A few thoughts on YouTube

For the past couple of months I have been reigniting my YouTube channel. Before that I had only posted one video of drawing a cat and that was it. But recently I have been adding Procreate drawing time lapses almost weekly, and have even posted a few little animations.

Procreate is a popular drawing app for iPad and iPhone. It has an inbuilt feature which creates a time lapse video of your drawing process, which I have been sharing either as is or with little edits. Adding some music from YouTube to the videos.

It has been also an interesting little exercise, which has prompted lots of thoughts and ideas for me.

It's a lot of work

Even as my videos are simple and Procreate has been doing most of the heavy lifting, publishing videos on YouTube is still a considerable amount of work. While the drawing app does the videos automatically, I still do some edits them.

Because the time lapses Procreate creates are a bit fast I tend to slow them down slightly, so that you can actually see the drawing process better. Depending on the video I also have been adding some title screens, explanatory texts during the process and endings, which include a call to action to subscribe and like.

For these edits I have been using iMovie, mainly on my iPad. In this age and time you would expect more editing features, plus a way to easily create movies in different formats. With TikTok, Instagram Stories and now YouTube Shorts it would make sense to allow creating vertical or square video in iMovie directly. Yes, the videos can be cropped afterwards, but it's an extra step. Also picture in picture (or overlay) options are limited at best. So yes, iMovie feels like it has been stuck to the past.

Uploading videos to YouTube is a bit of a process too. Of course if you skip adding description, end screens and all that, then it doesn't take too long. But I have been writing pretty detailed descriptions and tried to optimise titles and descriptions for search and giving people watching the videos as much information as possible. YouTube allows reusing details from other videos, which fortunately speeds up the process a bit.

But then there's the music. I don't know if I should just download the music and not use the option to add the music in YouTube. Either way, the music is not available on the iPad or iPhone apps, nor the mobile version of the website. In order to add the music to my videos I have to either use my laptop or to request the desktop site on my iPad. Which is not very optimal, since it hasn't been made for that. Also sometimes trying to upload a new thumbnail gets stuck.

Edit October 2023: Looks like YouTube caught on my request desktop site trick and now is forcing the use of their absolutely useless Studio app. Argh! Could they at least make the app work before forcing it on everyone?

The whole process is more work than it might seem when you watch a video on YouTube. Considering that a new channel tends to get some time to become any type of profitable, this is probably where many people starting to use YouTube decide to quit. But I think it just takes time and effort.

YouTube wants your Shorts

YouTube introduced Shorts as an experimental feature in 2019 as a competitor for TikTok. The feature was released gradually, and became available for everyone in 2021. YouTube Shorts are either vertical or square videos, up to 60 seconds long. They are shown in a separate Shorts section.

YouTube appears to be really pushing the Shorts to people. On my channel Shorts reach, views and engagement is much higher than other videos. I don't know if this is a natural progression, people wanting to watch short format vertical videos, or if this is one of those situations where a platform artificially creates the demand. You know, like when Facebook knowingly inflated video metrics.

So I don't know why, but for a reason or another Shorts are where the views and engagement is for a new channel. Other videos have a hard time to gain views and even harder time to gain likes. At least if the numbers are to be trusted.

Apparently Shorts have a bit different measurements and different algorithms behind the reach. It seems that repeated views are okay with Shorts, while on regular videos they don't quite count. Actually YouTube appears to be reducing views from videos, apparently to fight artificial traffic. So if one person watches your video multiple times, the views may get reduces after a little while due to quality audits YouTube makes. This doesn't appear to apply to Shorts, since they loop and are expected to be viewed multiple times.

Views and subscribers are what counts

It seems that YouTube is the most interested in the views a video gets and the amount of subscribers on you channel, rather than likes, dislikes or comments. Sure the engagement matters too, and I'm guessing the more likes and comments the better. So don't stop liking and commenting your faves, since it quite likely does boost the video. And the more there's engagement the more it will draw people to the video. People do like popular things. Plus a like and a nice comment is always heartwarming, in my experience.

But views and subscribers appear to be the thing. If you check the eligibility for YouTube Partner Program, it is all about the amount of subscribers and either public watch hours or the amount of views. YPP is when a channel can start getting a slice of the ads and Premium payments, amongst other things.

To be eligible for monetisation, you must have 1000 subscribers and either 4000 valid public watch hours during the past 12 months or 10 000 valid public Shorts views during the past 90 days. Nothing about likes, dislikes or comments.

Views is also the metric most prominently shown on videos. Which makes me think it's the most important thing for a video.

Dislikes may not do what you think

A dislike stings. I know this. I haven't got many of them, just one or two for a Short here and there. But every single one stings. It's not a great feedback method, because it doesn't really tell why you disliked a video. I have no clue why people have disliked those Shorts they have. So I'm presuming it's an attempt to control which types of videos they see.

Last year Mozilla Foundation studied YouTube controls and came to the conclusion that dislikes don't change what YouTube recommends to you. So the dislike is at least ineffective. I'm thinking dislike may even boost a video, as it is probably counted as engagement. Those shorts that have gotten dislikes have then gained more views. My sampling is way too small to make any meaningful conclusions of it.

This isn't an invitation to start disliking my or anyone other's videos. This is more of a warning. There's a possibility that if you try to control what you see on YouTube or perhaps to reduce the spread of misinformation by disliking a video, you are actually boosting the video in question.

In all honesty, even before I started making videos on YouTube, I thought dislike button seems pointless. As mentioned before it doesn't even work as a tool of feedback, since there's no way to know why you disliked a video. And if it doesn't even help to control your future recommendations and might even boost a video, it seems useless.

Art is meant to be shared

All this may sound like I should just give in and quit. No way. I haven't even given up on Twitter (or whatever it is called these days). I'm sure if I keep posting videos I will start getting something out of it. And maybe I already do.

All the views, all the likes, the few comments and all the subscribers so far have made me feel good about the art I make. In a better world and better societies that would be enough. I would prefer to be able to just draw and paint and write my poems, and share the things I do, without having to be concerned about trivial things like money.

So in the sense of being able to share my art, a platform such as YouTube is one way to go. It has its issues, especially because businesses like this are more concerned about making money than sharing art and (correct) information. But if you try and ignore that and keep on doing your thing, perhaps you can get something out of YouTube. That's what I'm trying to do right now.

Of course I would love to get more subscribers and more views, more likes and more comments. And I hope it will happen soonish. Sharing is not as much fun if there's nobody to share with. In my opinion art is collaborative, something that's elevated by being shared and being experienced by others. For me, being the only person to watch a movie wouldn't do much. Knowing that others have seen the same movie, reading and hearing their experiences and opinions on it is what makes the movie much more interesting.

And as an artist, I feel my artwork isn't quite complete until someone else has seen it. I believe cave paintings were meant to be shared. And so is art today.

Mervi Eskelinen

Hello, I'm Mervi!

An artist, nerd and business sorcerer, dedicated to make world more beautiful and strange with art, illustrations and logos + to help you figure your sustainable business out.

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