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Youtube content creators are revolting

19 October 2017

No, I'm not suggesting that those who create content for YouTube inspire feelings of revulsion.

I am observing that many of the site's most popular (and therefore most profitable) creators are getting highly annoyed at the way their efforts are being discounted and their ability to earn money eroded.

One of those top-ranked creators, Casey Neistat, has recently come out swinging at YT's management and roundly criticising them for dual standards in respect to which videos are entitled to be monetised and which aren't.

The problem centres around YT's "clever" algorithms which, without any human oversight, are responsible for determining whether an uploaded video is illegible to carry ads (and thus make money for its creator) and which aren't. These algorithms were introduced after the huge furore that surrounded the appearance of ads for household-name-products on videos that promoted violence or terrorism. Many of the companies affected pulled their advertising from YT and many others threatened to do so -- forcing Google to over-react and completely disrupt the creator ecosystem.

Without much testing and with extreme haste, YT introduced these new systems to automatically rate videos for "advertiser friendliness" and huge swathes of the web's most popular video content was demonetised overnight.

Content creators were not happy.

In some cases, channels had almost their entire library of videos stripped of the ability to earn revenues and that meant losses that were measured in millions of dollars for some of the most popular and prolific creators.

Since then, YT has tweaked with the algorithms in an attempt to make things run more smoothly and to operate more fairly -- but they're still failing.

Many creators, like as Neistat, are still feeling the impact of the changes on their wallets and are gaining very little traction with their complaints.

The hypocrisy is that while even the most popular individual creators' channels are being affected, the channels of "big money" broadcasters are not.

This BBC report shows that many broadcasters' videos on a contentious subject remain monetised, while other videos posted by individuals such as Neistat are not. This is apparently because the big-names are exempted from YouTube's algorithms and are allowed to monetise whatever the hell they want, regardless of whether it's related to war, tragedies violence or any of the other "forbidden" topics that would otherwise be ineligible to earn ad revenues.

Fortunately, I've yet to have any of my own videos fall foul of the evil YT algorithms but that's perhaps because I'm not really dealing with any contentious issues (outside of drone regulation) and my stuff is generally "family friendly". However, I know of others, such as Dave Jones' EEVBlog which have been pinged, despite having the same "family friendly" level of content.

When it comes to demonetising videos, the strategy used by YT is also creating ire within the community. The first thing most creators know is that the video stops carrying ads. You are then free to lodge an appeal -- although that appeal doesn't result in your video being reviewed by "a real person(tm)", it simply triggers a different set of algorithms. The result is that your appeal will most likely fail and your video will remain demonetised. Escalating things further *may* bring actual human judgment into play but that can take weeks and since most popular videos earn 90% of their revenues in the first 48 hours, any chance of a worthwhile return on such videos is lost forever.

I find it very sad that YT doesn't have the balls to trust its "channel partners" to do the right thing when it comes to monetising videos and that lack of trust is clearly eroding that crucial relationship in a way that the company may come to regret later.

There have already been a number of attempts to lure content creators away from YT and onto other platforms but to date, all of these have failed due to the lack of critical mass that is needed to make this pay. However, if YT continues to ignore the pleas of its content creators then I think it's only a matter of time before someone comes along and kicks the rug out from under Google's feet. Sure, it may not happen tomorrow but people do have long memories and nobody (NOBODY) likes the fact that a career as a YT content creator is granted solely at the whim of a corporation like Google.

A good indicator of the erosion that has already taken place is the massive amount of money that is now flowing into creators' pockets from Patreon. A growing number of creators now earn more from their Patreon supporters than they do from the ad-sharing that YouTube offers and I expect this to continue to increase over time.

If YT are not *very* careful, they may wake up one morning and find that some of their best and most lucrative channels are shutting up shop or turning off advertising completely. When that happens, they'll still have all the costs -- but little of the revenue.

You reap what you sow Google!

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