The Definition of the “How-To” Genre


The “how-to” is characterized by a certain kind of “rawness.” Its not necessarily about aesthetic appeal, although it can be. Instead, this “genre” relies on direct and formal instruction, and is an epitomizer of one of the many facets of YouTube: its ability to be used as a teaching tool. Like written instruction, “how-to” videos are often organized by a certain step-by-step template, but they are also appealing because along with the audio that might accompany one reading the directions of  a furniture set aloud for example, YouTube videos also provide a visual, making it easier to see how things are done, no matter if the subject matter is tying a tie to making paper cranes.

One of the most significant things I have noticed about “how-to” videos is how polarizing they can be. In the days when YouTube allowed for users to leave comments anonymously, it was easy to judge not only the success of the viewers with following the “how-to,” but also how good the teacher was at providing the steps. More often than not, I have witnessed YouTube “how-to” videos riddled with disparaging comments when the “how-to” was particularly unhelpful.

But even this serves to illuminate the identities of the producers behind these type of videos: us. To post a video, you neither have to be qualified or even correct, and while that might explain why so many “how-to” videos may be bad, it also reflects the backbone of an era in which the individual is becoming increasingly more autonomous in how he or she created and shared original content to others. And because providers are often times consumers as well, the audience for “how-to” video makers is whoever’s interested. And given the plethora of instructional videos that exist, it would seem that the lot of us are interested in everything. At this point, “how-to’s” are not even there solely to help someone out of a jam. People watch them to simply learn new things they might not have learned under any sort of circumstances.

Along with “raw,” “informative,” and “direct,” I would define the genre as slightly “impersonal,” given the fact people watch “how-to’s” without necessarily expecting to hear any personal info from the creator of the “how-to” video themselves. Lastly, I would define the genre as generally practical. Viewers often times come away with new found information that they perceive as being useful.


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