Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is almost precisely the problem that the rest of the media world finds itself in. Because quality is hard to measure, the numbers that exist are the ones that describe attention, not effect: views, watch time, completion rate, subscribers. YouTube uses those metrics, ostensibly objectively, when it recommends videos. But as Theodore Porter, the great historian of science and technology, put it in his book Trust in Numbers, “Quantification is a way of making decisions without seeming to decide.”
The survey was interested in the particulars of respondents’ anger. In its 14 pages, it sought an almost voyeuristic level of detail. It asked the woman to describe the stages of her fury, which words she had shouted, whether punches had been thrown. “In becoming angry, did you wish to get back at, or gain revenge?” the survey inquired. Afterward, did you feel “triumphant, confident and dominant” or “ashamed, embarrassed and guilty”? There were also questions for people like her husband, who had been on the receiving end: “Did the other person’s anger come as a surprise to you, or did you expect that it would occur?”
This might not exactly seem like a tragedy. After all, Americans watch a lot of TV. By the time Nielsen began recording how much time Americans spent in front of TV screens in 1949–50, each household was already averaging four hours and 35 minutes a day. That number kept going up, passing six hours in 1970–71, seven hours in 1983–84, all the way up to eight hours in 2003–04. Viewing finally peaked at eight hours and 55 minutes in 2009–10. Since then, the numbers have been gliding downward, with the most recent data showing Americans’ viewing habits edging under eight hours a day for the first time since George W. Bush’s presidency.
For kids to have the best chance of learning from a video, Johnson told me, it must unfold slowly, the way a book does when it is read to a child. “Calmer, slower-paced videos with less distracting features are more effective for younger children,” she said. “This also allows the video to focus attention on the relevant visuals for the song, thus aiding in comprehension.”
For any well-meaning kids’ producer, one model to look to for inspiration is Fred Rogers—PBS’s Mister Rogers. Rogers didn’t have any deep academic background in children’s development, but early on, he grasped the educational possibilities of the new medium, and in the 15 years between the first children’s show he produced and the national premiere of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he worked constantly to make it better for kids. ChuChu could well be going through a similar stage now. Founded just five years ago, it’s encountering a different, and tougher, media landscape than Rogers did—but his path is still worth following.
Nobody likes content interrupted, commercials are at least half of why I stopped watching TV shows on TV. Besides a majority of youtube videos are ~2-5 minutes long, a 30 second ad is too long as a % of total time. Internet ads for video tend to serve the same ad repeatedly which is a big mistake. Our privacy will be sacrificed for targeted ads here too I’m sure.
Maybe better or more refined solutions exist, but if the history of children’s television teaches us anything, it’s that the market alone will not generate the best outcomes for kids. Nor is the United States government likely to demand change, at least not without prompting. Heroes will have to emerge to push for change in the new YouTube’d world, just as they did in the early days of broadcast children’s TV. And not all of those heroes will come from the Western world. They’ll come from all over the globe, maybe even Chennai.
Most videos enable users to leave comments, and these have attracted attention for the negative aspects of both their form and content. In 2006, Time praised Web 2.0 for enabling "community and collaboration on a scale never seen before", and added that YouTube "harnesses the stupidity of crowds as well as its wisdom. Some of the comments on YouTube make you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred". The Guardian in 2009 described users' comments on YouTube as:
User entitlement -- A key to the plan of scaling up and eventually figuring out how to make money is free services for users. The minute you charge people, most walk off, particularly when they've been trained to assume that services should be free. YouTube has clearly told people that they should expect free video streaming, even if it has considered an ad-free paid subscription service. Getting consumers to change their behavior after they've become used to not paying is next to impossible.