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Is Tech YouTube lost?

With every video I watch, yet another creator seems to be discussing the state of tech YouTube. Is it at a crossroads?

YouTube & Apple
image courtesy of author

What’s the point?

So, we are a few weeks away from Apple’s tech season. I’m pumped and looking forward to it, and of course, it will give me plenty of content to write on.

But, Apple are kind of on a hiding to nothing. Not with the products they are offering, but from tech YouTuber’s. No matter how good the next Mac Pro, iPhone, iPad, or MacBooks are, the reviews will not fairly reflect that.

I totally get that the job of reviewing, is to give opinion, but that needs to be tempered with a healthy splash of reality. It made me think, what, or indeed, who are these reviews and videos for?

Are they for you?

Let’s look at the machine I am using to write this blog on today – the M2 MacBook Air. Since its release, it has been met with a fair amount of vitriol and some disdain. I made a video defending it, as my take was, that it is a great bit of kit, well positioned and fairly priced. But, it seems those views are not universally shared.

When making these videos, who should they be aimed at? Should they be tested purely with the tasks that the majority of buyers will use it for? Or, should the review be more centred around finding a product’s weaknesses & limitations?

There are endless videos out there using stress-testing benchmarks, aimed at pushing the MacBook Air to almost unrealistic limits. But, is that fair or even relevant?

Looking at Apple’s website for the MacBook Air, they freely use terms such as ‘supercharged’ or ‘don’t take it lightly’. Clearly, they are inferring that it should not be looked at simply as a super lightweight, ultra-notebook. Apple are very clever and shrewd in their marketing. You’ll never find discriminating terms, suggesting one Mac is for one type of user, whilst another Mac is for an entirely different demographic. This Mac, packed with the latest Apple silicon, the M2 chip, is competent way beyond its pretty form factor. In my experience, it is capable of pretty much anything you’d ask of it, and certainly will handle more than just spreadsheets or word processing, historically, the normal domain of notebooks.

Have tech YouTubers got it wrong?

YouTube seems to have taken the stance, that looking for the absolute limit is the all guiding driver behind their videos. You only need to look at the sheer volume of videos on YouTube, with titles similar to ‘Breaking the MacBook Air, ‘How to Fix The MBA’ or ‘The MBA is Sad’. Then, of course, there was the SSD-gate as well!

This is their defence to using those benchmarks I spoke of earlier. They want to test hard, which in turn, enables them to use shocking thumbnails and clickbait titles.

Is it fair, do you think, for creators on YouTube to compare the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air in the same video? Has Apple brought this upon themselves? In making sure not to differentiate between the models, are Apple inviting such comparisons?

The MacBook Air, is not alone in attracting unwanted, and unnecessary initial reactions either.

Although I ended up buying the MacBook Pro this year, I nearly bought the Mac Studio instead. The cost is comparable, as are the specs. The only main difference is the laptop element, and thus mobility, of the MacBook Pro. Whilst the MacBook got away with too much criticism, the Studio was not so lucky.

YouTube decided that its failing was the lack of upgrade-ability. The voices shouted, this is a pro level machine…so why can’t we upgrade the memory? Apple were seemingly at fault, in not allowing buyers to improve their purchases by adding after-market memory – particularly as the space was there, inside the machine.

We’re not watching

But, are all these claims, comparisons, and benchmarks wasted?

YouTube, certainly the tech YouTube space, is odd. For all the clever tear-downs and stats, the people they are probably designed to help, or sway, are not watching.

I can almost guarantee you, that for the majority of buyers, certainly of the fantastic MacBook Air, have one figure that concerns them most – and its cost.

To the average, undiscerning eye, apart from the colours, and different shape, the two currently available MacBook Air’s, are pretty much the same Mac. However, one is £999 and the other £1249. In our credit crisis times, £300 is hard to justify. YouTubers can bang on all they want about improved CPU, GPU, or SSD performance. But the figures that’ll matter most, or the ones on the price ticket.

I say this with love, as I count myself among their number, but the tech-nerds are often not the ones buying the machines in the videos. We watch, purely, as it interests us. Even when I had no intention of ever buying a 24-inch M1 iMac, I still watched the review videos on YouTube. The verbiage and details spewed out in the tech space on YouTube are for the domain of tech geeks.

Just mark my words

History, and form, will start to repeat itself in a few weeks. When we finally get our hands on the Apple silicon Mac Pro, reason will be found to tear it apart.

Negative, shocking videos are good for clicks, views, CPM, and AdSense. Great for the creator in the short term, but possibly not so great for the viewer. If, just, if the parent of a kid who is about to head off to university were to watch one of these videos, what would they be looking for? Are they after stress-testing, limit breaking benchmarks, or whether it will last 3 or 4 years on campus and be fit for purpose?

I have a feeling, that tech YouTube has cooked its own goose. Everything has its time and moment. What we may have accepted as YouTube tech reviews over the past few years, may have served it’s time.

Whether it’s the algorithm or the audience, that is responsible, who knows, but something has changed. Too many voices have piped up of recent, though, saying they can see the winds of change blowing through. Sara Dietschy, Luke Miani, Jon Prosser, Rene Ritchie, Sam Kohl…all are concerned about the state of tech YouTube and its state of malaise. Is it just a passing phase, or is it time for change?

Clicks and views will decide, I guess.

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