The YouTube Algorithm is Following Radio’s Lead

The YouTube Algorithm is Following Radio’s Lead. This is a follow up to a Linked In conversation with a senior executive at one of the largest broadcast companies in the country. Read the previous post to view the entire conversation.

“What’s also fascinating about your post is what it’s teaching us all about how the internet, social media, and search engines work. Your content is somewhat “shocking” to some of us here and we are reacting to it. Because so many of the people connected to you disagree with your assertion the post has now generated 127 engagements with a potential of 63,500 connections. You’ve done this in three days. Do you have a radio ad that can reach 63,500 people in three days? For free? You’ve hit on an important point though; the YouTube algorithm. Just as the more people disagree with you, the more there are engaging, and the more Linked In will promote this post among your Connections and networks depending on your profile’s filters.

The YouTube algorithm works in the same way. You can test it yourself. When you search for YouTube content, Google, who owns YouTube, will serve up other content. The content suggested is based largely on two criteria: 1. Your cookies or previous websites you’ve visited. 2. Shocking content. Why does it do that? Because that content, offensive or not, drives eyeballs. The more shocking the more eyeballs. The more eyeballs the more clicks. The more clicks the more ad revenue. So this outrageous behavior must be stopped right? We have to do something to avoid connecting a brand with offensive content right?

It’s an incredibly naive statement because this algorithm is based on a strategy traditional media has used for decades: shocking content sells. Without that big shocking story, car chase, allegation of sexual misconduct, etc., to open the newscast you may not watch. Why would you? All mediums that include advertising, especially radio, push shocking content. In fact radio invented the term “shock jock”. So when Howard Stern took to the airwaves to discuss sexually deviant content with strippers, porn stars, and celebrities, the medium fired him all the way to the number one show in the land and a record breaking radio contract that will never be matched. And when he went to satellite all the terrestrial stations no longer had to address the complaint calls. Instead, without him they selected local “Wanna-be-Howards” who just couldn’t match the content in a compelling way or more likely they flipped formats.

Today if you don’t want to hear from Howard you just don’t choose that channel and you block him from your accounts. And if brands want to be protected from pedophiles posting content on their videos they can block Comments and put additional filters on their ads. This isn’t to say that YouTube or any social media network doesn’t have filtering issues. They do and that’s the subject of another post. But any brand today has the tools to create and manage their own messaging, their own radio station, TV station, streaming content and newspaper, blog, without using radio at all. So in my mind this argument doesn’t hold up because the truth is that the YouTube algorithm is just following the example that traditional media gave them.  Here’s more on that algorithm.”

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