YouTube Cuts Small Creators in the Name of Brand Safety

In January of this year, YouTube announced tighter restrictions on which channels could monetize their content.

For about a month, creators with fewer than 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of view time in the past year have been cut from the YouTube Partner Program, which is what allows publishers to make money through advertising. The changes are designed to make sure that ads only run on “suitable” channels-- since brands do not necessarily review every video their ad might appear on, the concern is that their company might be accidentally associated with content that is antithetical to their values.

But how much will the new restrictions actually benefit advertisers? As CROWD. has covered before, consumers are less and less trusting of celebrities and mega-influencers. The security of knowing their ads may not run against offensive content could cost companies a lot of crucial engagement. Clients of influencer marketing platform Social Circle wonder whether fewer channel choices and more generalist content will reduce their targeting power. “Really, it’s a question of whether [brands would] rather be listened to by 20 people or ignored by 1,000,” said Social Circle CEO Matt Donegan.


For companies that work on a local level, as well, the restrictions on monetized content will make it hard for them to leverage influencers in their marketing strategy. But YouTube continues to argue that eliminating smaller channels from its review process will work in brands’ favor. The higher threshold for creators to earn ad revenue gives YouTube the time to “learn about channels before we monetize them,” said Nadav Perry, the head of products, solutions and innovation for YouTube in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, at an event The Exchange Lab hosted on Jan. 30. “If this higher threshold existed a year ago, then none of the articles that we’ve seen in the press would have come to light,” Perry claimed.

Whether the benefit of reviewing ad placement outweighs the loss of micro-influencer engagement remains to be seen-- however, it is already clear that the restrictions will impact creators significantly. Paladin, a tech company that provides management tools for more than 50 YouTube networks and influencer marketing companies, estimates that more than 80 percent of channels within these networks fall below YouTube’s threshold. Some fear that the new policies could harm vloggers with smaller audiences and artists who seek ad revenue to support their work. Creators who discuss mental health, disability and LGBT topics in particular have argued that YouTube is failing them, while rewarding creators who produce offensive content. These arguments come in the wake of the Logan Paul scandal, after the vlogger was allowed to monetize his videos even after he broadcasted an apparent suicide victim’s body.

Influencers are concerned that YouTube’s restrictions will open an even greater divide between large and small creators, making the site less accessible. By cutting ties with smaller creators, the potential for new and talented content creators to rise up within the site is reduced. “What really concerns me is the fact that YouTube is giving way too much power to advertisers and making the same mistake TV made for a long time in letting the advertisers dictate the content in order to increase revenue,” said YouTube star Felipe Neto, who runs a channel that ranks in the top 50 in the world in subscribers, according to social research firm SocialBlade. “Advertisers don’t understand content. They don’t understand audience, and if you give them the power to decide what goes up and what goes down in entertainment, you will eventually kill this entertainment.”

But many brands remain convinced that the restrictions will be ultimately beneficial to them, regardless of a potential dearth of up-and-coming talent. “This will make the ecosystem healthier in the long run, resulting in fewer established channels being demonetized accidentally,” said Brendan Gahan, founder of ad agency Epic Signal. “[There will be] a higher degree of brand safety for the advertisers spending money on the platform because YouTube will be able to dedicate more resources to fewer channels.”


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TrendsNick Symes