Why do people upload old 3d party stuff to YouTube?
June 20, 2012 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Why (not how, why) do people upload old third-party content to youtube? Has anything been written on the subject?

In a fit of distraction yesterday, I was thinking about the show Punky Brewster, and that reminded me of the Saturday morning cartoon. "I wonder if there are any clips of that on YouTube," I thought. Yes, there are. In fact, it looks like you watch just about the whole series, and it was all carefully uploaded by one super-fan user. Then I thought about a commercial for Little Boppers that I used to like. Was that on there? Yes, yes it is. No matter what I seem to search for, as random and niche it may be, I find it. And I am very happy for it.

All this got me thinking - who would spend the time to upload this stuff, and what do they get out of it? I know you can make a little bit by sticking ads over content, but these don't seem to have them. And the playcount is so low on most that it probably wouldn't make anything anyway. Are they just superfans who want the world to be able to see all of "Glomer Punks Out" or that old Dollar Days supermarket ad from 1988? And if so, are there just that many different kinds of fans (of old garage bands, of car commercials, of VH1 specials, etc.) that spend the time to do it?

It seems like this is a strange enough hobby/activity that somebody would have considered it and written about "superuploaders". But Google has not found me anything. So AskMe, can you tell me any personal stories or point me to any writing about what possesses people to spend the time to digitize, edit, and upload so much old content (seemingly for free)?
posted by AgentRocket to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: All this got me thinking - who would spend the time to upload this stuff, and what do they get out of it?

It's the same urge that motivates people to create and curate fan sites or to edit Wikipedia. Sheer, unabashed nerdiness.
posted by valkyryn at 8:35 AM on June 20, 2012 [7 favorites]

What valkyryn said, with a dollop of "I would totally want this if I didn't have it, so someone else must totally want it but not have it. I am doing the world a favor by uploading it."
posted by Etrigan at 8:37 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

People have strange passions and will do what they can to fulfill them, and to find others of like mind.
posted by rtha at 8:38 AM on June 20, 2012

I seriously doubt it has anything to do with making money; I'm pretty sure it's just the desire to share nostalgia combined with access to material. Like the uploader of this video says, "These are captures from my mother's tapes, circa 1980-5, for the most part." The most remarkable part to me is not that someone uploaded them, but that someone has VCR tapes that are 25 years old at this point, and the means to play them! (I guess someone's mom is really into re-living the glory days of General Hospital...)
posted by DarlingBri at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2012

Best answer: So, a few years ago, I uploaded the movie Smoky Mountain Christmas to YouTube. Some of the segments have been taken down and I haven't bothered to re-upload, so I'm not exactly a super-uploader.

I did it because the movie wasn't out on DVD and I wanted to share it with people, because that movie is bat shit crazy*. I haven't done anything like it again, because I was never really inspired again, and I didn't have as much free time on my hands, but tens of thousands of people have watched it and there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of comments. People sent me messages all about "I love this movie too! Thank you so much!"

So yes, nerdiness, but especially the *community* part of nerdiness. You get so much positive feedback from uploading a beloved property. And all properties are beloved by somebody.

* "A country/western singer on a trip through the Tennessee mountains runs into a reclusive backwoodsman--and a witch." Starring Dolly Parton, Lee Majors, and Dan Hedaya. There is a poisoned pie. Dolly Parton is restored to life after eating the poisoned pie by THE TEARS OF AN ORPHAN. Choreography by Paula Abdul!
posted by mskyle at 8:43 AM on June 20, 2012 [18 favorites]

Best answer: I am a massive fan of a music artist from the 80s that will go unnamed. I have on VHS tape snippets of an obscure interview he did in the 80s that was not posted anywhere on YouTube. I went so far as to set up my point and shoot camera in video mode and record the interview as it played on my television so I could upload it for fellow fans. Those snippets have a massive number of views now. We hardcore people know there are other hardcore people out there that will appreciate it.

And hell, it's nice being able to access those things myself, anytime I want, from anywhere.

That said, it's not something I would spend hours and hours doing (for a serialized TV show, for example). But I appreciate the efforts of those who do.
posted by thrasher at 8:47 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am one of those people who uploaded a lot of random 1980s TV clips to YouTube. Why did I do it? For one thing, I was already rescuing and digitizing all my old VHS tapes (mostly home videos) so I could get rid of the bulky media and capture the content before the tapes degraded. Finding old TV segments I could upload was an offshoot of that.

Old video like that is like traveling in a time machine, and I felt inclined to share the material, and see what kind of comments would come up. A lot of the material was city-specific, so I was able to kind of connect with my teenage years that way. The material did get hundreds and thousands of views.

Unfortunately I lost the account due to copyright strikes (all of which I thought was kind of unfair, as they were very short, obscure segments) and I haven't really had time to re-upload everything sans those. So that has dampened my motivation a little bit. I suspect the other thing that would remove motivation would be YouTube becoming saturated with the clips. I doubt I'd be uploading anything that's destined to just get 15 views, as that would be just like talking to an empty room.
posted by crapmatic at 9:21 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been watching old episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyways that were uploaded to youtube.

