British YouTubers React to One Month of Demonetization
Back in January, YouTube sent an email to all creators whose channels had fewer than 4,000 hours of total watch time and fewer than 1,000 subscribers. The email was a “30 days notice” for all who received it that — unless they could make their channel meet the new threshold by 20th February — they would no longer be able to monetize it.
Since May 2007, YouTube has allowed its creators to make money by dividing advertising revenue made on a given video: 45% goes to YouTube and 55% goes to the creator. This model has allowed YouTubers to build careers around revenue created from their YouTube videos.
One such YouTuber is Simon Clark. An Oxford Graduate, Clark makes educational videos about science as well as vlogs about his life in academia.
Clark has been on YouTube for nearly eight years and he is far beyond YouTube’s monetization threshold with over 100,000 subscribers. Yet, while his channel will be unaffected by the move, he nevertheless expressed concern over the decision. “This goes counter to the ethos of online video as democratic creation,” he said.
This isn’t the only time that YouTube had upset its creators. Throughout 2017, a series of “Adpocalypses” occurred as YouTube started demonetizing videos across the platform. This was after outrage from advertisers that their brands were being featured alongside videos which promoted extremism or pedophilia.
Because of the amount of content which is uploaded to the website every second, the decision about where to place which adverts where has to be made by algorithms, and the algorithms don’t always get it right.
The ineffectiveness of these algorithms upsets both creators and advertisers. Creators complain that countless harmless videos have been demonetized because YouTube’s algorithms judged them to be inappropriate. Meanwhile, advertisers remain unhappy too because their products and services are still appearing alongside offensive content.
By reducing the amount of monetized videos, YouTube wants to reduce the amount of work its algorithms have to do. In turn, the hope is that this will mean these algorithms work better. Defending its decision, YouTube pointed out in a statement that “99% of those affected were making less than $100 per year in the last year.”
At 200,000 subscribers, Talk Becky Talk is a YouTuber who is also far beyond the monetization threshold. She is sympathetic towards the plight of small-time YouTubers, but she agrees with YouTube’s decision.
“It’s not going to stop you from growing which is the main thing. I actually found — when I was much smaller — turning off adverts and demonetizing my channel helped me resonate better with my audience and helped me to grow.” “I made almost nothing for years, so I turned the adverts off. Although earning money is important, the key to a lot of successful channels is those who start out creating as a passion and a hobby, not for money.”
Though, Clark argues that this is beside the point. “The main factor here is psychological. While a few dollars a month may make no practical difference to a video creator, it is immensely encouraging and empowering. It sends the message that you are making stuff that is important enough, and good enough, that people are (indirectly) willing to pay for it.”
At over 200 subscribers, Bex Renshaw’s experience on YouTube is very different to that of Clark’s or Talk Becky Talk’s. A vlogger and blogger from Stafford, she’s been uploading a combination of product reviews and daily vlogs to YouTube channel for over four years. To her, this is a big blow, as the money was also more psychological than anything else.
“If even YouTube doesn’t believe in us, who does?” she asked. “It’s no wonder so many people are giving up on their dreams. I’ve been on YouTube for over four years and it just makes me feel — like — what’s the point?”
With over 800 subscribers, Ciara Hillyer is a small-time Bristolian YouTuber who is just below the 1,000 subscriber threshold. Like Clark and Renshaw, she also says that this is not “about earnings.” Rather, she is worried that the move would de-incentivise “people who are looking for opportunities and exposure to target a specific audience.”
Hillyer’s channel is a perfect example of this. Her videos are mostly daily vlogs, some of which focus on living with cystic fibrosis. As such, the channel has a specific – but dedicated – subscriber base. If nourished, smaller audiences like this can become much bigger audiences. However, without the incentive of monetization, Ciara worries that channels like hers won’t “break into that bubble” of bigger channels.
YouTube released a full statement explaining their motivations for the move. It cited “bad actors” who hurt the “ecosystem” for its decision. In a further statement, it said that the move aims to “provide greater assurances to advertisers around where their ads are placed.”
If you're interested in writing for International Policy Digest - please send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org