Anyone who considers themselves to be part of the YouTube “community” (usually people who make videos and/or comment regularly as opposed to the majority of YouTube users who simply watch videos) tends to have a strong opinion regarding what videos get “featured” on the front page of YouTube. The summary of the most common opinion is essentially “That featured video is shit,” and “Why don’t I get featured?”
For those not familiar with how YouTube works, being featured is the main chance for reaching a large audience. There are the occasional breakout hits that reach millions of people without ever being featured but, by and large, being featured is seen by most people as the best way to make it big on YouTube.
Since YouTube opened up all of its regional pages in the last year, the game has changed a bit. When there was only one home page everyone was clamouring to be featured on it. The featured videos were almost universally English language and it was heavily dominated by North American videos (which made sense because this was also where most site users were from.)
Now with more than a dozen regional home pages it’s considerably easier for people around the world to be featured in their region and at least raise their profile locally. But being featured on the global home page is still the golden ticket. For example, being featured on the Australian home page can deliver anywhere from a few thousand extra views to maybe a hundred thousand. Being featured globally will deliver anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of views.
I’ve found myself in the middle of a conversation with Australian YouTubers about what videos get featured on the Australian home page. Specifically, the conversation revolves around why some people don’t get featured at all while some people are featured repeatedly. And I’m in the middle of it because although I’ve never been featured globally, I’ve been featured about half a dozen times since the local page launched last year.
Which brings me to the title of this post. Very few people seem able to cope when the honest answer to their question “Why haven’t I been featured?” (or the more general “Why aren’t I famous?”) is “Because you aren’t very good.”
This is not universally true, of course. Many deserving, talented people never get the recognition they deserve and many talentless hacks get far more attention than their meagre offerings to the world warrant. But I find it surprising how many people are unable to face the fact that they simply aren’t as talented as people they’re jealous of.
As in life, the YouTube situation is not solely about jealousy. Not by a long shot. So long as YouTube persists in featuring cute fucking bunnies and kitties doing fuck-all, righteous indignation will fuel many dedicated community members. But I know from experience that it can be hard to find enough “feature-worthy” videos in a community as small as Australia.
A little while ago, I was invited to be the “guest editor” of the YouTube Australia home page which meant picking about 20 videos which the permanent editor would narrow down to 14 videos which would be featured. Fuck, that was hard! Admittedly I made it a little harder on myself than it needed to be by trying to limit the list to people that hadn’t been featured before. In the end I did nominate two people who had been featured before but they weren’t particularly well known and I really liked their videos.
But it did make it pretty clear to me why the Australian YouTube editor features some people more than once while not featuring others at all. It’s bloody hard to find decent videos that don’t contain copyrighted material, are of a decent technical standard and are unlikely to be a complete embarrassment to YouTube on a corporate level. I think the official limit on copyright material and unofficial limit on crudity are stupid but I understand why YouTube does it. I had to pass on one video I found particularly funny because the level of swearing was extreme even by my standards.
So I’m trying to gently nudge some people towards the understanding that maybe what they’re doing isn’t good enough to be featured. I’m reminded of the episode of Futurama that featured the Harlem Globetrotters. Bender was obsessed with being a Globetrotter but kept getting rejected. He pushed it to the point that the Globetrotter leader, Bubblegum Tate put him on the spot with words to the effect of:
“Look into your heart and ask yourself, are you funky enough to be a Globetrotter? Are you? No? Then deal with it.”