Matthew Patrick is best known as the main host of The Game Theorists, a YouTube channel that trains a critical eye on video games and pop culture. On the side, Patrick works as a consultant for YouTubers, whom he advises on best practices for channel optimization. In his latest video, Patrick has combined his two professions by explaining the drawbacks of YouTube’s subscription system.
Patrick was inspired to create his new video after PewDiePie, who has more YouTube subscribers than anyone else, posted a video where he complained that his fans were not seeing his new videos. As Patrick explains, this delivery problem isn’t a glitch in the system; instead, it’s the result of a phenomenon he calls “subscriber burn.”
Here, in a nutshell, is Patrick’s argument: YouTube chooses which videos to present on homepages and sidebars based on the previous videos each user has watched. For example, if I watch 30 PewDiePie videos in a row, YouTube will suggest I watch more of the Swedish gamer’s offerings. As Patrick explains, this makes YouTube like Facebook. If you consistently interact with a friend’s updates, Facebook is more likely to present that friend’s new activity to you as it happens.
The problem emerges when we consider the flipside. If you are subscribed to a channel but do not watch new videos from that channel as they debut, YouTube’s algorithm will assume you are no longer interested in that channel’s videos and will instead suggest other content for you to watch.
This causes issues for YouTubers like PewDiePie, who is well-known for his frequent posting schedule (he has posted 53 videos in the past month.) If a subscriber misses a few of these updates, YouTube will begin filtering out new PewDiePie videos as they arrive, which will in turn exacerbate the “subscriber burn.” Because of this effect, Patrick explains how he often advises his fellow YouTubers to cut back the number of videos they upload, in order to ensure each new upload gets delivered to as many subscribers as possible.
Patrick’s new video is the second time he has used his channel to discuss YouTube’s biggest star. Previously, he explained how PewDiePie took advantage of YouTube’s shifted focus on watch time and engagement to grow his audience several times over.
Patrick refers to that video in his new one, and he goes on to explain how these shifts in YouTube’s algorithm are very dangerous for content creators. He suggests a scenario where YouTube could change its algorithm to focus on content best suited to advertisers, which he believes would have a dramatic effect on the YouTube community. “Small tweaks to the system can have huge ramifications on the biggest, most popular creators,” he explains, “and that’s scary, especially if you’re trying to do YouTube for a living…and that is the true way YouTube is broken. We just want to make more cool new content for you guys, but it’s a huge risk.”
If YouTube does change its algorithm, we hope Patrick will return with a new video. In the meantime, his latest effort includes several tips for creators hoping to optimize their channel. Most importantly, don’t assume that more videos always equal more views. If you post too often, you could subject yourself to subscriber burn.