The Problem With Celebrity Tech YouTubers
“Problem” is a subjective term and the following definitely falls into that category of first-world problems. However, things still irk me!
There are literally thousands of people on YouTube reviewing all manner of technology and gadget items. It’s a saturated market, which might make you wonder why I personally bother doing it. I’ll come to that question later, but the reason for this post is to look at the issue of the “big” channels doing more harm than good.
There is a small clique of extremely big YT Tech reviewers, followed by a much larger group of medium sized channels, followed quite far behind by the other 95% of people including myself with a very small audience.
The ‘clique’ I refer to right at the top of YouTube’s subscriber count and trending frequency include the likes of “UrAverageConsumer”, “MKBHD”, “Austin Evans”, “Unbox Therapy” and so on. They have millions of subscribers and therefore get the most viewers.
So, on to the ‘problem’ that I’ve been seeing. It’s not a problem of viewership. I personally subscribe to both Unbox Therapy and UrAverageConsumer as I enjoy watching their videos. The problem I’ve been noticing more and more is the lack of usefulness of what they’re posting and the fact that a lot of people listen to their opinion to influence their spending. These products aren’t usually cheap, so why spend your hard earned cash based on the view of someone who isn’t worried about how much it costs?
This problem really hit home to me when I was watching some videos on a much smaller tech channel by the name of JohnXanderTech (link below). I like his videos because he is a genuine consumer. Maybe he should be called “UrAverageConsumer” instead. He’s enthusiastic about what he is buying, and is giving a clear unbiased opinion on the products. It’s not as slick as some channels, but that’s not what I want when I am interested in spending money on something. We have other channels to watch for that.
On this occasion he reviewed a TV that he’d just bought, and gave it a glowing recommendation. It was full of enthusiasm as normal, and I’m sure he was delighted with it. However, after a while of using the product he noticed issues with the sound and – to cut a long story short – ended up returning it and explaining to the viewers why. This, for me, is the perfect tech channel simply because it really gives us a view of products from the point of view of someone who is actually using them. The viewer gets honesty because the reviewer isn’t reviewing the product for a sponsorship, he wasn’t given it for free, and he has a real interest in the product because he’s losing out personally if it’s a bad purchase.
This doesn’t happen on the big channels. I can’t remember the last time MKBHD actually gave us a review worth listening to. His videos are slick, hi-resolution, well-edited, but don’t actually offer anything that should sway a purchasing decision. I wouldn’t buy or avoid something based on his recommendation because he has nothing to lose when he plays with a product for 5 minutes then puts it in a box full others never to be seen again. Unbox Therapy is in a similar position, but at least Lewis is fun to watch and is genuinely enthusiastic and charismatic. He’s an entertainment channel more than a reviewer these days, and that’s fine because that’s 90% of what watching YouTube is all about.
I’d like to see more of these guys do follow up videos to highlight real world use feedback, or clearly tell the viewer how long they have been testing the products for and if they’ll continue to use them.
Monetization is something that’s big news in the YT world at the moment, which some of these channels have started talking about. It’s not something that really affects me as I spend more on tech than I get back from YT. However, those big channels complaining about monetization issues also seem to be getting their products for free, which is a form of sponsorship and therefore shouldn’t really be eligible for monetization anyway in my humble opinion.
At the beginning of this article I mentioned the question of why I do it when the market is already saturated and I won’t make money from it. Well, it’s a simple answer really: I enjoy it! It’s not a job for me, or a money issue, but I simply love tech and like reviewing things. I buy what I like the look of and show you viewers (the few of you) what I think of it. It’s a hobby that might last years or just a few months, but as a result of this hobby I’ve really started to spend more time on YouTube and notice some of the issues (such as cliques, integrity, etc) that I mentioned earlier.
Simply put, be careful who you listen to. Ask yourself if it’s a genuine review, a sponsorship, a 2 minute play around with a freebie, or something just for viewing entertainment. If you’re going to buy something based on YT reviews then watch as many as possible.
I heartily recommend the following channels. I watch all of them regularly and genuinely enjoy their content:
Unbox Therapy: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsTcErHg8oDvUnTzoqsYeNw
Linus Tech Tips: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXuqSBlHAE6Xw-yeJA0Tunw
You can see all of my subscriptions here: https://www.youtube.com/user/tpr007/channels?view=56&shelf_id=1
As if to prove my point, despite all of the public Google Pixel 2 issues over the past few days, which any tech reviewer should know about, MKBHD puts up a video on his channel supposedly being his in-depth review of the phone, yet gives it a glowing thumbs-up and says nothing of these major problems which could be of interest to those about to spend their hard earned $$$!
It’s actually easier to make a video than type it all up: