Chances are that if you spend a few hours a week on YouTube, you’ve subscribed to at least one or two specific channels.
That also means you’ve probably experienced “subscriber ghosting,” a term used to explain the weird phenomenon that’s affected YouTube creators and viewers for years, but seems to have grown in recent months. Users find that they are not alerted to new videos from creators they’re subscribed to. This may not seem like a big deal, but when people are following 10, 20 or even 100 creators, subscriber notifications are important.
A new video from Creator Inside, a channel that features YouTube employees talking about different aspects of the platform, focuses on the subscriber notification issue. The episode specifically focuses on livestream notifications, although YouTube’s support team said on Twitter that the issue also affects notifications for video-on-demand uploads. Like many problems afflicting YouTube, it comes down to algorithms, according to the team.
“We don’t notify all of your subscribers,” a lead project manager identified as Meghan says in the video. “We notify all of your subscribers who have rung the bell and then your most active subscribers after that ... If they don’t ring the bell and they’re just subscribers, then we put them in an ‘occasional notification’ state, so that means they get algorithmically determined notifications.
“Your most active subscribers, users who are watching your channel and your livestreams, are going to get notifications as soon as you go live.”
That means you could be subscribed to a creator, but if you haven’t checked in on them for a couple of weeks, you may not receive notifications for their videos. Those videos will, however, still be accessible and seen in your subscription feeds.
“You will always see videos of channels you are subscribed to in the subs feed,” a company rep tweeted. “In this video, we were referring to proactive notifications which not all viewers wanted to receive. We added the bell to give viewers a choice.”
The bell is a small icon that appears beside the subscribe button. Users will only receive notifications the minute a video is uploaded or a creator goes live if they click the bell. That’s a pain for viewers, but an even bigger one for creators.
Jesse Wells, a creator with more than 10 million subscribers and known for his elaborate pranks and stunts, tweeted his concerns after the Creator Inside video started making the rounds this weekend. Wells suggested that only a portion of his subscribers would see his next upload, missing out on potential views that could help boost advertising on his channel and personal income.
So because I want to make quality content twice a month I get screwed!! Your stupid system only works for daily!! Cause us to lose our minds making daily content!! Ahhh so frustrating https://t.co/jFtujPGm1L— Jesse (@Jessewelle) March 23, 2018
Uploading a new vlog for you peeps today. Only about 10% of you will be notified if you are subscribed on @Youtube. So you prolly won’t see it.— Jesse (@Jessewelle) March 27, 2018
Another popular YouTuber, Chaos, echoed Wells’ thoughts.
“When a person hits that subscribe button they are saying, I want this person’s content... not I want you YouTube to decide what portion of content I get,” he tweeted. “C’mon guys, to subscribe is an action, which means that sub is saying, give me this content.”
A YouTube representative later confirmed on Twitter that the decision to stop notifying all subscribers at once was implemented because it best suited what viewers wanted. The company did not tell Polygon if the subscriber system would change again when asked for comment.
For now, if you want to see your favorite creator’s video the moment it goes live, you’re going to have to smash that bell icon too.