Reaction videos have a unique advantage

I started watching reaction videos - albeit very occasionally - maybe a year ago. Since then, many issues with this specific genre started surfacing and stirred up a big discourse on the 'net. You may have seen them: multiple big-name creators (xQc, SSSniperWolf) were criticized for plagiarism and parasitism.

I'm not talking about that. I want to talk about what they can be when done right. I think the format has a lot to offer; including things that are only possible with this format specifically.

The time I can spend watching people talking on YouTube is quite limited, and I make no claims of being an expert on the topic. Of all the creators I ended up watching Asmongold the most, and I think he (and his editorial team) do this right, so he'll serve as my illustrative example. (Since this is the internet, here's a disclaimer for you: I'm not saying Asmongold is right or wrong on any specific topic. I am saying he does the reaction video format well.)

The general complaints against the reaction videos, in general, are valid: some creators just let someone else's video play and provide virtually no commentary or anything other of value, thus unnecessarily diverting the viewers from the original video to their (usually much larger) platform. This is problematic because that in turn robs the original creator of income.

Asmongold does everything to mitigate this: always mentions whose video he's showing, and provides a link to it. That would be the bare minimum. He also never skips in-video ads and sponsored segments, and directs his audience to the original creator, encouraging them to engage with it if they liked what they saw.

That makes a big difference: using his big platform to direct people to small channels often helps them, and I've often seen their own subscriber count soar as a result. (I've also discovered multiple interesting channels this way.)[1]

I enjoy the style of asynchronous discourse reaction videos allow, even though that's nothing new in principle: bloggers have been doing the same thing for decades. Of course, this kind of discourse has been happening in print for ages, but only with the advent of the Internet did it become possible for anyone to join in.

There's one thing that I think is a unique benefit of reaction videos, specifically: they make it harder to (unintentionally) twist the meaning of the original work. Sometimes the person reacting simply misunderstands what's been said. But when they play the video in its entirety, pausing it and interjecting all the while, it's easy for the viewer to spot what they misunderstood. You get to see both the original and the reaction.

Compare this with blogs: Most bloggers do link to the original work they're commenting on, but that requires the reader to go to a different post first, read it, and then return to the reaction/commentary. Many people will simply skip that and only read the reaction.
Bloggers rarely react to posts piecewise, placing their own commentary next to the relevant part of the original text, whereas in video, this is the default. The youtuber pauses the video, comments on something or elaborates on a topic, then continues. This makes it especially easy to understand both parts, see how they interact, and spot any occasional misunderstandings or inconsistencies. That makes it much easier for you to just go well, you've missed the point there, so your counter-argument isn't applicable - instead of coming away with the wrong impression in your mind. That's always a plus, given how incendiary discourse on the 'net can be.

To sum up, I really appreciate how conversations on video platforms have evolved. When done right, it can let the viewer more easily understand the intentions of both the original work and the person responding/reacting to it, in addition to the usual draws of internet videos - be it entertainment, education, or discussion and commentary.

  1. And at least one, The Act Man, specifically mentioned that Asmongold reacting to one of his videos gave his channel a significant boost. ↩︎