Have you noticed a dramatic dip in your YouTube revenue? Are you wanting to launch a show on YouTube but you’re concerned about the fallout after the Adpocalypse?
Google and YouTube have announced that they may lose close to 750 million dollars in advertiser revenue this year. The virtual sky, indeed, may be falling; but ultimately, you’ll need to be the judge as to how severely the latest shake-up will affect you personally. There may be a silver lining to this rain cloud, but you have to be pro-active to find it.
What is the Adpocalypse?
In late February of 2017, it came to the attention of major advertisers that their ads were being placed next to YouTube videos promoting terrorism and hate speech. This lead to a YouTube ad boycott by many major advertisers such as Pepsi, Walmart and Dish. This had a severe effect on YouTube content creators, many of whom had their earnings slashed by 99 percent overnight. YouTube star PewDiePie termed the loss of advertisers and ad revenue the “Adpocalypse.”
One week later, the Wall Street Journal once again called out to advertisers, running the sensational headline, “Google’s YouTube Has Continued Showing Brands’ Ads With Racist and Other Objectionable Videos.” YouTube responded by doing a major alteration of their ad placement algorithm. If you aren’t familiar with the way ads work on YouTube before the Adpocalypse, a mathematical algorithm is used to match up advertisements between creators and viewers based on a viewer’s browsing experiences and the content’s keywords and viewing information — number of views, likes and shares. Of course this is an oversimplification of a very complex process, but if ads aren’t placed with your video content, then you don’t earn any money.
New Algorithm Filters
What’s important to know is that robots are determining what is getting flagged based on these new algorithms. According to Google and YouTube, there is a long list of content types that will no longer be eligible for monetization. For a full rundown of what these bots will be flagging, read our article on The New Rules of the Adpocalypse on page 36. Among the more worrisome restrictions is the ban on covering controversial issues and sensitive events. This is defined as video content that “features or focuses on sensitive topics or events including, but not limited to, war, political conflicts, terrorism or extremism, death and tragedies, sexual abuse, even if graphic imagery is not shown,” which is “generally not eligible for ads.” YouTube continues, “For example, videos about recent tragedies, even if presented for news or documentary purposes, may not be eligible for advertising given the subject matter.”
I highlight this passage because I just find it incredible that YouTube wants to infringe on freedom of speech and promote censorship! So ad revenue opportunities for videos or docs about the rash of recent shootings of unarmed African Americans by white police officers would be squashed; this suggests to me that YouTube wants to support a vanilla America where cat videos should headline the nightly news.
Another worrisome guideline restricts sexually suggestive content — no ad support for Cersei Lannister and her “Walk of Shame” on YouTube! But on a more serious note, videos about sexual health, use of condoms and aids prevention have been targeted. Additionally, almost all LBGTQ content was demonetized even if it wasn’t explicit.
This rundown of the new rules is hardly complete, but the last new rules I’ll mention here are the restrictions on incendiary and demeaning content and hateful content. I’ve combined both of these categories together because many comedians who have channels will get flagged on this one. Google claims they have the latest and greatest AI computers filtering content, but they still can’t seem to tell the difference between real hate and comedy, satire and parody.
Other Recent Restrictions
YouTube has put a minimum of 10,000 views for your content to now be eligible for ad support. Additionally, YouTube created a “restricted mode” that would filter out “inappropriate content” for viewers. This has resulted in most LGBTQ videos being blocked from pulling up for viewers who have this setting turned on, even if this content is not explicit.
A Look at the Content Impact
Philip DeFranco provided a very informative explanation as to how YouTube was shutting down channels with the help of their new algorithm. Essentially, if one video gets flagged, then the algorithm will go back and check your video archive looking for other inappropriate content. With a three strike policy, YouTube has the ability to shut down, not just a show, but an entire channel in a very short period of time. Channels focused on the war in Syria and the middle east have been a big target. Qasioun News had thousands of videos pulled, received strikes against their channels, and their Arabic channel was soon shut down by YouTube. DeFranco goes on to discuss how YouTube boasts that their algorithm is so great that they’ve been able to pull 75 percent of “offensive” content without receiving a “single human flag.” What’s wrong with this picture?
