Why All YouTube Videos Look the Same and What to Do About It

Have you ever watched a video in which you spent most of the viewing screaming "yes!" at the screen? This is one of those videos. 

Zach Ramelan gets it. In this excellent video, he talks about the trend in which it seems all YouTube videos seem to have become variations on one another and how one can break that cycle (and his advice applies to any creative realm). Now, in fairness, it's not every last YouTuber nor is it exclusive to the platform (as we've recently seen with Instagram), but I think most would agree that there's a certain style, pacing, manner of address, and je ne sais quoi that seems to pervade the platform. And that's not to say it's necessarily a bad style; after all, it's popular for many reasons, not the least of which is that it's effective. What it does do, however, is censor the individuality of the creator, particularly when faced with the temptation to conform in the chase for those oh-so-important views.

I think Ramelan is really on to something when he speaks of overconsumption. Though I write classical music, I don't listen to it much when I'm writing, because I find that when I do, everything I write ends up inadvertently sounding like whatever I'm listening to. We should of course educate ourselves as creatives, but there's a fine line between education that gives the tools for creativity and education that takes over the process itself. 

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Marius Pettersen's picture

Oh yes! Fairly tired of vlogs with more slow-mo B-roll than A-roll, with the same transitions, and boring catalog of tropical house music.

Youtube forwarded me to some Casey Neistat clip after the Video above. The irony... :D

Marc Perino's picture

Maybe I am getting old. But I work in the film business for over 2 decades now and the main problem I have with those "youtubers" is that their so-called content is mostly no real content.
It is just style (transitions, talking into the camera, elliptical editing, fancy grading, etc..) but at the end of the video I have not the slightest feeling that I learned something about the human condition which was transported by an emotional story. I don't want to be come across as snobbish but even the worst tv drama or series has "something to say" - even if it is banal or full of stereotypes.

I am not talking about technical reviews or "filmed manuals". Those are great.

But a film or video or whatever you might call it should have - IMHO - a story and "message" that resonates with the viewer. And although I understand the success e.g. of Casey Neistat on a business level I rarely connect with him or his videos emotionally. And I think he is one of the ones who is above average. But maybe it is just me...

All the references the youtuber above shows is stuff I watched on my own years, decades ago and was being shown in filmschool. And even in filmschool they taught us to get our references in real life, museums, travels, etc...

Some of these channels are all noise and no content.

Christoffer Lund's picture

I agree with you and as you mention there are a few exceptions.

Educational videos - The main purpose is teaching something away
Vlogs/Everday life - Definitely benefits from having a story but mostly it's just "This is who I am and what I did since last time"

Casey does the Vlog part pretty well. I don't watch his videos anymore either because they give me nothing, but I recognize that he is great at it.

Peter McKinnon is probably the most popular photograph/videography YouTuber that does "tips and tricks" videos. Sure he is responsible for *sooo much* of the no-content videos from people trying to copy him, but Peter himself does have content and shouldn't be faulted for people copying him in a worse manner.

That said, trying to find examples of short movies on YouTube and you will mostly find videos with style and no substance. Because anyone can *learn* how to take beautiful imagery given the right tools and a few "How-To" videos.

Creating or just re-telling a story in a video is something different. I suck at it myself, which is also why I don't publish stuff unless it serves a specific purpose.

Is it bad? Not really. People are having fun creating videos and sharing them. But the race to become the next top youtuber is really tiring, and you get bored only finding videos with no purpose.

Mark Richardson's picture

You put into words what I've been feeling for a few years now. So much of instagram and youtube is just a race to look the sexiest or film yourself in the most exotic location, of course in slow motion. It's empty and emotionless and does nothing but feed the ego of the creator. It's really just an extension and evolution of the selfie movement. They get a dopamine hit for every view, like, share. They just try so hard to matter and the social media feedback loop has convinced them that they really do.

Marc Perino's picture

I agree Mark Richardson.

Christoffer Lund
Don't get me wrong. I love educational videos. But I did not count them in the category Zach was referring to.
Also Peter McKinnons videos are easy to watch and - from what I have seen - seem to have some knowledge in them that he is trying to share.
But then again I saw a video of him which was really about nothing but style and hanging out. There is of course a target group which likes to watch these kinds of videos but in the end it was not even watching a commercial where you have a product to sell - other than getting more followers. It was just stylish emptiness. ;)

The problem is not the videos or their creators. The problem - and again, maybe I am getting old here - that their target audience is okay with that trend. They do not care.

Then again: we live in the golden or platinum age of television and there are some excellent tv shows out there which fill this gap. Just not on youtube. Although youtube taps into that territory now with their "red" offering. They also seem to have recognized that the most important thing for any platform is content. Apple is doing the same....so I have hope. ;)

Mark Richardson's picture

I think some of it is actually damaging to our society. It's not unlike pornography in that it portrays people living amazing lives that are really not obtainable or realistic. There is a falsehood to it and while this type of content is really successful in getting views I just find it so sad that it's so empty.

Take Sam Kolder for example. No doubt he has great editing and filming talent. I just wish he'd use it to "say" something more than "look at me and my hot girlfriend and my amazing life traveling the world." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJbpJQscn9E

Maybe I'm just jealous. I have traveled the world any my experience was not nearly as glamorous! haha.

user-187388's picture

I agree with the premise of this article but I still watch a lot out of youtube channels of all sorts. Some I switch off pretty quick others I watch and usually can learn something.My youtube channel is fairly underwhelming. I try to give people the real me and my real thoughts without bells and whistles. Many youtubers are presenting just one facet of their lives and they are trying to make money. I am not monetised at all and what you see is what you get.We are not all one dimensional people.Thanks for the post and for the f stoppers vlog.Here is a link to my channel. ttps://www.youtube.com/user/pembridgehouse/about?view_as=subscriber

John Dawson's picture

The Casey McKinnon-ization of YouTube is indeed getting old.

16mm Camera's picture

It's funny how Peter takes offence in the comment section of that video. Clearly he didn't watch it or his ego is so fragile that he couldn't dissect the actual THESIS of the video.

Peter Comment:
Peter McKinnon
2 weeks ago
We’re not rule breakers or risk takers cause we have larger audiences? Hmm. I agree with your msg about consuming a wider variety of creatives, but find it missing the mark when you put creators like myself and casey into a box based off the number of people that follow us.