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YouTube limits smaller creators with Demonetization changes

After recent scandals with prominent content creators, YouTube’s most recent changes to their monetization policy is already affecting channels with smaller follower bases and content flow.

Youtube announced the changes in an email to users on Jan.16, after both the Logan Paul controversy in the ‘suicide forest’ of Aokigahara, and user complaints about YouTube Kids alleged “disturbing” content. Effective Feb. 20,  channels must have 4,000 hours of overall watch time within the past 12 months and have at least 1,000 subscribers to be a part of the YouTube Partner Program.

The Youtube Partner Program is a way for creators to earn money from advertisers and YouTube Red subscribers. Certain features, such as access to end screens and associated website cards, are limited to the program. These features above will still be provided to removed partner program members past the Feb. 20 deadline, as more news about eligibility requirements is yet to come.

Criticism and praise for the changes were instantaneous. The video game review site Polygon published an article penned by writer Julia Alexander, calling the changes “inevitable”. While not criticizing YouTube’s former policy of only needing 10,000-lifetime views for revenue,  Alexander stated that, after mountains of criticism for the above-mentioned events, YouTube’s changes were the best decision for the company itself.

“YouTube isn’t a video service; it’s an advertising platform,” Alexander said. “It’s much easier to find more content creators than it is to woo new advertisers. And advertisers will eventually stop spending money on YouTube if they feel they can’t trust the platform.”

FSC communication professor William Allen agrees that Youtube provides more for advertisers today than creators as it did in the beginning. Unchallenged by any prominent user-based video hosting sites, Allen said that YouTube’s priority is to sharpen its brand, without creator hang-ups in the way.

“YouTube isn’t just a website anymore, it’s a business,” Allen said. “While content creators are the backbone of YouTube, they aren’t the priority anymore.”

On the creator side, the most common criticism was how the changes limited beginning creators, and creators who didn’t post every day. Riley Kyle Dignan, one creator, made a video to address the changes, highlighting his worry for the future.

“I don’t even know if I’m going to get paid anymore by YouTube because of these new policies,” Dignan said. “Because if I lose all access to AdSense and the YouTube Partner Program, am I even going to get the $100 that I did earn?”

Derrick Jean-Baptiste, a FSC student who created his own gaming and psychology in media channel, E-Stew, also pointed attention to the fact that creators must earn $100 in ad revenue before “cashing out.” Jean-Baptiste called the process limiting and was already difficult for smaller creators to earn revenue without devoting a significantly large amount of time to YouTube.

“Starting out two years ago, it was hard,” Jean-Baptiste said. “You don’t get instant views and follows, and it can take years in some cases to qualify to receive revenue. Hours worth of content won’t mean anything if no one looks at it.”

Jean-Baptiste explained that, as a creator, he feels he has no choice but to use YouTube as his medium if he wishes to further his career online. He contrasted his treatment as a smaller content creator to those who had over 100,000 subscribers, such as the aforementioned Logan Paul.

“For me, YouTube almost seems to care more about their high subscriber-count creators,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Since they bring in more money, they get access to the YouTube studios and advertising perks. If Logan Paul was one of the factors leading to this, why are we getting more of the heat?”

Despite the backlash, YouTube has released a statement further explaining the changes. Saying the changes are designed to curb bad actors, stabilize creator revenue and provide greater assurances to advertisers. YouTube recommended their Creators Academy and Youtube Spaces for beginning creators.

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