Tech, Now + Beyond

New YouTube regulations show the company’s true colors

Help the rich get richer: help the popular channels get more popular.

YouTube has just announced its new monetization regulations, and people are angry.

For the technology challenged folks out there, YouTube’s new regulations mean that they’ve changed the standards by which YouTube videos are allowed to run advertisements on their videos. Ads give the content creators money and help their videos get more views. YouTube underwent a recent change in regulations last year, only allowing users to monetize their accounts if their videos garnered 10,000 views or more. The updated changes outlined here just made the process much harder.

The major change that affects content creators is that channels eligible to run ads need “1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months”. Other changes include a manual vetting process of the videos offered to the exclusive Google Preferred – a program that shows big companies popular YouTube videos on which to run their ads, and YouTube will allow companies more agency when it comes to deciding on which channels their ads will appear.

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This decision is in response to the negative attention YouTube videos have been receiving, specifically Logan Paul’s video of a hanging body in a forest in Japan.

YouTube’s decision, while intending to more closely monitor the content being released on the platform, feels like a pretty capitalistic move. Help the rich get richer: help the popular channels get more popular. For new YouTube users, this makes gaining viewers more difficult, takes away the opportunity to make some extra cash from their videos, and eliminates their ability to use other features, like end screens. Big YouTube channels don’t even earn that much from running ads on their site, as YouTube takes 45% of the money made from advertising. Instead, most of the money made from videos comes from brand partnerships and other connections.

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So, if this isn’t just about the money (money, money), why has YouTube implemented these new restrictions that mainly affect lesser known YouTube content creators? The rationale behind the updates is to increase the quality of the videos promoted on YouTube. Or, as they put it, they want to, “identify the channels that have earned the right to run ads.” I think the larger discussion surrounding the new regulations should focus on what, exactly, constitutes video quality: does the quality of videos mean quantity of viewers?

One could argue that Logan’s video gained so much attention so quickly because of the immense following he already had, in addition to the shock value of the video. The video, since taken down, did not earn any revenue, but his account is safe. Despite the outcry of how insensitive, appalling, and disturbing Logan’s video was, his account has gained 400,000 new subscribers, and he faces minimal repercussions: YouTube removed him from the Google Preferred program but did not force him to delete his account nor bar him from gaining money through ad revenue.

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This is just one specific case, but it’s a case that, I think, is telling. The number of followers did not serve as a filter for video quality– it served as a filter for video’s ability to be sensationalized.  Videos that go viral almost always tend to have some sort of wow factor, whether that’s for the good or the bad, which doesn’t seem to align with YouTube’s new mission. Already we see how the initiative is flawed: creators like Logan Paul, with over 5 million subscribers and magnified further in public eye by something controversial and disturbing, will continue to make ad revenue on their videos and become more popular.

All the regulations do is ensure that the ladder for aspiring famous YouTube musicians, vloggers, comedians and more, just got a lot longer. 

The first line of YouTube’s mission statement reads: “Our mission is to give everyone a voice and show them the world.” Maybe this, too, should be altered along with their new regulations.