The YouTube community has recently panicked over the YouTube policy for monetization; the legalization of a video for payment by an advertiser. As the platform has grown, many people have begun to earn a living through their YouTube channels. Advertisement and sponsorship earn a YouTuber roughly $1.50 per 1,000 views as shown in data collected by YouTuber Mah-Dry-Bread. Channels can also make money through sponsorship, which is usually offered to channels with more subscribers.
YouTube has many guidelines in place monitoring content posted on the website. The controversy has formed around policies related to monitoring monetization. The current components for getting a video monetized are your video must be:
- contain no graphic content or excessive strong language.
These are broad terms that often cause confusion in the monetization process. Non- “advertiser-friendly content” has been defined by YouTube as videos that include:
- Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor.
- Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism.
- Inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language.
- Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use and abuse of such items.
- Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown.
A large portion of videos produced on YouTube include at least one of the characteristics listed above, as YouTube is used by and for, mainly teenagers and adults. This means that monetization will likely be disabled for many YouTube videos; consequently the creators will be unable to obtain a stable income through advertising on their channels.
The monetization process is initially automatic. Trained electronic systems review videos and conclude the eligibility for monetization. If following the posting of a video, it is repeatedly flagged as inappropriate, the video will be de-monetized. If a video’s monetization is disabled, the owner can request a manual review. However, this takes an extended period of time and will be deprioritized if the owner has already requested an excessive number of reviews in the past.
YouTube originally formed as an easy access broadcast of video material made by people from many different backgrounds. Because it was unlike any other place on the internet at the time, YouTube quickly gained popularity after their start in 2006. In the beginning, the purpose was to make your videos accessible. Many people would post footage of themselves singing or a concert they went to, hoping to gain an audience to witness their work, and perhaps even get recognized by someone in their desired industry. Over the years as social media and the internet have gained such a wide following, YouTubers have begun to earn an unexpected income. A place to share art soon transitioned into a platform where contributors could earn an immense profit, often more than the average middle class income.
YouTubers like Philip DeFranco and Meghan Tonjes have publicly voiced their disapproval of the monetization policy. Philip DeFranco, a YouTuber with over 4 million subscriptions, told Vox that, “when you take away monetization for a YouTube channel, you make the channel unsustainable to run as a full time job...especially when it appears that the implementation of removing monetization is scattered and not hitting all YouTube channels equally.” This raises the issue of inequality in monetization. YouTube channels that are made specifically for child consumption will be able to make more money than channels that use recurring “inappropriate” humor or discuss political topics. For example, news channels could soon become rare in the YouTube community, as the majority of their videos are likely to lose monetization.
DeFranco told Vox that he contacted YouTube and received an official statement from them. He showed the statement in a recent video he posted on his channel titled YouTube Is Shutting Down My Channel and I'm Not Sure What To Do which now has over 5 million views. YouTube stated, “While our policy of de-monetizing videos due to advertiser-friendly concerns hasn’t changed, we’ve recently improved the notification and appeal process to insure better communication.” YouTube claims to have not changed their policy at all, but instead to have improved the access to the information on monetization.
So if nothing has really changed and many channels are now being notified of de-monetization, then have creators been losing money all along without even knowing it? This, of course, is resulting in more outrage than the original “ad-friendly” policy. YouTube has lost an immense amount of trust from their consumers due to their own claim.
Regardless of the lack of a specific change in the policy, and rather just a change in notification, content on the gloried platform will likely begin to shift. Because of the need to earn money off of their channels, YouTubers may begin to conform to the guidelines, far more than they have before, in hopes of gaining monetization. The full response and product of the heightened awareness to YouTube’s radical monetization policies are still unknown. It’s probable that over time, viewership of the content created could decrease and YouTube as a whole could lose its royal social status. Perhaps people will move to different platforms to produce their video content, such as Patreon.
With numerous negative reactions to the monetization policy, it seems that YouTube has become such a widely profited corporation, that the possible decrease of income would make a large number of YouTubers leave the domain. If YouTubers exit the use of the corporation, we have to wonder, has this art form changed so much with popularity that the love for video production has been overshadowed by a need for wealth? Does the economical status of the art industry make it so challenging for beginning artists to make a living, that profiting off of YouTube seems like the only option? Without YouTube as a space where individuals can simultaneously create art and get paid, would the production of art decrease? Or would a different platform’s popularity increase? This controversy could reveal answers to these questions about the future of such a beloved entertainment outlet. Or maybe it will remain unknown, stability will be returned, and the policy that has seemed to cause so many problems will be forgotten.