Here are my rules for YouTube:
1. Disable search and watch history. This restricts the factors that drive your video suggestions to videos you've explicitly selected.
2. Never go to the Trending page. Most stuff there is clickbaity garbage.
3. Actively curate your suggestions. If there are videos in your suggestions you don't care about, click "Not Interested" in the flyout menu. If you watch a video you like and you'd like to see more, subscribe to the channel, upvote the video, or add it to a private playlist.
My home page suggestions are limited to videos directly related to videos I've upvoted or channels I've subscribed to, except for the occasional time Google adds a "Popular music" or whatever section that is easily dismissed. Suggestions below videos are also pretty relevant.
One of my favourite channels is a New Zealander called Geoffrey Croker who is restoring his classic Land Rover, with dry humour, excellent lighting and cinematography, and good pacing. He just posted a video about the LR's engine that I haven't watched yet, but I'm sure will be great. Rather than using YouTube's algorithm to discover new channels, I rely on comments like this one that I see around the Web, as well as when channels I watch call out other channels, the way This Old Tony frequently does.
In order to provide signalling, you have to watch a video, incognito, and then, after determining the video's instrinsic value, possibly re-watch it in cookied spyware (ahem! "normal") mode, so that the system is permitted to log "awareness" of your assent to recognize an alteration to your viewing habits.
Do you see how backwards that really is?
I wish there was an extension to remove all the "Recommended for you" entries and only show videos related to the current videos.
sadly this is not the case, you will still be flooded by "10 of X, you wont believe number 3" and "person Y stumped liberals with his totally not nazi speech" garbage
Youtube is just using ML algorithms so it's only going to be as good as the data you give it. Actively downvote and choose "Not Interested" for content you don't like and anything click-baity.
They are now organizing suggestions into topics so you can easily curate simply by hitting the X on topics that you don't like.
Of course, you need to clear your search and watch history too, otherwise all those clickbait videos you clicked on before will still be driving your suggestions.
"$7,000.00 Beta Starter Opened with OpenBoosters - BLACK LOTUS?" investment scam?
"MY $1MILLION DIAMOND INVESTMENT" mm Im seeing a pattern here
"Flat Earth: What Makes REAL Science? – Wisecrack Edition" wat?
Not to mention 10 out of 20 suggestions are videos I already watched and upvoted (I inject custom CSS into YT to make :visited visible again so I can skip it).
Getting shitty clickbaity/scam suggestions is not a given/reproducible, but they still happen often enough to be noticed on a daily basis.
So with that factor removed, my search/watch history actually seems to be driving cleverer selection of videos to recommend, not worse.
But we can't begin to see a better YouTube, or a better internet without fixing copyright laws. The instant we start fining companies or possibly arresting individuals for filing false copyright claims against fair use of copyrighted content, that racket will collapse.
The most egregious part is that short clips of music or videos can strike a YouTube video. This is despite the ability to easily automatically detect the total length of the snippet. Short clips are fair use almost by definition. Howe could you possibly diminish the value of a copyrighted work by playing 5 seconds of it? I don't think it can be done if you try.
Ending this problem will take immense pressure off of YouTube and the people who create content for it. The resources invested in this manufactured problem can be reallocated to solving the other problems.
I appreciate early YT's role in bringing unconventional content to the fore, but we are way past that point. People are on YT today to make money. That is why so many videos are the same formulaic garbage as cable TV, just tweaked to reflect YT "culture":
"Kids react to [something]"
"I was almost arrested [NOT CLICKBAIT]"
"[thumbnail with screaming face]"
"Feminist cringe compilation No. 2535366"
Unfolding Ideas – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPHPNgIihR0
ContraPoints – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtj7LDYaufM
Philosophy Tube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qihG6AGjkRk
Lindsay Ellis – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FJEtCvb2Kw
Innuendo Studios – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agzNANfNlTs
HBomberguy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnPOQr1pxY8
and so on. And it seems like it's only in the past couple of years that many of these channels have reached their current levels of artistry and production value.
