YouTube unveils new eligibility rules—and more direct oversight

The online platform wants to prevent another fiasco like YouTube star Logan Paul’s offensive video of a recent suicide. What do the changes mean for influencers and brand managers?

YouTube is making it harder for some creators to earn money from their videos.

The company announced, via blog post, that it would change the rules for how channels were monetized on their site, going from a threshold of 10,000 lifetime views to a minimum of 4,000 hours watched in the prior 12 months and 1,000 subscribers.

It wrote:

[…] we’re making changes to address the issues that affected our 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. A big part of that effort will be strengthening our requirements for monetization so spammers, impersonators, and other bad actors can’t hurt our ecosystem or take advantage of you, while continuing to reward those who make our platform great.

The move comes after the controversy surrounding YouTube star Logan Paul and his trip to Japan’s Aokigahara forest, where he made a video with the body of a man who had recently committed suicide. YouTube claims it wants to drive traffic away from “bad actors” and strengthen its creator ecosystem.

It continued:

On February 20th, 2018, we’ll also implement this threshold across existing channels on the platform, to allow for a 30-day grace period. On that date, channels with fewer than 1,000 subs or 4,000 watch hours will no longer be able to earn money on YouTube. When they reach 1,000 subs and 4,000 watch hours they will be automatically re-evaluated under strict criteria to ensure they comply with our policies. New channels will need to apply, and their application will be evaluated when they hit these milestones.

Whom will these changes affect most significantly? YouTube says only smaller channels are looking at a revocation of revenue:

Though these changes will affect a significant number of channels, 99% of those affected were making less than $100 per year in the last year, with 90% earning less than $2.50 in the last month. Any of the channels who no longer meet this threshold will be paid what they’ve already earned based on our AdSense policies. After thoughtful consideration, we believe these are necessary compromises to protect our community.

YouTube also says that it will use its traditional signals of abuse, such as community strikes and spam, to identify abusive accounts.

What does this mean for influencers and the organizations that want to partner with them?

The bigger change for influencers may be the additional review of videos in the Preferred program, which helps advertisers partner with the top 5 percent of content on YouTube.

USA Today reported:

Currently, anyone can submit a video to YouTube and have it go up immediately. It will be taken down if it’s flagged for content reasons. But now, in order to qualify for the extra income from Google Preferred, members will have manual oversight to all videos submitted. So Paul’s suicide video would still have been posted, it just wouldn’t have received as much income (even though it came down in a day) under the new rules.

“Moving forward, the channels included in Google Preferred will be manually curated and ads will only run on videos that have been verified to meet our ad-friendly guidelines,” said a separate post, signed by Paul Muret, YouTube’s vice-president of Display, Video & Analytics.

This will be welcome news to organizations that want to avoid being tied to an influencer or vlogger who sparks controversy and prompts backlash.

YouTube’s changes also provide guidelines for organizations to evaluate whether a channel has an active following or not. YouTube is spurning raw view data in favor of hours watched and number of subscribers; brand managers should follow their lead.

Some on Twitter weren’t thrilled:

Others say the threshold is perfectly reasonable:

Some with skin in the game courted would-be subscribers to avoid losing monetization:

At least one disgruntled tweeter shared the email from YouTube:

The optics might be bad for YouTube, which has struggled to communicate with its creator community and answer questions about how it will monitor its platform and provide safety. With so much uncertainty, some see it as a challenge and others wonder where it will end.

What do you think of YouTube’s new guidelines, Ragan/PR Daily readers? How will you adapt your approach to video, especially with regard to influencer partnerships?

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