YouTube Monetization and Terms of Service – Is This The End?

YouTube LogoFor the past two days my YouTube watching has been interrupted by a lot of warnings of the coming #YouTubeApocalypse.  That’s not really a hashtag but this is what the level of the outcry predicting the end of YouTube from so many channels I’m subscribed to.  You can’t clink a link on the service without getting at least three new videos with someone talking about it.   Here’s what happened;   On September 1, 2016 YouTube put out a reply to some complaints saying that they have been taking the monetization off from videos who do not meet their terms of service for a while and the only real change is that they’ve decided to actually notify content creators when this happens.   According to the statement for YouTube it’s about the advertisers.   We can’t have baby wipe advertisements on videos with people kicking each other in the nuts.  What it comes down to is YouTube implying that they want videos to be “family friendly.”   Okay, 1950’s family friendly, because today’s family isn’t exactly the bastion of Leave it to Beaver.  Today’s modern family is barely All In the Family, but most certainly not the Brady Bunch.  The reason behind all of the outrage is the following part of YouTube’s Terms of Service:

YouTube's Terms of Service

The full text says that these are the reason YouTube will remove monetization from a video.  According to too many videos I’ve watched this is the last line humanity had to cross before civilization enters into Mad Max Fury Road territory.  (I can’t wait for the South Park episode about this.)  They are saying that YouTube will now sensor content by threatening to pull ads from videos that curse or talk about the California wild fires, or scream at feminists for being feminists.  (How dare they be concerned about sexism, those bad, bad women.)   It’s not exactly what this is saying, but is how 99.9% of everyone is interpreting it.  Even the ones who should know better.

All this actually began when a YouTube channel/creator I’ve never heard of before named Philip DeFranco began to complain about e-mail he received telling him that YouTube remove monetization from a video.  I never actually read the Tweets, but saw the hashtag and the videos about it that followed.   Freedom of Speech is under attack according to Mr. DeFranco, and he and others are about to take to the streets yelling #AllYouTubeContentMatters.  I follow a lot of progressive channels and these progressives channels started going on and on and on about corporation control, censorship (that word had been used so much I’m surprised it’s not trending on Twitter) and how other video creators will starve and have to sell their children and how the world is coming to an end because of the vague last line of the snippet from YouTube terms of service that has been around for about three for four years – give or take.

The irony for me is that every single one of these videos complaining about YouTube taking monetization off videos had ads running on them.  I guess complaining about YouTube does not go against YouTube’s Terms of Service.  Go figure.

Reality Check #1 – The Real Deal about YouTube Monetization

YouTube MonetizationThere is another irony about this issue.   Many of the videos tended to say the following:  “I don’t make a lot of money off YouTube, but people who are will not be making the money they could make because of YouTube censoring content.”  I’m not kidding.  Do a search and you’ll find most of the rants on this topic leading with this line.  It does beg a very obvious question:  Why do they care so much?  Most of today’s YouTube creators probably don’t know the history of YouTube, so let me sum it up.

YouTube was created by former PayPal employees Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim way back in 2005.  The first video uploaded to YouTube  on April 23, 2005 was titled Me at the zoo, and shows co-founder Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo and it is exactly as interesting as it sounds.  If you think about too hard, like I did, this video pretty much sums up the theme of YouTube, it’s video creators and the watchers for years to come.

By 2006 YouTube reported 65,000 videos uploaded to it’s service and was considered the fastest growing site on the Internet.   By October of 2006 there were two major news reports concerning YouTube:

1.  A  massive amount of Copyright Infringement lawsuits it was facing, similar to what record companies did to Napster
2.  Google purchased YouTube for 1.68 Billion dollars

The first one is the thing everyone forgets.  Like any social network or online service morons were uploading in theater movies or copyrighted pay TV shows, as well as stealing content from other places and just putting it on YouTube.   Those who do not understand the burden such claims have on a business have never faced these claims.   When Google purchased YouTube, it bought the headaches of those copyright infringements and that’s where the Terms of Service sprang from.

In May 2006 YouTube introduce the Partnership Program.  Simply put this is the way YouTube creators can make money off letting YouTube play ads before, during and after their videos.   If you create a YouTube video you can become part of this program by clicking the monetization feature during your video upload.    It started as a sort of “reward” for creators with huge views and subscribers.   Later on it was extended to every YouTube creator.

By 2012 the first chink in the Partnership Program and Terms of Service armor appeared in the form of video creators complaining that they were having videos pulled or their accounts limited by constant claims of copyright infringement.  YouTube has a system where you can appeal such claims but according to pretty much every video channel who has to go through it the appeal system sucks.    This has been an on-again/off-again complaint since 2012 and I’ve heard many channels both large and small complain about this.  The main problem was that trolls were using YouTube’s flag/reporting  system as a weapon to try to shut down other channels.   Mostly ones run by feminists or progressive thinkers.  No one knew it could be done this way until the trolls started weaponizing it.   As of this writing YouTube has not corrected the problems with their reporting system.

Cut to today, when YouTube decided to start letting channels know when they’ve violated the Terms of Service and have their ads taken away, and this is what as cause the current freak out.   YouTube says they’ve always had these rules but have decided to change how they notify channels about it.