A Look at the Financial Impact
Impact for some channels has been severe. WCPW Weekly Loaded canceled their weekly show and tapings in Manchester because YouTube considers ProWrestling “non-advertiser friendly” content. Even though WCPW describes their show as “scripted storytelling that features amazing feats of athleticism,” YouTube considers this content “inappropriate.” Revenue for this popular show dropped overnight to $43 in ad revenues per 1 million views after YouTube’s new filters went into effect.
PewDiePie was also vocal about his ad revenue dropping to $16.33 in early April. YouTube demonetized the Military Arms Channel (MAC), and they had to go elsewhere to seek funding.
The New York Times ran a piece called “How YouTube’s Shifting Algorithms Hurt Independent Media.” YouTube celebrity David Packham who hosts a progressive political commentary show shared a graph showing the rise and fall of the shows ad revenue profits where he saw a 99 percent drop in funding. YouTube ads accounted for 50 percent of Packham’s channel revenue and 85 percent of that has permanently gone away.
Hank Green, one half of the Vlog Brothers, has been promoting the Internet Creators Guild. One of his current projects is to create a database of analytics of creator’s content to get a better understanding of how this is affecting the average YouTube artist. The data he shares is fascinating because it really gives a complete picture of how the Adpocalypse has affected him.
So Where’s That Silver Lining?
Heather Wilder of Patreon recently spoke at VidCon to promote their service to content creators. Since YouTube has managed to insulate creators from their fans, Wilder believes that Patreon, as a monthly crowdsourcing, subscription service, lets artists control their own revenue flow by connecting them to their fans and only taking 5 percent of all revenue raised on the site.
Many content creators have turned to Patreon in efforts to keep their shows afloat. Hank Green is a big proponent of Patreon as a platform for YouTube creators to generate revenue. He’s even featured in Patreon’s video roll explaining the service to creators.
Channels such as MAC, PewDiePie and Stondie have also asked for viewer support on Patreon to defray costs of producing their shows. PewDiePie and H3H3 Productions are also bringing weekly shows to Twitch while still maintaining a presence on YouTube.
Political commentators such as David Packman and Philip DeFranco feel that Patreon has opened up new opportunities for them. They both feel that being able to have news shows on YouTube that now allow them to speak their minds about current events has been liberating.
Other creators have managed to broker their own brand deals so they don’t have to be reliant on ad revenue from YouTube. Targeting creators with smaller fan bases, Gamewisp is another subscription based platform that is also appealing to Twitch and YouTube creators.
Positive Effects of the Adpocalypse
Change is definitely in the air at YouTube, and some content creators are rebounding from the Adpocalypse. If you happen to have over 10,000 YouTube views, and you can manage to steer clear of getting flagged by the new algorithm filters, you’ll be just fine. Family friendly content, how-to videos and cute animal videos will continue to do well. Melissa Hunter, founder of the Family Video Network, seems to think the impact of the Adpocalypse has been nominal.
Conspiracy Theories Abound
Many conservatives like Lisa Haven believe that YouTube is blocking only conservative channels. Almost every news show has felt the impact regardless of the political affiliation. LGBTQ creators are still having issues with their content as well. Is YouTube using the Adpocalypse to clean house?
A Possible Pot of Gold
Google is trying hard to push YouTube TV to be the next Netflix. It was recently announced that Katy Perry, Ellen Degeneres and Kevin Hart would be producing shows for YouTube’s new OTT channel. With this recent announcement, one has to wonder if they will repair their relations with creators once YouTube can get their own subscription base. For creators who can survive long enough to score a show, a pot of gold may indeed be in their future.
For most small creators, YouTube doesn’t even pay enough to get a coffee at Starbucks. And is it worth all of your time to build a channel on YouTube for them to shut you down if they think your content is inappropriate?
Like it or not, YouTube is still the go-to platform for independent content. Services like Patreon are now providing content creators the missing link to connect with fans and get paid for their work. In a video, David Packman encourages his patrons to just pledge $1 a month; he tells audiences that this will provide more support than they realize and definitely more than he was receiving from ads on YouTube.