What Happened to YouTube: The Dark Side Of AI Generated Content

Ethan
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AI FARMS

AI is ruining YouTube. Gone are the days of genuine creators, pouring their hearts into their videos, sharing their vulnerabilities, and forming a deep connection with their audience. I’m not talking about cases in which creators use AI to make better content. I’m talking about videos that’s completely generated using AI from beginning to end. 

Of course, this is most common within the video essay space, but all niches from sports compilations and TV show predictions to tech news and financial news have seen a rise in AI generated content. On one hand, it’s insane that such content can be created completely using AI. Everything from idea generation, script writing, and pacing to voiceover, editing, and thumbnails. 

But on the other hand, this completely defeats the entire purpose of YouTube. The core to YouTube’s success was not about high-budget productions like MrBeast or a bunch of music videos from popular singers or flashy displays, it was always the authenticity that stirred millions of hearts and minds. 

From heart wrenching geometry dash meltdowns that are too relatable to creators opening up and sharing their insecurities and worst moments. This has always been the magic of not just YouTube but all forms of media, even traditional TV. How many people watch something just because they love a specific character or hate a specific character? 

These stories and emotions filled with creativity, diversity, and genuine human connection are what make visual communication so engaging, so compelling. These AI farms of course try to replicate this by telling ChatGPT to write stories in a three act structure or by discussing big well known people but you can usually immediately tell when a video is made using AI, atleast so far. 

Sometimes, it’s as obvious as the voice being a robot. Othertimes, it’s a much more subtle feeling that everything that you’re watching is the exact same thing, like a broken record. These automation channels have become masters of clickbait and manipulating the algorithm, saturating our feeds with low-quality content. They found a formula, and they stick to it relentlessly. 

videos with the exact same titles and thumbnails


You’ll sometimes even see videos with the exact same titles and thumbnails, the same recycled footage, and even the same pacing and story. But whatever gives it away, it’s the same distant feeling. Is this why 2.5 billion people decided to watch YouTube? To see robots recap random movies that we’ve never heard of? Or was it to experience something? 

The height of conquering an impossible level, the wonder of traveling, and the pure joy of passionately uniting around a niche topic. These are the sparks that ignited YouTube’s flame in the first place, bringing together billions of people worldwide and it’s these same sparks that AI is extinguishing from the platform. 

But there’s an even darker side to AI content. Like with any gold rush, the people who are actually profiting are the ones selling the shovels as thousands of creators are being sold the idea that they too can make a million dollars a year posting such content. So, join me as we uncover the dark side of AI-generated content and its impact on the authenticity that once defined this platform. 


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TOP 10 VIDEOS

Completely AI generated content on youtube


Completely AI generated content is very much a new phenomenon. ChatGPT hasn’t even been around for a year at this point. But unlike AI content itself, the distant feeling associated with this content isn’t new. This distant feeling can be attributed to YouTube automation which can date back to almost the beginning of YouTube itself to January 25, 2007. This was the day that one of the most iconic channels of all time was created: WatchMojo.com

WatchMojo.com


These guys are now known as the OG content farm but they didn’t start off that way. In fact, for the first many years, they were just posting simple tutorials and streetside interviews. Some of these videos did get tens of thousands of views but most didn’t do so great. In fact, many of them haven’t even crossed the thousand view mark after 15 years. 

Clearly, this wasn’t working, so WatchMojo shifted to making translation content. We’re talking Japanese translations, Hebrew translations, Arabic translations, Russian translations, and then there were the random yoga videos as well. The videos got much more consistent views, but it wasn’t till September 18, 2010 that WatchMojo really cracked the code with the video: top 10 Julia Roberts Movies. 

This got just under a million views but then WatchMojo went back to their classic content. Falling fashion from in wear, 332 views. Fashion Show: fall trends, 245 views. But then they posted, Top 10 Will Smith Movies, 2.7 million views. 

