In the wake of various incidents, notably the one with Jake Paul, YouTube is trying to figure out new ways of policing its monetized creators. Yesterday, they outlined in a blog post new changes that will force creators to focus more on YouTube, upping video watch time and putting up a subscriber threshold.
In the past it has been quite easy to be eligible to monetize videos. As of April 2017, all you needed was 10,000 lifetime views to be eligible. Hell even my YouTube channel with just live concert videos was eligible, but of course monetizing that could get me sued.
With the new system in place, creators will need 4,000 hours of watch time in the past 12 months in addition to 1,000 subscribers. There are a few things to dissect from this. The subscriber minimum is new, so it will likely force new artists to potentially link subscribing to their YouTube channel in downloading free songs, or push hitting the subscribe button more.
The yearly minimum for watch time will present some challenges to many artists. Those who don’t have strong followings on YouTube, don’t post long clips or don't have many videos may struggle with the new requirement. It will also force creators to keep posting new content to their channel since new videos will get more views than older ones.
This will benefit artists with more resources who can create video content, which is expensive and time-consuming to make. Music video budgets are down across the board and for many small artists the choice between video, new gear, recording time and more is getting harder if they lose their ability to monetize their channel.
If some acts can’t get their videos monetized anymore on YouTube because they can’t reach those thresholds or maintain, then they may avoid the platform all together. This would be bad for YouTube. If they somehow do maintain the investment and then get demonetized for some arbitrary reason, then this will only infuriate users more.
The new step is an admission that YouTube cannot police all of the monetized content, so they are making it harder for small and rogue channels with a sniff of success to get into the monetization program. Then YouTube would hopefully have less issues with advertisers who find their content on channels that don’t match the company’s values or have channels posting patently offensive things, while making quite a bit of money.
As YouTube says of the new criteria in the blog post, "They will allow us to significantly improve our ability to identify creators who contribute positively to the community and help drive more ad revenue to them (and away from bad actors). These higher standards will also help us prevent potentially inappropriate videos from monetizing which can hurt revenue for everyone."
In the end this may not do much to prevent that, but rather be a backhanded way to force semi-dormant creators getting checks each year to renew their focus on YouTube. Or it will force artists who have shifted their priorities to other streaming services to look again at YouTube, notably with their new pay-to-play streaming service reportedly coming in March.