YouTube has released fresh stats that highlight just how difficult YouTube’s push to promote “authoritative” mainstream media sources has made it for smaller creators to get traction on the platform.
According to YouTube’s blog post, 70% of recommendations on election-related content now come from “authoritative” sources and the top 10 mainstream news channels were recommended over 14x more than the top 10 “non-authoritative channels” on election-related content.
While this 14x divide is significant, the divide between these top 10 legacy news channels and independent channels that don’t make the top 10 will be even larger.
YouTube added that 88% of the videos in the top 10 search results related to elections came from legacy sources. YouTube didn’t specify the exact percentage chance independent creators have of ranking in these results and instead revealed that the remaining 12% is comprised of “newsy late-night shows, creator videos and commentary.”
When searching for “US election 2020” on YouTube, we found that late night shows such as Late Night with Seth Myers and The Late Late Show with James Corden often feature in the top 10 search results. Videos from independent creators were nowhere to be found.
Not only is it almost impossible for independent creators to rank in these top search positions when covering election-related topics but YouTube also revealed that recommendations are heavily stacked against independent creators.
YouTube also listed the mainstream media outlets that had benefited the most from YouTube’s promotion of legacy sources in search and recommendations with ABC News, CNN, CBS NBC News, and USA Today dominating the top five lists for the most viewed and recommended election-related channels and videos.
The release of these stats follows YouTube previously revealing that mainstream media outlets are 20x more likely to top the coronavirus search results and 10x more likely to top the search results for some news stories.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has actually admitted that users often don’t want to watch these mainstream sources but they get boosted anyway.
YouTube’s Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan has previously justified the boosting of these mainstream media sources at the expense of independent creators by claiming that they provide “context” and help viewers make “informed decisions.” According to Mohan, creators can’t provide this context and are just “espousing” their opinions “in a basement.”
Despite Mohan’s praise of these mainstream sources, they often make questionable claims about newsworthy stories. For example, USA Today, which had the number two most recommended video in the US election-related content category and is used to fact-check election-related videos, recently claimed that a photo showing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki wearing a hammer and sickle hat while posing with Russian officials was “missing context.”
This latest tweaking of search and recommendations is one of two major changes that has stacked the deck against independent creators that cover political news.
YouTube has also announced a ban on any videos alleging “widespread fraud or errors” changed the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election meaning that any creators attempting to cover the election-related lawsuits, President Trump’s statements on election fraud, or breaking news stories that allege fraud or errors had an impact on the results will likely have their videos purged under this new rule.