TOP 10 VIDEOS


And then they did it again, and again, and again, and again, and again. Each and every one of these videos pulled in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of views. 

And before you know it, WatchMojo would become a full on top 10 channel putting out thousands upon thousands of these videos, dozens of which garnered tens of millions of views. I was one of these hundreds of millions of viewers back in the day but looking back, I couldn’t tell you what exactly made these videos so popular. 

Many of these lists wouldn’t even take an hour to compile and all of the footage you needed was already out there. So, there was nothing particularly special about these videos but at the same time, there clearly was. Maybe, it was fans of Will Smith and Angelina Jolie and all of these other topics wanting to congregate and reminisce about their favorite actor or singers’ best and worst moments. 

Or maybe, it was just plain curiosity. What actually are Bruce Lee’s top 10 moments? Whatever the reason though, these videos were some of the most popular in the world back in the early and mid 2010s. As such, we've seen dozens and dozens of copycat channels pop up like TheRichest, MostAmazingTop10, Looper, TopTrending, Alux.com, Mr. Luxury, and so much more. 

All of them were basically just content farms. They would outsource the entire video production process from scripting and voiceovers to editing and thumbnail design. They didn’t have the help of AI back in the day but these videos were basically indiscernible from modern AI videos. 

The goal wasn’t to tell a story or to convey a message or to make a change. The goal was to just create mindless entertainment by focusing on quantity, quantity, quantity. 2, 3, 4, 5, uploads every single day, and uploads every few hours. Most of these videos would do alright, some would do bad, but a select few, these would go viral, making the entire operation worth it. But almost as quickly as these channels rose to fame, they fell off a cliff. 

WatchMojo decline


Take a look at WatchMojo today and while they do have 25 million subscribers, their recent videos don’t get any more views than their 2008 -2009 videos. It’s even worse with TheRichest as many of their videos struggle to even cross the 10k mark despite having 15 million subscribers. Some of these channels have even stopped posting altogether. It was official. The days of milking the top 10 videos had come to an end but this was just in time for a new style of automation to take off. 


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ANIMATED VIDEOS 

On July 9, 2013, over 6 years after WatchMojo was created, we would see a new channel enter the space with a rather difficult name: Kurzgesagt

Kurzgesagt youtube channel


Kurzgesagt was by no means a content farm. In fact, they were and still are the exact opposite, only posting once maybe twice a month. Their goal with each video was to break down the most complex topics you can think of in the most elegant ways possible using beautiful animations. 

Kurzgesagt was truly a passionate team of illustrators, animators, writers, researchers, and music producers wanting to create the absolute best content on the platform. And this showed, it shined right through. Over the past 10 years, they’ve only posted a 193 videos but almost all of these videos have tens of millions of views each. 

Seeing this, it wasn't long until copycats started entering the scene. Likely the most infamous of which being the Infographics Show. I don’t want to bag on the Infographics Show too much as they do post some bangers from time to time like how El Chapo escaped from prison or how Ted Bundy was caught. They've also been around longer than Kurzgesagt being founded in 2011. 

But with that being said, they very much operate like a content farm given that they post 2 to 3 videos every single day. Also, their animations and sound design aren’t unique and inspired with each upload like Kurzgesagt. Rather, they just use a bunch of templates and premade animations. 

But the soullessness of the Infographics Show was nothing in comparison to what we saw on November 15, 2016. This was the fateful day that 5 minute crafts was launched. If you’ve already erased this channel from your brain, let me give you a warning as I’m about to give you a painful refresher of their content. 

5 minute crafts image


Yeah, I think that’s all that needs to be shown. Originally, I was gonna show more examples but I don’t want to be responsible for causing brain damage so we’ll leave it there. Seriously though, I don’t think you could get a single person in the entire world to argue that 5 Minute Crafts actually makes good content but man are their videos so clickable. 

