isn’t the problem. The problem is that YouTube is still letting an algorithm do the work humans should be doing.
I’ve said this to the point where it actually makes me physically ill to say the words but if YouTube doesn’t stop making decisions on its own that have far reaching effects on both creators and users, the platform will slowly die out.
Regardless of what you think of the Swedish creator, Kjellberg has built a lucrative business from the platform and turning his back on his success to make a point should signal that there is something very wrong with the system. Please YouTube, as a user that depends on your platform, start taking a hands on approach with your content.
Of course this could just be the biggest troll since rick-rolling was discovered and Kjellberg won’t delete his channel and this was all a ploy to get more subscribers. If that is the case I have a message for you Felix.