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Because they are the only place (aside from our channel pages) where audiences are guaranteed to see our videos, YouTubers are understandably very protective of Subscriptions. It's a very important product and it drives a lot of traffic. But that hasn't prevented YouTube from messing with sub boxes. Why? And is that OK? Let's explore!

Here's a video about subscriptions through the lens of YouTube analytics I made:

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Good morning, John. I almost made this video over on hankschannel, where I've been goofing off a lot in the last couple weeks. But why not, yeah? You gave me permission on Twitter, so I'm going to goof off here. Goof, goof, goof.

Subscriptions! It's the brand new thing, a craze that's sweeping the nation! Please subscribe, everybody's asking for it. But over the last ten years of Youtube subscriptions have gotten less important, okay? It's a thing that has happened. Why has it happened? I don't know. I'm not going to go and say that it's Youtube's fault.

Subscriptions seem to be fairly front and center both on desktop and mobile experiences. Even on a channel like Vlogbrothers which is very much sort of a repeat viewer kind of channel with a lot of viewers that are very Youtube savvy views on first day uploads are only about thirty percent from subscriptions, and that goes down to, like, fifteen percent in the life of the video. So it's a big piece but it's not the biggest piece. 

So since it's a smaller and shrinking, honestly, piece of the pie, you'd think that people would freak out a little bit less when somebody, this person, said on Twitter that their subscription feed was suddenly not in chronological order. I understand why Youtubers are so protective of this one place that is not controlled by computers. It is controlled by humans, it is the one place left where we know what's going one.

I am not going to go into how this information was released in a manner that allowed Youtubers to be wildly speculative and mis-communicate and misconstrue and send really nice notes to twitch being like, "hey, what's up?" I guess actually I am going to do that, 'cause I just did. But look, the sub feed has problems. If you look at your analytics you can see this. 

It works best for channels that are able to upload, like, a video every single day. It works much less well for people who have to spend a long time making one video. And also if you've been using Youtube for any length of time you know that it's a lot easier psychologically to subscribe to something than to unsubscribe to something.

Which leads to people's sub boxes being often, or even usually, a dang mess. So many videos hit that box that it is overwhelming and not a good what they call "user experience." *echo effect* Whoa. I think I liked that, ultimately. 

I mean, I tried to scroll to the end of the month in my subscription feed, and I just didn't make it. I didn't get there, I couldn't. I did not have the patience. Also, I could see on the channels that I have access to analytics for that fewer impressions and views are coming from the subscription feed. 

It seems like people are using it less. Maybe that's because home is getting better or because the subscription feed is getting worse. And if subscriptions becomes a product that fewer and fewer people use, this is a bad thing for everyone, and Youtube knows this because it's the only place left where people are guaranteed to see the thing that they signed up to see.

But you can't, can't, can not fix that by breaking it. Whether Youtube deeply viscerally understands this the way the creators do, you created a contract with us. This is how this product works, and it has to work this way. There is one place, one place where users are in charge and they need to be in charge.

We have to have that relationship with our communities, that there is one place that we know they can find our videos. One place where I don't have to worry about what a compute thinks. That needs to not change, and I'm not saying that there aren't problems, but maybe there are other ways to solve problems. Like maybe creating a space above the feed for an algorithmically generated 'what you missed' section.

But because this problem is so hard to solve, maybe it's not a problem that needs to be solved with computer code. Maybe it's a behavioral problem. So to the people listening out there, please, unsubscribe.

Find the things that you don't watch, the things that are cluttering up your sub feed, the things that make it a less good experience for you and get them out of there. It's okay, you're not going to hurt my feelings. And Youtube maybe give people more options for how to customize that experience, because if you want people to have a personalized experience, maybe the person personalizing it should be a person.

Because even if fewer people use it, the ones who do are your power users. They're kind of the ones that matter the most. And people having some amount of direct control over their experience of this platform and over the relationship between creator and audience, that is always going to be more important than creating the most clickable feed. 

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.

I made a video diving fairly deep into the analytics of the sub feed over on hankschannel, if you want to go watch that.