This is a story about the most-hated YouTube video anybody ever posted to YouTube. In fact, it might just be the most-hated video anybody ever posted anywhere.
Even more embarrassing: it’s a video that YouTube itself posted to the official YouTube Spotlight channel. And people really don’t like it. (It’s embedded below.)
The irony is, this was was supposed to be a big, easy win for YouTube. It’s the YouTube Rewind 2018 video, which is intended to be a feel-good, end-of-year, wrap-up video about YouTube moments and personalities. YouTube has posted a version every year since 2010. It’s usually a fan favorite.
Only, not this year. This year, they blew it big time.
11 million dislikes and counting
After just over a week, the official YouTube Rewind 2018 video now has more “down votes” or “dislikes” than any other video in YouTube history. As of this writing, nearly 130 million people have watched it, and 11 million gave it a thumb’s down.
Compare that to just 2.2 million who clicked that they liked it.
We’ll get into why the video bombed so badly, along with a lesson or two for anyone trying to cultivate an audience. But first, let’s put those numbers in context.
Because until this week, the most-hated video of all time was the video for Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” which has 9.9 million dislikes.
It took eight long years for that many people to vote down “Baby,” and meanwhile the Bieber video also has 10 million likes, so it’s slightly net positive.
YouTube could only dream of hitting those kinds of numbers.
It’s so bad! (How bad is it?)
Again, the video is below, so you can judge for yourself. I recommend you watch it in Chrome with video speed controller enabled and tuned to 180 percent or so. That’s what I did.
It was still interminable, although I admit I’m not exactly the demo they’re looking for. Anyway, it starts with Will Smith (fair enough), saying that for the 2018 video, he’d like to see lots of Fortnite and YouTube personality Marques Brownlee.
He gets his wish as it cuts to a Fortnite Battle Bus full of YouTubers–including Brownlee.
And from then it goes through a frantic, massive series of jump cuts and quick edits, moving from one YouTuber and scene to another, with almost no context or way to follow what’s going on.
Worse in the minds of many viewers, is that the video ignores many popular YouTube stars in favor of people who aren’t even really YouTubers–like Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Trevor Noah, for example. And that really created some controversy.
‘A a chaotic barrage of clips’
Don’t just take my word for it, or the thousands of YouTube users who left negative comments, or the millions who down-voted it. Instead, for a fantastic explanation, I’d go to Brownlee, the YouTube personality whom Will Smith wanted to see.
Sure enough, he created a response video (despite the fact that he briefly stars in the original), where he explains the production process and agrees with millions of other people that, yes, it’s pretty horrible.
The problem, he thinks, is that the millions of YouTuber viewers who watched it were expecting what YouTube used to give them in its year-end Rewind videos: a collection of top moments starring the most popular creators.
But YouTube wants something different, as Brownlee puts it: a safe sizzle reel that it can demo for advertisers. So it can’t feature creators like say, PewDiePie, who has the most-subscribed channel on YouTube and sort of represents the site’s original organic creators–but who has also been tied to white supremacists.
The result, as Brownlee puts it, is “a chaotic barrage of clips that’s just really hard to watch,” since YouTube wants to give the appearance of including tons and tons of video personalities–without including the ones like PewDiePie that will turn off big advertisers. But that only makes more obvious the omission of some big YouTube stars that YouTube isn’t particularily happy to have.
If YouTube wants to fix the video for next year, Brownlee suggests: “You’ve got to leave some stuff out. You can leave me out. I don’t mind.”
Here’s the infamous YouTube Rewind video–followed by Brownlee’s response. Let me know what you think in the comments.