Most stuff on YouTube is trash, but there's plenty else to watch.
Ten years ago, YouTube was just a very popular video hosting service, with videos that were not made for profit but for entertainment. Videos were made by fans for fans, by enthusiasts for other enthusiasts, and they were quality. Regarding the football vids, they were a perfect blend of action and music, paced well and with well designed rhythm.
I used to go on YouTube to watch compilations of my favorite footballers, and back then the content wasn't restricted or monitored for intellectual property breaches. Those compilations were fantastic for the reasons above.
Today's youtube is just trash.
I agree with the statement that the golden era of YouTube is over, but before Google bought it out there was virtually no way to make money off of it, except through abusive networks. I could be wrong, but most companies don't bother striking videos that aren't monetized.
Youtube as a business seems a combination of insanely profitable due to ads and at the same time hopelessly inept when it comes to practical details like filtering/recommending stuff, and bleeding cash by doing silly things like not monetizing my behavior in any way that is obvious to me.
Like many long time users, I ignore their trending feed. It's beyond terrible and seems aimed at German teenagers who consume content in German. Thus showing their 'AI' (the quotes are intended sarcastically) hasn't figured out that I'm a middle aged expat who never consumes any content whatsoever in German despite living in Berlin. And presumably they are intimately familiar with my search and browsing history. I carefully micromanage recommendations to get any value out of them. Basically it defaults to "more of the same shit I saw recently", or "the exact same shit I already watched or that I dismissed repeatedly". Occasionally I get some value out of it though. But mostly I seem to find my way to new channels via referrals by those I follow. Collaborations among youtubers seem to be a thing and I often end up following new channels this way. IMHO a lot of youtubers could do well exploiting this more effectively. E.g. curated lists of similar channels could be a thing and being on such lists ought to bring a lot of traffic where Google's 'AI' just doesn't get the job done.
Youtube's failure to convert people like me to paying customers is a problem. I spend hours watching great content for free; and like most clued in users these days, my browser has an ad blocker which works great on Youtube: I never see ads. I'm grateful that it is free but I'd like this to be long term sustainable as well because I genuinely enjoy the content.
I feel slightly guilty about not doing the Patreon thing, which I know a lot of youtubers depend on. The thing is, I'd gladly distribute 10 euros or so a month among the youtubers I enjoy watching but I can't afford to pay that to each of them, which seems to be the patreon way; or micromanage dozens of donations more or less aribitrarily. Also, 20 cent patreon donations are not a thing as far as I know I'd feel vaguely embarrassed doing that when people are clearly expecting/hoping for more. I also have some reservations about Patreon as a platform and its content policies. IMHO puritanism and political correctness is a not a good thing and it seems ad publishers and VC funded companies are hyper sensitive about this. When F-bombs become a monetization risk and e.g. European youtubers feel compelled to self-censor or bleep out their own swearing, something is wrong.
10 euros is ballpark what I spend on Spotify and Netflix every month. I get good value for money on both. Measured in hours, I probably spend about as much time on Youtube.
However, Youtube red/premium or whatever it is called now as a value proposition is completely uninteresting to me because it does little or nothing for the channels I actually follow and I rarely seem to encounter any youtube premium content that would require me to sign up AND is compelling to me. Additionally, I already get an ad free experience and for whatever reason Youtube seems to be completely fine with this. I'm sure they are well aware that their ads largely don't work on desktop or maybe their mobile revenue is such that they can't be bothered to give it a second thought. Either way, that 10 euro is something they have not figured out how to tap into for me or indeed hundreds of millions of other users.
I believe that this is true for the whole of Google. Yes, they are making a lot of money but company wide their product strategy seems messy and subject to rather large and arbitrary changes rather frequently without obviously yielding results other than year on year growth in ads (which I never see). At the same time they seem super sloppy about monetization. E.g. up-selling for stuff I clearly use and appreciate never seems to not be a priority for them. They are not actually trying very hard as far as I can see. I suppose it is nice to be able to afford to spend blindly on R&D like that and to not have to worry about monetizing.