Commentary

Is Online Video Just Too Crass?

No doubt there is impressive viewership of online video all around and YouTube particularly, but as it grows, it also morphs. The online video-watching experience isn’t what it was even two years ago. There are millions more who now regularly watch online video on TV screens, smartphones and the bunch viewers is larger, and more diverse. Online video is growing up.

But what about the people who make it?

A couple days ago, in a commentary on a Website called EContentMag.com, author Bree Brouwer wrote about her melt down after she recently viewed a foul-mouthed Shane Dawson video The YouTube parodist was profanely complaining about Sony’s efforts to get one of his Taylor Swift parodies taken down from YouTube. “This is America, bitch!” Dawson screamed, in his angry video. That flare up occurred last December, and it was at least as noteworthy for the issue of censorship as it was for Dawson’s unleashed verbal attack, which got a lot fouler than that little snippet above.  And that really bothered Brouwer.

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“Now, I'm not trying to belittle the frustrations of creators, but Dawson just made me want to slap him and say, ‘Stop cussing! Don't you realize there are kids watching how you handle this thing?’ she wrote “That's when I stopped watching and asked myself, ‘Since when did YouTube become so childish? Or am I now simply too mature for what it has to offer?’”

I have a feeling a lot more people would agree with Brouwer than would ever admit it. YouTube and many of its most successful multi-channel networks are often NSFW and for that matter, not suitable for school, or a smartphone in public, or a OTT connected TV screen in the living room. And those are all the places that in the glorious future  all of us we’ll be watching online video all of the time.

As online video bids for a bigger part of the advertising pie, it needs to recognize that it’s still far too rough around the edges. When publishers promise “quality” content to marketers, it’s a pretty subtle signal that advertisers still feel uncomfortable about what where their messages are ending up and yet, it’s some of those juvenile videos that get millions of YouTube views. It’s a community of young users, and it can be a little clubhouse of crass.

Reddit last week got slammed by users because it closed down a forum called Fat People Hate, in which, as the name sort of suggests, users would arrive to slam obese people, and mock their appearance. Said Vox, "Fat People Hate was Reddit at its best and worst. It existed because of free speech. It thrived because of the Internet's unparalleled ability to connect people who would never find each other in real life. And it was designed solely to mock fat people, no matter how famous or obscure they might be. FPH was one of the meanest and most active areas of the site; it was astonishing how fast its 150,000 subscribers could mobilize.”

In some places, what Reddit was criticized. It seemed anti-Internet. You can say and do what you want online. But it also was a indication of what happens when the people running a site let their Whatever Goes attitude go way too far. Before online video gets a lot bigger, other content packagers are going to have to make the same judgment. That is, they’re going to actually have to make a judgment.

pj@mediapost.com
2 comments about "Is Online Video Just Too Crass? ".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, June 17, 2015 at 4:34 p.m.

    It's comical to read about where the line should be drawn when the line was erased long ago. I'm old enough to remember when theme parks didn't need to post signs banning profanity. The world has changed: No kid is safe from reading a profane t-shirt or bumper sticker, so debating the content of videos seems about 15 years too late.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, June 17, 2015 at 4:44 p.m.

    Free speech means you cannot get arrested for the mean things you say (minus threats and fire in a crowded theatre thing). It does not mean a private company can't shut it all down. Don is right that theme parts can post signs and can even throw someone out. They can't arrest that person. Airlines can make a person change an offensive t-shirt and the airport can eliminate that person from their premises, but they can't arrest that person. Reddit can shut down anyone. You don't like it. Walk away from Reddit.

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