YouTube is changing its notification system to address creator frustration

YouTube is changing its notification system to address creator frustration

YouTube creators have long bemoaned the company’s irregular and untrustworthy notification delivery system, but new product changes are looking to address those frustrations.

Notifications are now automatically set to personalized, according to a new blog post from the product team. That means that not everyone who subscribes is going to get the same videos delivered to their inbox. Under the new system — at least in theory — in order to receive notifications about every video a creator releases, people have to click subscribe, hit the golden bell icon, and ensure notifications are enabled on their account. If they don’t do this — and just hit the red subscribe button — they may not receive notifications for creators’ new videos, although all subscribed videos should still show up in the subscriptions tab. The product change is supposed to make this easier for users to understand.

Basically YouTube is acknowledging that if you’re confused, you’re not alone.

“Through a series of tests and user research, we’ve found this updated name and visual design improves overall understanding of the default bell setting and makes it more clear that you won’t be notified about every new video upload,” the blog post reads.

When YouTube’s product team first clarified why some people may not receive notifications and others might, the community had one main question — shouldn’t everyone who’s subscribed to a channel get a notification? No one really understood how notifications worked before. Research conducted by YouTube’s team discovered that people became overwhelmed by the number of notifications they were getting from subscribing to multiple channels, and turned them off completely. The new change will allow people to personalize notifications across every channel they subscribe to on YouTube.

“Sometimes we’ve dropped notifications and we haven’t delivered them, and that’s on us.”

The incoming change is a direct response to growing frustration among creators who claim to have suffered from “subscriber ghosting.” There was outcry from creators in March 2018, which YouTube has since responded to with incremental updates to the notification system and updates on user research that may influence further change. Creators have constantly told YouTube via Twitter that the first wave of viewers when videos go live are super important to their channel and advertising revenue. The more viewers that appear, the more ad revenue (CPM) creators can receive.

“Sometimes we’ve dropped notifications and we haven’t delivered them, and that’s on us,” James, a member of YouTube’s notifications team, said in a video about the product change. “If you’re sending billions of these things to billions of users, even a small percentage gains can affect a lot of people.”

To speak more directly to creators, YouTube is introducing new metrics that YouTubers can use to better understand how many of their subscribers are getting notifications. One new metric will show creators how many subscribers have signed up to receive all notifications, but may not have notifications enabled on their account or device. The second metric is for people who have subscribed for all notifications, but have notifications enabled.

“If you’re sending billions of these things to billions of users, even a small percentage gains can affect a lot of people.”

Creators have started talking about the update on Twitter, and the reception is mixed. While people appreciated the transparency YouTube has showcased — something that CEO Susan Wojcicki told creators in one of her blog posts the company was committed to doing more of — they were frustrated because the notification system was still difficult to navigate. Others complained the update doesn’t address individual users’ subscription feeds, which was part of the problem. YouTube users have spoken about having all the right settings enabled, but still not receiving notifications.

“I think one big thing we’re pissed about is that people can subscribe twice and the default setting for that is still not ‘show me whenever this dude uploads,’” one creator tweeted.

The product changes are currently being rolled out.