Youtube algorithms

As a keen lover of Youtube for educational and entertainment purposes, I have often wondered why certain videos appear in the ‘channels you might like’ section.  Both myself and my daugther share the same Youtube account so there is generally a mix of music (my personal favourites), Minecraft (Stampylonghead) and Mario (my daughter loves Mario!) videos on the homepage along with suggestions to similar channels.  This ‘cycle of anticipation’ (Gillespie 2012) from Youtube certainly ‘predicts’ the kind of videos we like to watch.



The ‘Recommended’ videos section did pop up some strange offerings such as ‘Worlds 10 Most Mysterious Pictures Ever Taken’  and ‘Korean Girls opinions on Nicki Minaj ‘Anaconda’, however I do remember watching a video similiar to the latter…

A lot of the content condensed into the recomended videos section is a mish-mash of our general Youtube viewing allowing for little new experiences as well as ahuge filtering of a site which offers so much more than frivilous video game walk throughs and scantily clad booty shakin’, however, we need to remember that there are ‘institutional choices from humans’ behind the cold mechanisms’ (Gillespie 2012).

Of course there is always the ‘Popular on Youtube’ section which offers a daily update of new ‘trending’ videos, generally entertainment, video games, media mishaps and ‘fly of the wall’ type videos as well as the usual aray of blogs from hyper-active 18-year olds who have more subscribers than The Guardian.  Are these videos dumbing down a generation who use the internet for the vast majority of their information?  And, is it Youtubes responsibility to worry about ‘dumbing down’, and is there a ‘promise of algorithmic objectivity’ (Gillespie 2012)?  Social media channels have an opportunity to promote positive ideologies through their filtering systems, but are they making the most of this chance?


Gillespie, T. 2012. The Relevance of Algorithms. forthcoming, in Media Technologies, ed. Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo Boczkowski, and Kirsten Foot. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  6 comments for “Youtube algorithms

  1. sbayne
    March 11, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Nice account Ben. One of the things I most like about social media recommenders, when people are using shared accounts, is the way they mash up family members’ likes and interests into one person-assemblage (in this case, you and your daughter)!

    I understand what you say about channels having the opprotunity to promote ‘positive’ ideologies, but it seems more likely that any tweaks that are made to YouTube algorithms will be about building profit margins via increased advertising. Apparently YouTube failed to make any profit last year and is developing a new ‘ad-targeting system’ to address this:

  2. PJ Fameli
    March 11, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Ben, I liked your closing comment about ‘positive ideologies’ and I understand Sian’s skepticism, but it prompts me to what to do some comparative research on the ‘corporate social responsibility’ policies of the most popular channels. Can these technologies (including algorithms) be put to use to advance ‘public good,’ or is the ‘capitalist imperative’ just too overpowering? Cheers, PJ

    • bhenderson
      March 13, 2015 at 11:10 am

      Its probably too overpowering PJ, the content is irrelevant to Youtube (within means), its all about views and advertising. Youtube can always agrue that an algorithm is producing the recommendations, giving people what they want.

  3. bhenderson
    March 13, 2015 at 11:06 am

    You could be right, inevitably it always comes down to money.

    The family mashup idea is intersting, I wonder if they recommend more videos towards my daughter as she might be more likely to have time to watch Youtube videos, thus increasing their views? Hmm.

  4. PJ Fameli
    March 13, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Ben, I came across Slideshare today (have to find it) that argues that Facebook videos are actually out-pacing YouTube, and that YouTube better wake up or lose its customer base to FB. Not sure if it was hype, or not. Cheers, PJ

    • bhenderson
      March 14, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      Like everything on the web, video streaming will inevitably evolve into a new form and Youtube will be at the forefront of this change. Im not a Facebook user, but I guess theres a lot of Vines and Snapchat photos on users timelines..

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