Quality versus Quantity online
A few weeks back I brought up Watch Mojo. I recommended checking it out, but I also pointed out that (when I really went to their YouTube channel and looked at all their videos), there’s some problematic lists and elements of the channel in general. Maybe the most problematic thing being Ms. Mojo, but anyway… that’s not my point here.
Here, I want to talk about how there is a big divide between quantity and quality when it comes to Internet entertainment.
The point I made before, and want to expand on here, is that I understood having some problematic elements when you are putting out as many list videos as Watch Mojo is, on a daily basis. It seems like a scenario where most ideas pitched probably get made into a list at some point, and not all of those ideas were created equal.
On a platform like, say, Facebook, the comparison might be to Facebook pages that are posting dozens of memes a day. Seeing those go through my feed daily it’s often like, “seen it, that one’s on every page, haha that’s good, seen it… oh no, come on guys, you can do better.” There’s good ones, there’s hits, there’s misses, there’s groaners, there’s stuff that goes Facebook-page-viral… and then there’s problematic stuff.
Some of the things I would call problematic on these pages and YouTubes are things that I would say just play into stereotypes, and the most common (for these Geek- and Nerd-centered sites) would be the stereotype of the socially awkward, can’t-get-a-girl geeky guy. The content is usually a problem, and the perpetuation of the stereotype is also a problem.
There’s also perhaps the underlying assumption that “this is our audience,” and the worse assumption, “this is the entirety of our audience,” that are really probably just wrong. However, reflecting this assumption are things like Watch Mojo videos about sexy anime babes and such.
Maybe that’s overall just a topic that I see, there are others. For instance, the “Triggered” meme in general is considered problematic, and I’ve seen plenty of those floating around. And, if the comments sections on these is any indication (which I occasionally venture into, dang it, why do I do that…), there are people unhappy with just about all of them.
And I will say, scrolling back on Facebook at least, I’m not finding good examples. Maybe the posts got pulled or reported, maybe they are fewer and further between than I’m thinking, who knows.
The point is, with as much content as these Internet entertainment groups are putting out – something that is rewarded by the various ways the hosting sites work – there are bound to be some misses. They can always strive to be better, and if they really are doing some more active moderation and pulling problems, fantastic. And I haven’t really watched much of Watch Mojo, maybe they have great discussions about how the topic of the list is problematic.
There are other critiques to be made, of course, of these high-volume Internet entertainment venues: repetitiveness or derivitaveness, being boring or uninteresting, spoilers, any number of complaints you could have in general about something that is aiming more for quantity. They’re putting out a bunch of stuff, and hoping for some hits.
Let’s compare now to some less frequent Internet content, in thinking about quality…
I wrote not long ago about how a lot of online creators are moving to new subscription platforms so they can put more money into productions and come out with higher quality shows (on top of their existing content). While great examples of putting out a quality product online (while also keeping up your more quantity-based material as well), well, I’ve already talked about them. Let’s look at more examples.
There are channels that put a lot of work into flagship sorts of shows, and then have all sorts of daily material, like news or short videos. Examples like Screen Junkies (home of Honest Trailers) and ScrewAttack (home of Death Battle) come to mind. An example like TableTop also comes to mind, but I already mentioned it in the other post…
By blending their more “quality” show with constant content, these channels work on a best-of-both-worlds sort of approach, staying on people’s radar and feeds, but then having the main show that people come to the channel for in the first place. The shows that are the way people find the channel in the first place, and then they ask you to subscribe…
The problem is, because they’re so busy making other content in-between their “flagship” shows, it’s also hard to hold them to the highest standard for their content. We can ask that they work on improving, but really, they work out like the quantity networks.
The better contrasting example would be the channels that do seasons, or in some other way spend a lot of time putting together material before finally releasing it. One example that comes to mind of the former is Epic Rap Battles of History, and for the latter, How It Should Have Ended. There are perhaps problematic elements to Epic Rap Battles of History, but those exist more in the realm of Rap in general – conventions they are following.
Still, it feels easier to critique problems with the shows on these channels – they put a lot of time and work into the product, and released it on their own schedule. As such, if there’s a problem, they should have caught it.
I feel like I can definitely point to the content of channels like this as quality, if by no other measure than views. They clearly keep an audience engaged despite gaps between content. It is a testament to their content being good and original.
Let’s look at one final example, which is about calling out problematic elements in media, so it seems appropriate. Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games on her channel Feminist Frequency. Rather than having to worry about the revenue streams that other YouTube channels are – which is part of how they’re making their decisions about quantity and quality – her series was funded via KickStarter. That meant that, paid for in advance, it needed to be quality.
Despite controversy and all that, I think she succeeded at quality – one of the major pieces of evidence for which is, I think, the large number of specific examples (with screen/video captures) she gives in each video. Honestly, I’m impressed with how many cuts from different pieces of media Watch Mojo includes in every video. Though each video came out with large gaps in between, the Tropes vs. Women series did a strong job of presenting its case and of being thoughtful and quality. If she (or she and a big team) were working on producing videos like that on a constant basis, the quality would definitely drop.
This is the tough question I suppose. If we want all of our media to be not problematic, then we shouldn’t be expecting to consume it at an excessive rate. For instance, NetFlix or HBO or even like the BBC make some really quality shows, but there’s big waits in-between. Your “normal” American broadcast TV show is shooting on an almost constant basis. But even that is a less-constant basis than, say, daily Soap Operas.
Or say, 24-hour Cable News.
I guess my point is, we live in a world with both. There are traps you’ll fall into when creating media on a constant basis like that, when you don’t have time to stop and reflect. These problems aren’t really new to the Internet, but they definitely show up on the Internet.
So I’d like to know from you – what do you prefer? What do you follow? Thoughts in general? Let me know in the comments below!