YouTube Raises Standards for Monetization and Loses Some of Its Magic
The Evolution of YouTube
At its inception 13 years ago, YouTube was an inspiring platform for fledgling videographers to get their content in front of others, and possibly to earn some money. Viral videos, some meticulously crafted, but most almost accidental, unleashed a few moments of fame on their creators, and in some cases, a nice amount of cash. The idea that someone could turn a serendipitous home video into fame and fortune was very attractive, and many attempted to do it, resulting in a lot of ridiculous clips and a few gems.
But over the years, through altered algorithms, the rise of more professional content, and more stringent criteria for making money, the dream of achieving a viral video and its subsequent content has been squashed out by the platform which increasingly becomes something more corporate.
YouTube's Monetization Announcement
On January 16, 2017, YouTube made changes to its eligibility requirements for monetization. Many YouTube creators with smaller channels received this message:
"Today we are announcing changes to the YouTube Partner Program (YPP). While our goal remains to keep the YPP open to as many channels as possible, we recognize we need more safeguards in place to protect creator revenue across the YouTube ecosystem."
"Under the new eligibility requirements announced today, your YouTube channel is no longer eligible for monetization because it doesn’t meet the new threshold of 4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers. As a result, your channel will lose access to all monetization tools and features associated with the YouTube Partner Program on February 20, 2018 unless you surpass this threshold in the next 30 days. Accordingly, this email serves as 30 days notice that your YouTube Partner Program terms are terminated."
Why These Changes Are Good
The strengthening of requirements helps to deflate many who copy popular videos and then ride the wave until their account is closed, but in the meantime earn valuable ad revenue. It also discourages those who post a lot of sub par content with clickbait titles. In addition, the new requirements will likely improve the quality of content across the platform, as the creators are striving to reach a higher bar. Lastly, YouTube (and it's parent company Google) need to continue to make money so that the website can continue to exist.
Why These Changes Are Bad
These new standards negatively affect a lot of existing and would-be video creators. As noted in the message above, some smaller channels currently making a little money from their videos will have that opportunity taken away unless they can comply with the seemingly astronomical new demands for monetization. People who are truly passionate about making and sharing videos will likely continue to make them, but they might not put them on YouTube. Furthermore, these changes discourage newcomers to the platform who may or may not be seeking to make a little extra income from their creativity. It is possible for newbies to eventually reach the criteria, but it's much like telling a preschooler they can have a plate of cookies, but only after they're scored above a 1200 on the SAT.
However, the negative aspects of these changes that most concern me is that they take away a lot of the raw magic of what YouTube once was. Higher regulations for making money will mean that the content will come more from professional sources than from homemade efforts. The very name, YouTube, instills the thought that this platform is for the average Joe, making fun and interesting content without the backing of professional funding or carefully crafted stories.
Consider the above "Numa Numa" video, or the classic "Charlie Bit My Finger." A funny home video or a guy messing around in front of his computer captured the attention of millions, and it was purely because they were raw, real, and relatable. Videos like these have defined the YouTube experience, both for the creator and the viewer. But with difficult criteria driving away people who might casually upload a video such as this, YouTube will become more of a vehicle for large companies and established celebrities, which essentially puts it in league with television stations and large production companies. Weeding out amateurs and hobbyists will cause YouTube to lose the characteristics which make it unique.
What do you watch most on YouTube?
"YouTube Has Changed A Lot"
In a recent interview, Kevin Allocca, YouTube's head of culture, said this about the platform:
"YouTube – at least the “top layer” of YouTube – has moved from the unintentional to the purposeful. Early YouTube was defined by the accidental, someone who creates a single video and it becomes something else. That’s changed a lot. Part of the reason that you’re seeing so much mainstream content being consumed is just the volume of people who are comfortable with how the technology works, with more audience to reach. There’s more professionalism that comes into it and more traditional content."
Essentially, YouTube is becoming far more mainstream, again making it much like other traditional media outlets. Not everyone is incentivized by the opportunity to make money, but it definitely seems to put a damper on the creative community. YouTube is still an excellent platform for sharing videos and gaining exposure, but the magic has died a little bit as the standards and content seem to increasingly shift from "YouTube" to "ThemTube."