Luke Ramsay


The Shifting Aesthetics of Online Video: A Commercial History of YouTube’s Annual Top 10 Lists (2005-2012)


Since Google purchased YouTube in 2006, studies on the commercialization of the site and its content have increased substantially. This paper considers the impact of YouTube’s commercialization in a light previously overlooked by scholarship: online video aesthetics. Through qualitative analyses of the site’s annual Top 10 Videos lists, this paper charts aesthetic changes in YouTube’s most popular content over the course of the site’s history. More specifically, the analyses examine the economic implications of increased commercial aesthetics among YouTube’s Top Videos lists. From 2005 to 2012, a shift from low budget to bigger-budget content emerged among the site’s most popular videos. This paper argues that the presence of progressively expensive aesthetics on the site’s Top Videos lists (from 2005-2012) discriminates against low-budget narrative video making.