Hannah Rutherford claims that the issues with demonetisation that have affected so many YouTube creators “could have been prevented years ago”, in a video addressing the flaws of YouTube’s ad system and why moving to Twitch may be the solution for gamers.
Hannah launches into the topic of demonetisation by giving the audience a brief rundown of the “adpocalypse”, in which many advertisers withdrew their adverts from YouTube videos after they found out they were being displayed alongside extremist content.
She isn’t the first person to say this – the issue of YouTube, as an organisation, not responding to the community’s concerns or implementing a better system for reporting abuse or other such content on the platform is one that has been brought up time and again over the years. Now, creators are losing their livelihoods without so much as a whisper from YouTube about what is going on behind the scenes.
“More and more, [content creators] aren’t having their voices heard on YouTube, and this is just another example of when it’s gone horribly wrong,” says Hannah.
She continues by talking about the many problems with the solution YouTube provided: “What YouTube have done is instead of targeting the specific problem areas for these videos and the individuals that are posting them, or […] working with the FBI or the police to, dare I say, prevent terrorism, they decide to roll out a site-wide solution, which is effectively a bot that checks everybody’s videos to see if they are ‘suitable for all advertisers’.”
Taking it a step further, Hannah also questions exactly how good such a solution is. “I have parents telling me their five-year-olds are watching gambling and alcohol ads that are running on ‘child-friendly’ videos,” she says. “It makes you question the legitimacy of a lot of this.
“We obviously, as YouTubers, could not see any of this going down,” she adds. “All we knew was for several months we were experiencing a reduction in earnings.”
Hannah brings up several possibilities about what the cause of the demonetisation could be, from the titles to the audio to, for gaming YouTubers, the game linked in the description. But the truth is, nobody knows. Nobody was told by YouTube what the change was, or how to avoid the demonetisation of their content.
Fortunately, according to Hannah, several people have researched this issue, and have found that the bot analyses the thumbnails of all videos, using Google’s image recognition software to check if there are guns depicted, or words that relate to them. But that is still a problem, because nobody knows what else the bot finds offensive, or even if there’s more of such things. “Obviously it makes sense that drugs and guns shouldn’t be there, and they have vague things like ‘don’t be confrontational’ and ‘no explicit language’, but […] it’s very inconsistent,” says Hannah.
Even bringing it up with a real person means that you’ll be sent some copy-paste message about having to put in a review request, “but also they won’t actually know what the bot has flagged it for,” she explains.
But somehow it gets worse. When users request a manual review, YouTube displays the following: “Review requested. Right now we are only able to review videos with at least 1,000 views in the past seven days. We’ll review your video once it reaches that threshold.”
The problem here is that plenty of old content – months or years old, at times – is being flagged by this system as “not suitable”. And on top of that, content that hasn’t even been released yet is being flagged by the system, and it’s impossible to review it before it goes live. “Which means they are going to review my video once it reaches the 1,000 views mark. That isn’t necessarily going to mean I’m going to get any of the revenue from that,” says Hannah.
“There isn’t going to be some little guy there instantly going, ‘Oh I’ll watch it right now, I’ll scan a 58-minute video and give it back to you like that’,” she adds. “It’s not going to happen, it’ll take a few days. By the time that’s happened, I’ll probably not have any money from that video.” Hannah gives the example of her last Hellblade playthrough video, which made just $9: “That’s less than basic wage.”
Hannah then goes on to talk about the “drastic changes” that are coming to her channel. “I cannot continue in this manner, this is absurd. I am not busting my ass repeatedly just to have my content pre-capped.”
She also adds that while she does swear all the time, and her content is pretty mature, this is also happening to people who run child-friendly channels. “It is inconsistent. No-one really knows what’s going on. As you can see by the fact that not everything has been caught by the observer, clearly the swearing isn’t the problem with the bot, or whatever the sampling it’s doing isn’t consistent enough throughout.
“The issue that we have with this platform is there is no communication. It is inconsistent between content creators because the bot is inconsistent,” Hannah explains. “No-one really knows what the fuck is going on and we’re all just getting quite annoyed about it because YouTube are continuing to do what they do and I assume pay their staff and make money or, I don’t know, break even. But the rest of us muggins are just having money taken away from us. The advertising companies are well within their rights to do this but it is basically throwing us out of jobs.”
Hannah goes on to say that, thankfully, there are other money-making solutions she can turn to, such as brand deals, “so it’s not the end of the world, but it does mean a big shift is coming.”
She then begins to talk about the benefits of moving from YouTube on to Twitch, saying, “While YouTube is throwing itself into the sea, blindly, not looking at what’s going on, Twitch is listening to its content creators and its community, and it’s continuing to build.”
Describing Twitch’s video upload system which is currently in beta, she says that she is looking at moving some of her popular video series on YouTube over to Twitch, “so that you have it all in another place, should it all go wrong.”
Hannah concludes the video wearily, by saying: “I wish I could wave a magic wand and fix this shit, but I can’t. So expect other content creators to be doing the same thing if they haven’t already.”
In the wake of the “adpocalypse” many creators are also turning to Patreon to help fund their channels. We spoke to Jake Edwards, Leena Normington. and Sam Saffold-Geri about their experience using the platform. Alternatively, read about Ruby May Cee and Emily Eaton‘s discussion of overfamiliarity on YouTube.