Saturday, February 7, 2015

A successful failure - The YouTube paradox

I'm usually quite an upbeat guy. I stay happy because I have a positive outlook. It takes a lot to make me feel sad. During the past 8 years I have been making English video lessons on the YouTube platform and without sound too big headed, I became quite popular. In fact to this date I have over 57 million views and 316,000 subscribers. Apparently this makes me a success. However this apparent upturn has its big downside.

From my first months on YouTube till now, I have noticed many changes occurring on the site. One of the biggest changes must be the way in which the site has changed its aim. For example -  who remembers the slogan of YouTube? Don't look for it now on the site because it has long since been removed. The slogan of YouTube was ' Broadcast Yourself '. This strap-line suggested that everyone had the change to make an impact on the site and that it was there for all people. This of course is a lovely sentiment. So why did the slogan disappear?

The reason is simple. YouTube is no longer about people sharing their views and outlooks, or for that matter helping others. It is about pandering to the four or five largest media corporations that exist in the world. These companies own most of the music, movies, and believe it or not, other things such as TV channels, soft drinks and even the food we eat. Since 2012 the YouTube paradigm has shifted from the average guy having a voice to the greedy money-grabbing corporations being pandered to.

To emphasise my point, if you try to find anything critical of YouTube or its policies on the site itself - you won't. Which takes me nicely to the next point. This is a word that has become synonymous with web based sites and computer programmes. I'm talking about - algorithms.

These are the things that determine what gets seen and what doesn't. YouTube functions almost solely on algorithms now. Needless to say, the things favoured just happen to also be the things that the big companies wish to push onto us. Namely -  the latest pop sensation that no one has heard of, or the new unimaginative movie that needs that extra bit of hype. Or the computer game that, with repeated promotion and hype, will make the masses believe they need it, so as to keep up with their peers.

So where do I fit into this? Well to put it bluntly, I don't. I'm not on the algorithmic radar because I deal with education. I do not come up on the 'marketable' radar. Yet I still seem to be amassing many new views and followers. Despite the huge tidal wave pushing me off the map, I'm still here. This is why I see myself as a successful failure.

Of course the longer you hold on, the stronger the force pushing against you becomes. And so we come to 2015. This will be my ninth year producing English teaching videos. The reason why I seem doomed now is because of the recent changes that YouTube has made regrading promotion on their site. Each user channel has a list of related channels next to it. These channels are normally in the same category as the channel being viewed. Quite often my channel would appear on this list, due to its popularity. However since late 2014, a new algorithm has been put in place on the YouTube site. Those appearing in the lists now have a different pattern. My curiosity was stirred up by the apparent absence of my channel on other channels related to my subject. In fact the more I tested it, the more often the same channels appeared. It was as if the algorithm in this case was forcing me to look at these particular channels.

Even when looking randomly at other English teaching channels, the same channels would appear in the list. It is as if I'm being snubbed or blocked from being viewed. But why? My only answer is that YouTube now only promotes those who pay for it. To add insult to injury, I decided to check the auto-generated playlists that YouTube now has. I looked at the languages playlist and was horrified to see the same channels being heavily featured, with none of my videos appearing at all.

Before anyone accuses me of being paranoid, I did not sign into YouTube at all...and still this was happening. So what other conclusion could I reach?

This is of course not a new occurrence. Since 2010, YouTube has become an impersonal company. Have you tried writing to YouTube recently? Do not bother trying, as there are no actual ways of interacting with any of the staff there.

I have in the past actually conversed on the telephone with a YouTube member of staff. Sadly this no longer happens. As I said at the start of this post, I'm not a negative sort of person. I'm optimistic and confident and believe in perseverance. (I would never have done this for 8 years otherwise)

In the past I have been able to make a living from YouTube via their 'adsense' revenue. This allows me to make (some) money from advertising revenue. But even this system is unfair as it favours those who have large followings in The United States. My followers on YouTube are all over the world, in countries where ad revenue is still absent. I have a huge presence in Vietnam and the Middle East. To make matters worse, YouTube has over the years been blocked in many countries. China has been blocking YouTube since early 2009. Now Pakistan and Turkey also block their citizens from viewing YouTube.

Despite all of these huge forces pushing against me, I'm still swimming onwards against the current. But this cannot continue for much longer. I now find myself trapped in doing something that is successful while being unsuccessful. It would be fair to say that YouTube has written me off as a failure, or at least its computer systems have. I'm not a teeny-bopper pop singer, I'm not a multi-million dollar movie, I'm not an over-paid chat show host, I'm not a must-have computer game...

I'm a 50 year old man in England teaching English to the world.

How boring is that?



Webeople said...

Hi Mr. Duncan.

First, I'd to thanks you for your good and amazing work. Thanks for your persistence, teaching and patience. You're THE GUY!

So.... I've worked in some company on the past that relies on YouTube platform publishing some educational videos (music teaching videos, indeed).

Here is the website link:

YouTube have a kind of partnership with CifraClub (what I cannot tell you what it's exactly) that keep CifraClub's videos free and popular.

I guess it's a educational partnership and it's worth you get in touch YouTube through this links:


Please, read those pages and reply me back with your thoughts.

And..... Thanks again for your free english teaching videos. I only write this message because I've been watching you.

Daniel Lima from Brazil.

Ta-ta for now!!!

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pequetreques said...

Do not let them boring you with that. Just keep doing what you feel is right and nothing less. You are my hero because I found your video lessons quite helpful when I started to learn English at a school in 2011 here in Mexico City. I finished the school's program in late 2013 because there weren't some more available to me, so I have kept on the matter by myself watching your videos as regularly as possible as well as movies with British accent on Netflix and by reading books written in English. What I want to convey is that nothing could really stop you doing what you really want to do despite the downsides which appear on the way. I do believe, as David Icke has exposed by himself, that you must avoid embrace fear but let yourself flow with your inner loving vibrations towards the rest of us. Even if just a bunch out of 300k+ followers leave you a comment, believe me when a tell you that you are a part of our lives whenever we have seen one or more of your great videos.

So thanks a lot for you love, effort, etc. I'm so grateful to you for what you have done here and everywhere.

In lak'ech (another way to say Namaste)
Om shanti

Elizaveta Lushnik said...

I love you video, Misterduncan!
I'm so happy that I can see your videolessons!!! Thank you!
I'm from Russia and It's wonderful that in Russia we can see you on you tube,
God, please, let us see Misterduncan's lessons as much as it's possible!!!

J. Antonio Crespo Cabornero said...

Thank you Misterduncan for your free classes in YouTube. Youtube is par of the business. Nothing new in our world. Such is life. However, I would like to enhance the best side of freedom by encouraging everything that is really interesting. Your work is great. Misterduncan, onwards and upwards with your ability of communication and teaching. Thank you from Madrid.

annie lemaitre said...

It is not easer for me to answer because I have not a very good english but now I understand why you stopped your lessons last friday.Happily you came back wednesday and I'll be with you friday. Worl is managed by money and it is sad .From the world anybody loves you ( me too).