YouTube has announced changes to its monetization program, telling content creators with small channels that they’ll no longer be able to monetize unless they can grow their subscriber base to above 1,000 subscribers, with 4,000 hours of view time in the past 12 months.
This is a new benchmark, the previous being a set 10,000-lifetime view to join the YouTube Partner Program and begin monetizing content.
This has thrown the YouTube community into a tizzy, with accusations of favoritism flying. Partly this is YouTube’s fault, of course. In a blog post, the company states that this is a new measure to ensure that content is up to YouTube’s community standards, and many have pointed out that massive channels are often just as much to blame for questionable content as their smaller if more numerous, counterparts. Look no further than Logan Paul’s ‘suicide forest’ video for a pretty stellar example of this kind of abuse. Or much of Logan Paul’s other content, for that matter.
But I cannot find a spark to light my inner outrage torch, or any reason to jump on this anti-YouTube bandwagon, pitchfork at the ready. There are many beautiful reasons to shake your fist at YouTube, from its misfiring algorithms to Content ID to the very existence of Logan Paul, but this is not one of them.
Let’s break the issue down:
- I have a tiny YouTube channel (just under 4,000 subscribers) that I consider more of a hobby at this point than a serious attempt at making money. I make so little money from it that I barely even notice. If I had just a quarter of the subscribers (or less) than I have now I imagine income would be negligible at best. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that before making money off one’s videos, a content creator should have a more substantial subscriber base, if only because this hardly affects these channels, to begin with.
- Perhaps someday I will decide I want to make more money on YouTube, at which point I will want to work harder at it and grow the channel into something that can sustain itself. That won’t be easy, but YouTube’s new rules aren’t the issue. The issue is becoming a sizable enough subscriber base to make actual money in the first place. That means numbers exponentially higher than 1,000 subs and 4,000 viewing hours in a year.
- Nor does this policy prevent small channels from growing. I’d suggest that when you’re just starting, you avoid monetizing videos entirely. You won’t make any real money off of ads anyways, and having ad-free content will ingratiate you with potential viewers. This way, you can grow your channel and your popularity and eventually get on the Partner Program. Many content creators with Patreon followings, such as Jim Sterling, hbomberguy and Colin Moriarty, don’t need to monetize their videos, to begin with.
- And finally, it’s important to remind everyone that there was already a benchmark to begin with: 10,000 channel views. If you think about it, that penalizes even smaller channels.But thinking about it in terms of “penalty” or “favoritism” is wrong, to begin with. This is benchmark content creators need to pass in order to be taken seriously enough to start making money off their content. Besides, this ensures that content creators are still making videos. Rather than a one-time 10,000 view benchmark, channels need to continue to hold a subscriber base and regularly get views to remain in the Partner Program, which makes sense.
Ultimately, YouTube needs to do better in so many ways; it’s hard to list them all. The company needs to:
- Improve its system of demonetizing videos that don’t adhere to community guidelines. The current automated system paints with a broad (if irregular) brush. More human beings need to be involved in this process.
- Content ID, copyright strikes, and so forth are all too easily abused. Meanwhile, actual plagiarism and content theft occur all the time that isn’t caught in the Content ID net.
- Videos like Logan Paul’s ‘suicide forest’ should never make it to the #1 Trending spot, to begin with, and YouTube needs to react more swiftly to blatant abuses like this especially from its biggest stars.
- Even many top YouTubers complain that YouTube is terrible in its communication with content creators. YouTube needs to find ways to better communicate with all content creators, large and small.
And the list goes on.
The one thing I would not add to the list of problems with YouTube? A higher benchmark for Youtube Demonetization
It is not because I don’t empathize with small channels, having a reasonably tiny one myself. It’s because these small channel isn’t making money anyway, and it’s not unreasonable to expect more significant numbers and more considerable effort to go into a channel before it can start earning revenue. Accusations of favoritism are likely accurate enough, of course, a company will play favorites with its top earners, but YouTube should address the problems at the high end more directly and not merely raise the barrier to entry.
I would note that a higher barrier to entry is not a bad thing. It used to be far higher, back when there was no internet and no YouTube. It was so high most people had no chance of making video content for a broad audience. It’s good that this has shifted over time and given far more creators a platform. But that doesn’t mean they should be zero barriers to entry, either. Look no further than Steam, where any game, no matter how bad or how much of it consists of flipped Unity assets, can get a game into the store for a $100 fee. That, I would argue, is far too low a bar. At least on YouTube, even small channels (no matter how good or how bad) can post videos still.
Indeed, I would not be outraged by this even if the subscriber number were much higher also if it were higher than my subscription numbers. I would see that not as a reason to gnash teeth or rend garments, but as a challenge to overcome. If YouTube were to raise the number required to 5,000 or 10,000 subscribers, I might even feel more motivated. So really, all I can say is do the work. Put in the time. If you’re good at it, if you connect with people, you might make it or you might not. If you build it, they might come. Rome, as the saying goes, wasn’t built in a day.
What are your thoughts?