Ad revenue really is gone, but I hate ads anyway.
I hate advertisements. Which sucks, because a lot of really awesome creative people are supported by ad revenue. There are lots of reason I hate ads — the insidious way they manipulate social norms, the way they interweave identity and consumerism, and especially how the promise of ad revenue often dictates, sometimes at a subconscious level, what topics get covered and when. This last pet-peeve has been greatly amplified on YouTube in the wake of the adpocalypse.
The adpocalypse is real and its effects are lingering. Even though advertisers in general have returned to the platform, new tighter controls on monetization mean that many YouTube creators, and especially those posting controversial, “non-advertiser friendly” content, are still making significantly less ad revenue than they were this time last year, even as YouTube continues its efforts to appease disgruntled creators.
But as mad as people are about this shift in the way advertising is served on YouTube, there is actually a bright, shining silver lining to the whole debacle: This is a wake up call to creators saying that ad revenue should not be your primary source of revenue, even in the best of times. With the adpocalypse, the allure of ad revenue might increase its grip until only the most family-friendly content creators remain on the platform, or this shift in the ever-changing landscape of internet advertising could prompt creators to become more true to themselves than ever to the benefit of creator and fan alike — even if the transition is a rough one.
PewDiePie, at the epicenter of the adpocalypse, is taking advantage of this shift even as he rails against the systems that made it possible. Recently, he’s posted a series of heartfelt videos directed at his core fans. In one, he says, “I’m just really tired of being in try hard mode.” He admits to still wanting new subs and views, but then immediately points to direct interactions with fans as being the thing that keeps him uploading.
The fallout from the infamous Wall Street Journal story — the end of his relationship with Disney, the cancellation of his YouTube Red series, the adpocalypse itself — has relieved PewDiePie of his responsibility to endlessly chase views and ad dollars. You can see by the comments on this video that his fans are supportive of his new direction.
There are two ways to approach survival in a post-adpocalyptic world. The first option is to submit to the rules and upload only content that can be directly monetized. For many creators, this means censoring their voices and watering down their opinions to fit into the brand-safe box outlined by YouTube’s newly revised guidelines.
The second option subverts YouTube’s power of demonetization by going directly to sympathetic brands and fans for support. Super Chat, Patreon, TeeSpring and others — all of these offer alternative revenue sources that are not dependent on the broken system of internet advertising. Likewise, individualized sponsorship deals allow advertisers to reach audiences in a more direct and, some would argue, more authentic way. None of these profit making strategies depend on producing videos deemed OK for advertisers.
Community has always been at the center of YouTube. Any successful creator knows the value of their fans. To censor your voice amounts to nothing short of a betrayal to your subscribers. Instead, creators should aim to become bolder in their uploads and more incisive in their commentary. Relieved of the need to rack up as many views as possible to collect more ad revenue, creators should seize this opportunity to create better content that speaks to your specific audience.
YouTube is poised to become more authentic than ever. Direct contributions mean stronger community, more dedicated fans and more predictable revenue streams that aren’t solely dependent on view count. Some have and will continue to modify content in order to meet the new, stricter standards, but this is a mistake. Rather than taking this as an opportunity to strengthen their community of fans, these creators are sacrificing authenticity for the easier dollar.
In the wake of the adpocalypse, building a loyal base in your niche — one willing to shell out cash on donations, Patreon perks and channel swag — will become more important than chasing trends and resorting to clickbait headlines for views.