The Constant Pressure For YouTube To Police 'Bad' Content Means That It's Becoming A Gatekeeper
from the this-is-unfortunate dept
For many, many years we’ve talked about how people were wrong to say that the internet “cut out middlemen” because there are still plenty of middlemen around. Instead, what was important was that the type of middlemen were changing. Specifically, we were moving from an age of gatekeepers to an age of enablers. And the difference here is profound. Gatekeepers keep out most people who want to use their platforms. Think: record labels or movie studios. Most people who wanted to become musicians just a couple of decades ago were not able to. Record labels would not sign them, and without a recording deal, your chance of making any money was just about nil. A few people were signed, a very few of those that signed would make lots of money, the rest would make a little money, and everyone who didn’t sign would make basically nothing. The “curve” of how much money people made trying to become musicians was not very smooth. You had a few at the top end, and a giant cliff down to basically zero if you couldn’t get past the gatekeeper.
But the internet changed that in a massive way. Anyone could start using the various internet platforms to release their content, to build an audience, and to make some money. There remain complaints from some that the amount most users make isn’t very much, but that ignores that under the previous gatekeeper system, that amount was almost certainly zero for the vast majority of people who wished to make money from their creative endeavors. With various internet services — Kickstarter, Patreon, Spotify, YouTube, etc. — artists could at least make more than zero.
There has been some fear that yesterday’s enablers would turn into tomorrow’s gatekeepers. Unfortunately, one of the most disturbing aspects of what’s happening with the internet these days is that more and more people seem to be pressuring these enabling services to become gatekeepers and to lock out smaller creators, out of this new fear that some people shouldn’t be allowed to use these platforms to make any money at all.
Case in point: YouTube has recently announced new rules around creator monetization, which basically say you need to be pretty popular before you can become a partner who can monetize your videos.
After careful consideration and extended conversations with advertisers and creators, we?re making big changes to the process that determines which channels can run ads on YouTube. Previously, channels had to reach 10,000 total views to be eligible for the YouTube Partner Program (YPP). It?s been clear over the last few months that we need the right requirements and better signals to identify the channels that have earned the right to run ads. Instead of basing acceptance purely on views, we want to take channel size, audience engagement, and creator behavior into consideration to determine eligibility for ads.
That?s why starting today, new channels will need to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months to be eligible for ads. We will begin enforcing these new requirements for existing channels in YPP beginning February 20th, 2018.
The company flat out admits that this is to stop those who somehow don’t deserve to make money from getting paid, and also to appease advertisers:
There?s no denying 2017 was a difficult year, with several issues affecting our community and our advertising partners. We are passionate about protecting our users, advertisers and creators and making sure YouTube is not a place that can be co-opted by bad actors. While we took several steps last year to protect advertisers from inappropriate content, we know we need to do more to ensure that their ads run alongside content that reflects their values. As we mentioned in December, we needed a fresh approach to advertising on YouTube.
That “December” link was a YouTube post responding to the widespread controversy over YouTube star Logan Paul’s immature and disrespectful videos in Japan and in particular, showing (and basically laughing at) the body of someone who had committed suicide in Aokigahara. And, indeed, many see these new changes to YouTube monetization as a direct response to the Logan Paul debacle — even though these rules wouldn’t have made a difference for Paul. Indeed, Paul’s immature antics were a large part of what made him a YouTube star along with his brother (who some argue is even more immature — and perhaps even more popular).
So, really, these changes seem to be an attempt to appease advertisers rather than YouTubers (who don’t seem very happy about this). But, in doing so, YouTube takes a pretty big step from that enabler category into the gatekeeper cateogry. It’s not all the way to the extreme of the record labels, of course. There are clear, stated, quantifiable metrics here. But it does move that “cliff” in the monetization scheme, such that those who are just starting out, or who just want to make a few extra dollars, won’t be doing so via YouTube.
YouTube, obviously, is free to make that choice. It needs to appease increasingly angry advertisers who don’t want their ads showing up in “controversial” places. So that’s understandable. But, it’s also… a bit sad. The power and excitement many of us felt for what the internet enabled was the fact that it allowed people to make use of these platforms to create, distribute, promote, communicate and monetize without any real gatekeepers. And that’s changing.