An Open Letter To YouTube From The Travel Community

To the YouTube Team,

You’ve created a spectacular service and continued to expand YouTube to include powerful editing tools, music archives, and much more. You have shown a strong desire to enrich the user experience, while simultaneously improving the overall quality of videos on the site, as well as what we are able to offer as producers. More recently, you’ve continued to tweak how sub-categories are organized and displayed within the site’s 12 main topics.  These have helped improve the usefulness of the Travel and Events category significantly.   Unfortunately, the impact of these changes has been largely blunted by one fundamental issue: that Travel and Events are together in one category, when they truly need to be two separate categories.

I realize that on the surface, Travel and Events seem like interrelated categories.  When you travel, you spend time at events. Right? The challenge, however, is that the type of content which people consider to be Travel content and what people consider to fall under the Events category is fundamentally different. Travel and Events categories are not just different in the content itself, but also  in what the consumer is interested in and seeking out.  When I hear “Events” I think news footage, concert videos, and conference panel videos.

As I write this I’m looking at Travel & Event’s “Popular Videos”. The top video at the moment is titled, “Blowing Sh!t Up” and is an incoherent video from what appears to be VidCon which includes a guy walking around pointing at things with fake explosions. The user’s other videos include titles like “Groupies Gone Wild”, “Dancing Around Naked”, “Look at our Melons!!!” and “Beat Up In A Locker”.  The second most popular video depicts footage of a group of people singing drunkenly, apparently also at VidCon. This user’s other recent videos include “Audience Sings Dramatic Song”, “Tobuscus Dance Party”, “World’s Deadliest Drug”, and “Best Buy Prank”. The third video is a bungee jump– not bad, as that’s pretty travel oriented.  Video number four? VidCon again. Number five? A Visit Las Vegas ad. Other videos include “Katy Perry ‘Part of me’ movie premier!” and a lifeblogger talking about her weekly nail appointment and the day’s sunbathing trip to the pool. Not unlike iJustine who dominated the “Travel” section for more than a year.

Our issue as a community isn’t that these videos aren’t an acceptable and vibrant part of YouTube. Many are quite popular and there is obviously an eager audience for them. Most are also somewhat relevant for the Events/Catch-all part of the category. The problem, however, is that they really don’t have much to do with the Travel part of the tag and that they are a type of content that I really don’t want to wade through when searching for a video about food in Guatemala. When most people think “Travel” they think Travel Channel, National Geographic, beautiful time-lapses, exotic food, and similar events. Right now, these videos are being completely lost or forced into other categories. In many cases, it has also driven many travel vloggers and video consumers to move away from YouTube to other sites all together. In effect the Events/Travel category makes it so frustrating and unpleasant to find and discover new, quality travel related content/channels that it is actively discouraging viewers from using the site.

So, we’re asking for one small change which would make a world of difference: Split Travel and Events into two separate categories. You’ve already started to move down this path by creating the auto-generated lists, such as YouTube – Bali. Unfortunately, even these lists are limited and based on a very basic set of locations and categories. A dedicated Travel category would help aggregate these videos and give viewers much greater access to the type of travel content they want. There are a lot of incredible independent/hobbyist film and video makers generating travel content right now and they would love to add their material to YouTube. The “Where the Hell is Matt? 2012” video with 2.5 million views since June 20th is a prime example of this. It’s just unfortunate that a lot of these videos get lost and buried underneath a 50 second clip of Justin Bieber being spotted at a concert.

Thank you for your consideration.

Alex Berger, YouTube user Glamdering.

I invite other members of the travel and travel video community to add their voices to mine by way of a comment on this post. Feel free to share why you believe that “Travel and Events” needs to be split into two separate categories, and please leave your YouTube channel and website.

*A special thank you to fellow travel bloggers Lillie, Rebecca, and Dylan for their feedback on this letter.