Reality Check #2 – It’s not Censorship or an attack on Freedom of Speech

YouTube vs Content CreatorsOkay folks, let’s start with the big one.   The Partnership Program is a SERVICE provided by a CORPORATION.   Google is not a government nor is it publicly funded.   They can do whatever they like, and it’s like that and that’s the way it is.   Here’s your first hard truth:  It’s always been this way.   It was like this when you signed up and uploaded your first video, and it’s going to be like this until advertisers decide that the world isn’t full of stupid people who go nuts because someone said “fuck” on a video about fucking.

As to the copyright problem, it is a problem to a few channels.  But for the most part when a channel gets flagged or pulled they pretty much deserved it.   There are some people on YouTube that think they can do anything, and they can’t.   I’m talking about stalkers or white supremacists and idiots who keep uploading full movies to YouTube.   You are not allowed to do this, period.   In the sweep to contain this problem too many channel do get caught up and it’s up to the fans and creators to keep fighting this issue get it to change.  Trolls should not be able to use the flagging feature just to shut down a channel.   There has to be some kind of control put on it.  Just as Google figured out how to put controls on black hat marketing methods, YouTube will figure out the middle ground to this copyright issue.

And now another hard truth:

YouTube did not say that creators could not do or say anything you want as long as it’s not calling for violence or harassment or racist content.   YouTube is saying to keep their advertisers happy they are looking to advertise on what they consider “family friendly” content.   People act like this does not happen with TV or radio already.   The automatic argument is that YouTube channels will be discouraged from making their content because of the threat that YouTube will pull monetization.  There are a few problems with this way of thinking, but let’s talk about the major problems only:

Reality Check #3 – Stop Depending on YouTube Advertising

Here’s another hard truth; most YouTube creators don’t make much of anything when it comes to the YouTube Partnership program.   Sure big YouTube creators like PewdiePie and Smosh are the channels who are making a ton on ad dollars.   Channels with millions of subscribers and views are making good money on ads.  However channels with 30,0000 to 10,000 are not making much.   Channels with less aren’t really making anything at all.   The problem is not YouTube, the problem is everyone is hearing the money being made by a PewDiePie and think they should shoot for that too.  And they should, but not everyone is going to make it.  First of all, channels like Smosh and Pewdiepie worked their asses off to achieve the success they have.   It’s a lot of work.  Secondly there are millions of channels on YouTube at this point.   So depending on advertising dollars is not the way to go.

The biggest mistake being made is solely depending on YouTube advertising dollars.   I am subscribed to so many channels who do no SEO, who put no descriptions, whose other social networks are not setup on their YouTube channels.   If you have gotten to a few thousand subscriber, why not go out for some sponsors.  How about setting up a Patreon account?

Let’s talk about Patreon because another prevailing attitude is that YouTube creators cannot depend on fans.   Granted there was a moment in time when subs bulked at the idea that a YouTube creators was – shock and awe – trying to make money.   I’d like to call this the “being assholes” phase of YouTube subscribers.   Because it’s an asshole’s attitude.   YouTube creators work hard to put up the videos we love, even if they are just models showing off a swimsuit photo session.   It’s not simply creating a video and throwing it up.   You have to make sure the size and frame rate is compatible with YouTube.  There editing, which is as exciting as watching paint dry.   Then you have to put up consistent content because if your subscribers don’t see a new video on a regular basis you will be forgotten.   It takes a lot of time an energy to maintain a video channel and these guys are not getting paid like the makers of the Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.   They deserve to get something for their efforts, and I think being able to eat and keep the lights on is not too much to ask.

Then there’s the biggest mistake a YouTube content creator makes – only being on YouTube.   For a minute young people almost convinced us we did not need a webpage.   I am a fan of online models.  A lot of them are young and just starting out and when I asked “where’s your website” they answered “we don’t need a website.”   Many YouTube creators take this attitude as well and they’d be wrong.   Here’s goes another irony – you’re on a website (YouTube.com) saying you don’t need a website.  That’s just as funny as it sounds.   A website is essential to any success on the Internet, I don’t care what platform you use to make your money.  When you start getting 5,000 or more subscribers you better have a working website with a working e-mail list creator as well as a functioning blog.   Many things will change about the Internet as it grows and matures, except you needing a website.   That is not going to change any time in the far future.   Uber is an app based business, it has a website.  So does SnapChat.   Movies have websites, TV shows have websites.   If you think you’re going to get away without a website of some kind, you are going to find out how wrong you are the hard way.

Why a website?

1.  Websites provide an avenue of communication
2.  Website open up many different methods of monetization such as advertising, merchandising, affiliate marketing, and crowd sourcing
3.  A website provides you with a means to upload your video in case YouTube does not work out like you expect

I want you to think about #3, and at the same remember the word MySpace.  Once upon a time before Facebook and Twitter and YouTube, there was MySpace.  Everyone was using it.   It even made some people famous .   When it was big it did not look like it would ever fail.   Today there are people who see the word “MySpace” and go “What’s that?”    YouTube is big now.  That does not mean it will stay big.   No one expected a YouTube when it came along, and you never know what will come in it’s place.   I suspect that apps like Periscope might give it a run for it’s money.   I could be wrong but then again no one imagined a Facebook in the days of Myspace.

The point of all this is to say that if you’re going to make a go at being a YouTube creator, stop depending only on YouTube.   The way things are going should be telling you this anyway, but some people will not listen, or dismiss this outright.  There are just too many ways to make money and still be a YouTube creator that has nothing to do with YouTube ads.     YouTube creator must stop making YouTube ads the only means of making money.  It’s just not a good idea, especially today.

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Dafixer

I'm from Brooklyn New York and this is my opinion on everything.

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