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April 25, 2018

A new YouTube is on the horizon – well, maybe not entirely – but a new YouTube Ad policy is already being rolled out, which has the potential to bring the platform back to its roots and make it one for creators again.

Unless you were living off the grid for the first few months of this year, you know about YouTube’s “Adpocalypse” in February. In the wake of Zombie Go Boom’s demonetization case, and the Logan Paul controversies, adpocalypse was essentially a mass demonetization of videos.

This came about due to rewriting of ad guidelines, done largely without informing the YouTube Creator community. Fast forward to April and we can see many creators still reeling from the lost revenue and lower views, which has led to a soft migration to other platforms by many.

Background

Ever since YouTube started running ads back in 2006, there have been terms, rules, and guidelines in place regarding ads and acceptable content. Slowly but surely, YouTube has been tightening those regulations in order to make their platform more advertiser friendly.

This came to a head in early 2018 with the Adpocalypse, when the YouTube channel Zombie Go Boom, which featured creators James Sweet and Chuck Meré testing out all kinds of weapons on dummies, was demonetized. This content was deemed not advertiser friendly by YouTube and subsequently caused the channel to lose 90 to 95% of its ad revenue.

Sweet and Meré filed a lawsuit in with the goal of getting YouTube to be more transparent about how these policies worked and what changes they were making. YouTube got off on a technicality, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost for creators… or does it?

Following this, and the various Logan Paul controversies (and YouTube’s stark lack of response or demonetization of Paul’s own channel), YouTube has been facing a lot of backlash where transparency of their policies is concerned.

So what?

YouTube started as a place for content creators to share their work, and many feel it has since turned into a machine that pumps out ad revenue at the expense of those same creators. The ad policies that brought on Adpocalypse included, rewriting of ad guidelines, a new system, and a new shift towards producing advertiser friendly content (among other things) – and an algorithm based demonetization process. Here’s where it gets tricky.

Suppose your video was demonetized on upload. You would then need to appeal the decision and wait for a real person at YouTube to review. Once this review happened, the video would either gain back it’s monetization, or the demonetization would stand. This process could sometimes take days, and the first 24 to 48 hours after upload are crucial time slots for YouTubers – that is when a majority of their views happen.

But assume that your video got remonitized, those views you racked up count, right?

W R O N G.

Re-monetization is not retroactive, which caused content creators to lose out on huge percentages of their revenue. All because an algorithm may have incorrectly labeled their video “not advertiser friendly.”

For large creators (see: Casey Neistat, Philip DeFranco, H3H3, PewDiePie) these policies meant their commentary videos about controversial topics – a terrorist attack, gun control, foreign affairs – wherein they have educated discussions about world issues, would get demonetized simply because they contained language around those topics.

Small creators were arguably hit harder, with increased requirements in order to even become eligible for ads to be run on their channel, requiring increased subscriber counts and more total hours watched. (for a more complete breakdown of AdSense and YouTube monetization – see Nate’s article here)

A Silver Lining?

On April 2nd (close call, I know) a video was published by YouTube Creator technical team’s channel Creative Insider, detailing what they are calling a new “Monetization Self Certification Policy.” This policy is geared towards YouTube’s most vocal users – content creators that rely heavily on channel monetization – by introducing this pilot program that will allow them to “self report” the content in their videos as it relates to advertisers.  

This is essentially flipping the script – if a creator fills out this “self certification form”, their video will be monetized automatically and will only get demonetized if deemed to be not advertiser friendly after a human review.  In YouTube’s initial test, 15 creators were asked to fill out this form (found in this video description), and the majority of the creators filled it out in the same way that YouTube’s human reviewers did, meaning their videos were rated correctly in terms of content by their uploaders.

What this represents in the long term is a process where YouTube gives creators the opportunity to be honest about the content of their videos, so that they can be monetized correctly. This is huge for YouTube and creators alike because, in the wake of all of the distrust and criticism YouTube has been facing, self monetization is a show of trust to creators, and olive branch, that shows YouTube really wants to help these creators and keep their long time loyal creators on their platform.

This new policy has been met with a lot of praise from the most outspoken critics of the Adpocalypse fallout, and it seems like YouTube is making progress to gain back the trust and loyalty of its core creative users. Right now this is a closed pilot program, open to a small number of select users. And if it proves successful, it could quickly move to an open pilot for channels that meet certain criteria and then eventually for everyone. Stay tuned!

About the Author

David Schimpf

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