It's obvious that a lot of people appreciate being able to see this show. I appreciate it! The person who uploaded it must be aware of how many people are watching (view counts). There's no money involved, but they do get the satisfaction of knowing that they're enabling other people to enjoy something they're personally a fan of.

I also follow a youtube user who has uploaded thousands of khmer pop songs from the golden age of khmer pop culture (right before the khmer rouge came to power). Many of these songs have notes about how nostalgic they are, and commenters leave notes about how their mother listened to these songs, etc. The quality isn't always that great, but people like this have helped fuel renewed interest in these artists and in Cambodian culture. That's got to feel good, if you're a fan!
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:21 AM on June 20, 2012

Honestly, my mom has a TON of old VHS tapes with old TV shows and movies recorded off TV and early HBO stuff. If I had the time I'd totally digitize them and throw them up somewhere, just because some of those cool old commercials and shows haven't been seen in years and it's a little slice of pop culture that may otherwise disappear forever, especially the local TV ads for now-gone car dealerships and stores and whatnot.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:39 AM on June 20, 2012

Best answer: I think you underestimate the power of fandom as a community and the desire of individuals to participate in that community. Being able to give other people in your community access to a rare piece of material gains you a tremendous amount of social capital. It's a great feeling to provide something that other people want. Not to mention that it makes other people want to be your friend and to do nice things for you.
posted by marginaliana at 9:55 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

FANDOM LOVE. Never underestimate its power, and the corresponding desire to pimp the Shiny Thing You Love to everyone else who hasn't gotten to enjoy it so that you can squee over it together.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:32 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

The same force that is compelling me to create a Bertha the Hutterite fan page.
posted by The Deej at 10:43 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

> And I am very happy for it.

That's the explanation right there - it makes the uploader happy.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 11:26 AM on June 20, 2012

I uploaded a bunch of old Cartoon Network bumper clips a while back, because I found them on a torrent site, and figured not everyone had the know-how or access to torrents. And YouTube is the second-most used search engine, so I was adding more information to the world at large. But my account got closed due to DMCA complaints, and I haven't re-uploaded anything. Yes, it was for the simple enjoyment of sharing.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:11 PM on June 20, 2012

I think everybody's right that the same impulse that gets you to search for something is amplified in those who have found/saved the things they upload.

The only other reason I can think of, that I have seen, is loading slightly-more-obscure stuff that people have read about but haven't seen... like Blake's 7 or Sapphire and Steel) with the intention of creating new fans. I guess it's pretty much the same impulse, though maybe perhaps slightly less altruistic because, as a superfan, sometimes you think that "if only n more people knew about my obscure favorite thing, maybe somebody would make more of them."

(Example: pre-You Tube, pre-torrents, and pre-2005 revival, Doctor Who fans used to be SUPER generous about taping old episodes for anyone who was interested and would send them blank tapes, and though, it was basically about being nice, it was also about "Hey, here's my favorite thing, LOVE IT!")
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:29 PM on June 20, 2012

Best answer: Everyone has covered the main reasons already, but there are two additional factors:

1. No matter what it is, no matter how unlikely a target for fandom it may sound, there is at least one person in the world - superfan - who loves it to pieces.

It may seem silly to you and I that someone should spend dozens of hours painstakingly uploading episodes of Forgotten_Short-Lived_80s_Sitcom_X to YouTube. But that's because we are not superfans.

Everything that was ever made has at least one superfan. Often, in my experience, at least a small handful.

2. Not only do people post these things in order to support and gain kudos from their fandom community, they also post them to connect to other superfans.

"I love Forgotten_Short-Lived_80s_Sitcom_X so much, I uploaded it to YouTube! You love it - because you're watching it - so let's talk!"

In other words, uploading unlikely videos to Youtube is also a great way to find and foster a fandom community. Particularly those fandoms which are too obscure even to support their own fansites and forums.
posted by ErikaB at 5:55 PM on June 20, 2012

Best answer: I upload clips because I want to watch them! I use YouTube as a place to quickly remember something awesome or hilarious. Usually I do this by searching. But when something I want to see isn't there, I upload it. It takes time to find original, edit, convert, upload, but is worth it when I get to watch it whenever!

It's also fun to see how many other people like it.
posted by manicure12 at 6:36 PM on June 20, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I considered marking all of these best but thought that might look a little nuts. It seems the answer was a little simpler than I thought: because people like this stuff and want to share it with others. But I'm glad I asked the question, because I hadn't considered the community aspect that people would get in touch with the uploader and connect over their shared love of [failed St. Louis supermarkets, or ancient spanish Christmas carols, or whatever].
posted by AgentRocket at 11:29 AM on June 21, 2012

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