16 FUNNY HACKS THAT WORK MAGIC. 21 SIMPLE LIFE HACKS TO LOOK STUNNING EVERY DAY. 5-MINUTE CRAFTS COMPILATION: THIS VIDEO IS A TREASURE TROVE! This was their strategy. They were never trying to make content that moves us or something. Their goal was really just to get us to click in an era where clickbait on YouTube worked extremely well. 

A couple of months after 5 minute crafts popped up, we saw another such channel pop up: Bright Side. Bright Side was really just a whole lot more of the same thing, which is not that surprising when you consider that it’s owned by the same parent company: The Soul Publishing. 

The Soul Publishing also owns 123 GO!, Slick Slime Sam, 5 Year Crafts, La La life, Actually Happened and so many more. These guys are literally the definition of a content farm. Across all their channels, they post like 50 videos every single day across 21 languages. And for the longest time, this was working phenomenally. 


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In fact, the parent company is the largest YouTube corporation on the planet with over 1.2 billion subscribers on YouTube alone. But more recently, things aren’t looking all that great. While 5 minute crafts has 80 million subscribers, many of their most recent uploads don’t even cross 100,000 views. 

It’s even worse at Bright Side where many of their uploads don’t even cross 10,000 views despite having 44 million subscribers. The Infographics Show is fairing a lot better, but they too have fallen substantially from their peak a couple of years ago. You know who hasn’t fallen off though? Kurzgesagt. 

To this day, they still put out the best videos they can and they still get millions of views on each and every video. So, clearly, the demand for this content is still stronger than ever, but trying to mass produce these videos and sensationalize them didn’t work out for these copycats over the long term, but what if you added in the help of AI? 


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AI VIDEOS

The release of ChatGPT definitely lowered the barrier for YouTube automation substantially. Instead of paying a script writer a few hundred dollars, you could just get AI to write a script for free. But it wasn’t the ease itself that has led to an explosion in AI content. Rather, I believe the explosion can be attributed to YouTube gurus. 

Since the beginning of this year, we’ve seen a massive influx in the number YouTube gurus selling the idea of getting rich by creating an automated AI YouTube channel. They claim that they were able to make $30,000 within 30 days or a million within a year and that you can too. All you have to do is sign up for their “Free” webinar. 

To be honest, these websites look exactly like one of those Tai Lopez webinars. They even have the timer for crying out loud. Now, let me say, there is some legitimacy to this as there is with all get rich quick schemes. Is it possible to get rich with an automated YouTube channel? Sure. Is it probable? Of course not. It’s just like dropshipping or Amazon FBA or stock trading. Possible yes, probable no. 

And just as Amazon's FBA gurus led to Amazon being flooded with garbage from Alibaba, YouTube's automation gurus are leading to YouTube being flooded with AI garbage. At this point you can go to basically any niche you want and you’ll find the same videos with the classic robot voice, the sterile scripts, and the collage of stock footage. 


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Now, I’ve got nothing against these creators. If you’ve made this work, that’s awesome! But that’s not the type of content that I want to be associated with nor is that the direction that I want to see YouTube head in. And that’s why we’re talking face to face here for the first time in 4 years. Also, none of this is to say that I’m against creators using AI. 

AI is a phenomenal tool that should absolutely be leveraged to make the entire production process more efficient and to put out the best content possible. AI, however, should not be used to create low quality spam to milk views. Drop a like if you agree. 

Fortunately, I don’t think AI garbage is here to stay. It’s a pretty new trend so I don’t expect it to disappear immediately. In fact, it could very well gain momentum over the next 2, 3, 4 years. But zooming out to 5 or 10 years, I think we’ll look back at this time period and the AI spam the same way that we look back on vlogs, pranks, top 10 channels, and Bright Side. 

The bottom line is that people come here for authenticity and relatibility. When does AI add to that? Perfect. When AI takes away from that though, well, I think that content can only go so far but that’s just what I think.


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