YouTube buffoons and the death of quality content


YouTube superstar Logan Paul posted a video of a dead body in Japan’s so-called “suicide forest” in his vlog, in what was perhaps the most abhorrent video of 2017, a year which saw numerous counterpoints to the idea that YouTube could be used for high-quality programming.  

YouTube buffoons like Logan claim they “push the boundaries,” but they don’t really understand what “pushing the boundaries” really means. Creating increasingly offensive and reckless content to gain more visitors and generate more ad revenue is not pushing the boundaries.

Because they usually operate as lone wolves, there is no set of checks and balances against what they produce, no editorial oversight, and nothing to prevent them from going too far. As a result, many of these YouTube sensations make millions of dollars in the short term, and continue producing increasingly outrageous content until they crash and burn, because there is no one to tell them when they have crossed the line and they are usually too arrogant to understand when they’ve gone too far.

With over 10 million viewers, Paul is raking in the ad revenue, although he’s not nearly as big of a YouTube superstar as his fellow buffoon, PewDiePie, who has almost 59 million subscribers. Neither create any meaningful content, and PewDiePie gained notoriety – and probably more subscribers – earlier this year by creating a “prank” that paid two Indian men five dollars to dance while holding a banner that read “Death to all Jews.” PewDiePie is the most subscribed user on YouTube.

For those of us who try to create meaningful content, these buffoons are a constant source of frustration. What will 2018 hold for content creators? There will always be lucky buffoons who post videos of themselves doing stupid things and then falling into a pile of money. But on the other hand, the future doesn’t look too bad – on the low end of the content creation scale, article spammers create barely-readable articles in an attempt to get clicks, and then they take each of those barely-readable articles and “spin” them into ten more articles with just enough grammatically incorrect variation and misspellings to game the search engine into thinking it’s something new. The good news is that search algorithms are getting more sophisticated, and the rewards for spinning spam articles are decreasing. Marketers are starting to understand that to reap any meaningful reward, they need to go beyond being “content producers” focusing on volume and keywords, and they need to become actual media companies, with editorial oversight and quality control.