Nobody likes falsely flagged videos on YouTube

Most of you are familiar with YouTube. Some of you may in fact be familiar with some of the more popular shows on YouTube, such as “Is It A Good Idea to Microwave This?” which is the subject of this entry.

For those not familiar with it “Microwave This?” is a show devoted to putting random objects in a microwave oven to see how they will react. The results have ranged from boring to slightly interesting to outright crazy. The concept makes for great television, and is something that due to the show’s length (typically 4 minutes or so) would probably never work on its own even on cable TV. It’s a perfect match for YouTube or something like it.

“Microwave This?” is in the middle of a rather heated controversy right now, centered around YouTube’s flagging system. This ordinarily would not be that big of a deal but Jonathan Paula, the producer of the show (doing business as Ideo Productions), is a YouTube partner and producing videos for YouTube is in fact his day job. (I would assume the revenue is shared with Jory Caron and Riley McIlwain, the on-camera talent, but for simplicity’s sake I’ll simply refer to Jonathan.)

Success does not come without a price, however, and it is to be expected that not everyone is a fan of “Microwave This?” or is happy for their success. Some, in fact, have taken to flagging the episodes of the show. Now, to Joe Average YouTuber, having a video flagged is no big deal, it just means the viewers have to tell YouTube they are at least 18 to view it (not even necessarily actually be 18, even though it’s a TOS violation to lie about one’s age I’m sure it does happen). But to guys like Jonathan, this is a direct attack on their livelihood, since if a video is flagged, it is ineligible for ad revenue sharing. Eventually, the videos get unflagged but by then most of the people who want to watch the video have already seen it, without Jonathan sharing in the ad revenue. This Is Bad. In fact, enough videos have been flagged that the show is in danger of being flagged off of YouTube completely.

Last night’s (2010 February 01) episode as posted to Jonathan’s main channel was actually a 54 second video stating the real episode is on another account and urging fans of the show to get on Twitter and send a tweet addressing George Strompolos, who handles the Partner Development for YouTube. Not surprisingly, this video got taken down for a terms of service violation before I could view it, much less write this blog post about the whole situation. But it’s a great example of leveraging the power of social media.

This is not the first time Jonathan and crew have run into this situation. Some weeks ago (apparently it’s also been taken down because I can’t find it) Jonathan read a letter he wrote to someone at YouTube about this same situation.

I am a huge fan of “Microwave This?” as well as Dovetastic Microwave Theater. I’m not going to get in the middle of a debate over which show is better, that’s not what this post is about. What it is about is YouTube (Google) doing damn near nothing to protect the interests of those who make money via its service. Without the partners, YouTube is almost back to where it was in about 2005-2006 where it was just people uploading home videos. I know that’s not what Google wants to see happen to YouTube. But that’s where it’s headed.

“Microwave This?” is big enough now that it shows just how broken the current system is. The big names in television (CBS, Fox, etc) and movies (Paramount, Disney, etc) can make their videos flag-proof. One way or another, the system needs to be fixed by YouTube, either by implementing something similar for partners, or by thoroughly investigating the abuse of the flagging system and dealing severely with the violators.

I’m horrified that it’s gotten to this point. Jonathan has done a great job of protecting his interests, but he shouldn’t have to go to extremes to get YouTube to do what it really should have been doing all along.

Nobody likes falsely flagged videos on YouTube. (Or roasted nuts.)