So…I am addicted to YouTube.
Ask anyone, hang out with me long enough and I will put on a string of YouTube videos. Since early 2000’s its been a place where you can make and be in charge of your own content 100%. Today, not only is it a democratized platform where people can express themselves, it’s also a viable career path.
That is, ’til a few weeks ago when I happened to stumble onto an episode of the Philip DeFranco show. Phil has been a YouTuber since almost the creation of the website and a respected member of the free press. This particular episode was covering the recent changes to YouTube’s terms of service (pictured below). Most disturbing within those terms was the language was so unclear, practically anyone can violate them. However, this was nothing compared to a few weeks later when shit really hit the fan.
So let me break it down for you on how a Youtuber/Internet persona/Website makes money. Advertisers pay the creator through what Google has termed “Adsense”. Adsense works with EPC (earnings per click) and CPC (cost per click). Publishers will get paid for clicks on ads appearing in their websites. Currently (Feb 2015), Adsense publishers receive 68% of the click cost and Google 32%.
Recently, YouTube has been turning off the monetization of videos without any notification to the creator(When I say recently I mean as early as 2012). Something as little as strong language can be deemed “not advertiser friendly”. Though You Tube claims they are just enforcing their terms of service, its pretty shady to not have announced anything to the people whose livelihood depends on Adsense. To find out if your video had Adsense removed you would have to dig deep into your analytics to see it, which in my opinion could be a purposeful move. Whats also concerning is how long Youtubers went unpaid when videos were at their peak views. YouTube also refused to comment on what was going on beyond releasing a one sentence statement essentially saying this whole thing was not a big deal.
Whats interesting/concerning is how this has effected news channels in particular. Within the guidelines for demonetization is this”Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown”. Channel Seeker Daily (another news/information channel) found that over 100 of their videos were demonetized. And those news channels were not the only ones hit, it would seem that they were hit the hardest. This is not censorship per say but it takes away the incentive to say what you wanna say so you don’t seem controversal. For people who are YouTuber’s as a career, this makes it exponentially harder to provide your audience with content they want while upholding these -now stricter than ever- guidelines.
To be clear this is well within their rights as YouTube is a corporation. And making their product as advertiser friendly as possible is a reasonable move when you look at is from a business standpoint. However, looking on the side of the creator, it’s a little unfair. It’s a democratized, self policed platform and the people are getting pushed to the way side.
So where do the creators go from here? Shortly after this huge blowout, YouTube released a way to appeal demonetization, but is that enough? If you look at internet culture, when a website does not meet the needs of its users (i.e. Myspace, Xanga, and Google+ – that’s right I said it) people go elsewhere. But is YouTube too big to fail? We can only hope that YouTube either works towards better communication with its creators otherwise they may not be the only outlet for vlogs and videos in the near future.
-self decribed YouTube addict-