The recent changes to the YouTube Partnership Program have proved controversial, with smaller YouTubers concerned about how it will affect their channels and the wider online creator community. TenEighty chats to Emma Popcorn, Penny Starr, Chloe Rose and Jessica Kellgren-Fozard to find out the real impact and how creators can survive this brave new world.
In January 2018 the YouTube Partnership Program, which allows creators to earn revenue from advertising on the platform, changed its eligibility requirements. Channels now need one thousand subscribers and four thousand hours of watchtime within the past 12 months in order to qualify. Previously, they only needed ten thousand lifetime views.
In a post on the YouTube Creator Blog, Neal Mohan, Chief Product Officer, and Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer, state: “it’s been clear over the last few months that we [YouTube] need a higher standard.”
The blog goes on to explain that these changes are being made to address issues affecting the community in 2017, “so we can prevent bad actors from harming the inspiring and original creators around the world who make their living on YouTube”.
The aim is to restrict channels that reupload other people’s content as well as controversial videos featuring illegal activities, inappropriate use of children’s cartoons, or graphic footage.
“They’re trying to protect the content that’s being monetised”
While YouTube’s goal may be to root out “bad actors”, many feel the changes fail to truly do this. “They’re trying to protect the content that’s being monetised,” says Penny Starr. “They don’t want someone who has nothing to lose uploading and monetising harmful videos, and making money before it’s taken down.”
“They’re arguing that videos that break rules are in direct correlation with views and subscribers which, as we can see by Logan Paul, is not the case.”
Jessica Kellgren-Fozard agrees, pointing out the disparity between how bigger creators are treated compared to smaller ones. “It’s really unfair that large creators can get away with things that small creators can’t. I really think that when creators do something bad they should be held accountable no matter how large their subscriber base is.”
For many it feels as though the goalposts have been moved. Some creators have found they no longer meet the criteria to monetise their content, while others have questioned the need for monetisation.
In a series of tweets, Antoinette Belle argues that a sense of community and the ability to create continues regardless, and Caroline from Reckless Serenade states that YouTube doesn’t owe its users anything.
Emma Popcorn argues that as smaller YouTubers were making very little – if any – money from their content in the first place, these changes are not as drastic as they may seem. She feels there is a bigger potential problem. “My question is whether YouTube will continue to push out videos which aren’t being monetised – because what benefit would they get from doing so? That’s the real issue here, which YouTube is yet to address.”
Chloe Rose shares this concern, pointing out that although YouTube have denied this, the community do not trust this response. They’re concerned the changes will impact whether their videos show up in searches or the recommended tabs. “It isn’t just monetarily these channels are affected, but physically as well.”
“It increasingly feels less and less like they think about smaller creators”
As for how these changes affect the YouTube landscape, most creators feel this has solidified the divide between bigger and smaller YouTubers. For Penny, it isn’t how this will impact incomes, but more the morale of smaller YouTubers: “I think the initial change will be quite a big hit for small creators, but more in terms of motivation than monetisation.”
“There’s plenty of other ways to gain a profit from content,” admits Penny, “but I think this move by YouTube is more of an issue because it increasingly feels less and less like they think about smaller creators.”
Chloe echoes this, while reflecting on her own experience with AdSense. “I began YouTube in April 2014… I didn’t see substantial subscriber growth or a monetary payout from AdSense until October 2016.”
“However, being able to watch that money mount up each month truly did encourage me and [make me] feel my efforts [were] being rewarded,” she continues. “While I think it’s silly for anyone to go into YouTube expecting to make money, it’s the thought and feeling that even if it’s only a few pennies, you’re still getting something.”
“There is this divide that makes people feel like they aren’t good enough or ‘worthy’”
In the early days of YouTube most creators were unable to make money off the platform, and some have pointed out that the changes are a return to those days. Despite this, Chloe believes the situation is vastly different now. “There is this divide that, while it has always been there somewhat, makes people feel like they aren’t good enough or ‘worthy’.”
Nonetheless, Emma is undeterred. “Will smaller YouTubers become disheartened as it is made abundantly clear that the platform doesn’t care about them? I hope not. I certainly won’t stop creating. Funnily enough, it actually seems to be going the other way, with smaller creators banding together to support each other.”
So what would be a better resolution? “There’s a reason I don’t work for YouTube,” jokes Emma. “I can see how these changes can work, but really I think the threshold should be lower, particularly as many people with one thousand subscribers don’t get anywhere near four thousand hours of watchtime per year.”
Chloe thinks there is no easy solution but that these new requirements should be adjusted. “First and foremost – pay out those who have earned money over the past few months or years but has yet to hit that threshold; that money is owed to them.”
Another suggestion is that instead of needing to meet both requirements, YouTube could make it four thousand hours or one thousand subscribers. “In general, videos that go viral or blow up will have the four thousand hours but not the subscribers because most people don’t subscribe to channels with just one highly viewed video,” explains Chloe.
“Same goes for those with one thousand subscribers – they might not get four thousand hours a year but they are averaging a hundred to two hundred views per video consistently, and I think it only fair to allow them to monetise.”
“Don’t let monetisation be your driving factor in making YouTube videos”
“Don’t let monetisation be your driving factor in making YouTube videos”
Chloe also has an idea about how to counteract the issue of impersonators. “Something I think would be fair is to have those in the partner program able to volunteer to manually review channels that request it, so that they can prove they don’t upload stolen content. This would take the workload off YouTube having to manually review smaller channels and give bigger channels an incentive to help out.”
Jessica is hopeful that these changes will reduce the strain on YouTube. “There will now be more man hours for YouTube to be able to manually review videos picked up by the algorithm or by being reported.” Ultimately she believes that poor regulation will affect all channels, no matter what size.
While it is a difficult times for smaller YouTubers, all the creators we spoke to were full of positive advice for others in the same situation. “Don’t give up!” says Jessica. “But also don’t let monetisation be your driving factor in making YouTube videos, you have to have love and passion for what you are doing first and then the rest will follow in time.”
Chloe also encourages creators to keep pursuing their passions. “I know it’s frustrating, but if you enjoy it and it brings you happiness, don’t let these rules change that,” she says. “Make videos with the intent of connecting with others and being creative.”
“You never know, you may hit that threshold one day,” she explains. “I never thought I would ever make money from YouTube especially with how overly saturated content is, but I’m proof that it can still happen, so don’t give up or let it discourage you.”
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
Penny advises creators to diversify their income streams. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” she says. “There are resources such as Patreon and PayPal donation links where people can support you as much or little as you like.”
“There’s Tad, which is where people don’t have to spend a penny, just time! You watch ads for free, and that generates tokens which you can give to creators, which gives them money in return,” she continues. “If you’re a gamer, GameWhisp is a good resource, and you can become an affiliate on Twitch TV (with much lower thresholds than the YouTube Partner Program).”
“It’s very easy to feel demotivated by these changes,” Penny concludes, “but never give up making the content YOU want – whether it’s on YouTube, or somewhere else.”
Emma calls for the community to rally together. “Don’t give up. Keep creating. Support each other. We’ve always known that the platform doesn’t care about us and we’ve never let that stop us before,” she states. “Let’s make our community even stronger.”
Check out some of the following features by TenEighty:
- The Adpocalypse: Is Demonetisation Driving Creators to Patreon?
- The Creator/Viewer Divide
- The Post Play Button Transition
- Lickd: Solving Copyright Claims on YouTube?