YouTube’s Big Subscriber Problem, Broken Down

YouTube’s Big Subscriber Problem, Broken Down

If you use YouTube much, or if you’re someone that makes videos, then you’re already familiar with one of the fundamental ways YouTube is broken: it doesn’t always show people the latest uploads, even if they’re subscribed to someone.

It’s a system that’s crappy for both viewers and content creators. Fans don’t get to be up-to-date with their favourite videos, even though they have basically told YouTube that they want to see it all. And creators can’t grow their channel, which is particularly worrying if they’re relying on YouTube for an income.

The Game Theorists go into why this happens. Basically, they theorise that the way YouTube works is that, the more a person engages with someone’s content, the more likely YouTube is to show them more of that channel’s content. It’s a system that sounds like it should work, except it can still screw people over.

An example: Pewdiepie’s channel is ginormous, and he uploads stuff nearly every day, but because of that output, people can’t keep up. And because they can’t keep up, the system is more likely to not show them the latest uploads — they’re not engaging, after all. Which means they’re even less likely to be able to keep up.

It’s not a problem unique to Pewdiepie of course, it’s just easier to see just how big this problem is with a channel of his size. Everyone has to suffer the fact that only a small percentage of their overall audience ever gets to see their videos thanks to the system, even though they have told YouTube they want to see all of it.

That said, part of the problem here is figuring out the sweet-spot, in terms of frequency of uploads. You also have to consider what you upload, since the content and angle has an effect on your views, too. Really — everything Game Theorists talk about in this video is fascinating, as it gives an inside look at how YouTube’s systems work. If you have the time, it’s worth the 14 minutes:

Game Theory: Yes, PewDiePie. YouTube IS Broken [The Game Theorists]


  • I always find myself going into the main channels I watch and just checking from there if they have uploaded any new video’s.

    Most of the time they do have new stuff which YouTube decides to never put up on the What to Watch screen.

    • Yeah. Although I’ll admit I watch maybe two channels and only one of them produces content on a daily basis. Speaking of which, I’ve been working too hard this morning, time for a break.

  • Just like Facebook picking and choosing what you see from each page you ‘like’ (and that’s if you’re lucky enough to actually see stuff from them at all). That’s not to mention your friends. I’m sure I’ve missed dozens of important statuses or what have you over the years (I’m a realist, there’s not hundreds of important stuff on there) because Facebook decided I didn’t need to see that particular status.

    Youtube though, I have a few channels subscribed. The first thing that annoys me is the order that subscribed channels will appear in gets randomised every day or two. I do get an email for some of my subscriptions when they upload a video but not for other ones. I really don’t think I changed anything when I subscribed to them, it’s not exactly intuitive

    Basically I think Youtube tries to be something for everyone, even when you’re talking about your own channel subscriptions and what you’ve specifically told Youtube you want to see. It’ll always try and get you to watch something ‘similar’ based on your history

  • Also from the game theorists was a vid that was about the hookshot, originally there was going to be a similar vid by the same person who theorizes that the ocarina of time hylian royal family was responsible for 2 major genocides (the sheikah & gerudo in the child link timeline) plus doing vids on on impa & hero’s shade & now doing what i believe is deconstruction of the metroidverse. What he states is the following in the spoiler & an alternative ending to the link vs cloud deathbattle the hookshot is potentially lethal & unfortunately he uses it the deathbattle, unlike samus who has a similar gadget but is genetically engineered by the chozo, link is a human & well him using the hookshot at the distance will severely injure him, darn you real world physics

  • I managed to get around this problem by changing my Youtube bookmark to this link and setting it to uploads only. This way, I get to see everything that my subscriptions upload and don’t have to deal with all the extra nonsense that Youtube seems to think I want.

    The last few layout changes have really made the default YT homepage useless. Having an account that let me be a part of the trial only meant I found a workaround incredibly quickly.

    I want to see just want I want to see. No recommendations. No “this person commented on this video”. None of the social nonsense that Youtube is terrible at. Just videos. There’s a search function for the stuff I want to seek out and subscriptions for the stuff I know I want.

    Youtube must really hate me. I’m the exact opposite of their ideal user, who follows recommendations down into that weird bit of Youtube and comes back with a dozen new subscriptions.

    • even with the subs only page, day9 for example will upload the 3 parts of his daily videos but youtube will only display part 1, pretty sure thats intentional on youtubes end & was absolutely retarded when you had to go to their videos page & the other videos would open up in an automatically generated playlist of every video they made, but in reverse order so if you watched part 2 the playlist would open part 1 at the end of the video

  • I don’t even subscribe to, and have never liked pewdiepie, but apparently google thinks he should be 80% of my youtube feed!

  • That’s because YouTube broke there site a longtime ago and haven’t looked back at using a functional setup since. It’s pathetic that a site this big, can get away with have such terrible design.

  • The way YouTube treats my subs has pissed me off for years now – the amount of goodvideos I’ve missed because YouTube sees fit to shove LA Ice into my face when I just drank a Pepsi Max is staggering

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