2018 has been a year of change for YouTube as the video sharing company continues to make significant updates to its monetization policies, while battling negative media attention spurned from big brands and micro-influencers alike. From extreme reactions allegedly related to these changes like a shooting at the company’s California headquarters to a public sense of worry voiced by many of the platform’s creators, YouTube’s recent updates have made a major impact on social media influencers. Let’s take a deeper look at these changes and what they mean for creators using the second most-visited website in the United States.
YouTube’s Partner Program Undergoes Drastic Change
It is not the minor tweaks made to the website’s format or the restrictions made on the international availability of certain videos that have caused a stir for social media influencers. Instead, the most impactful changes have been to the company’s monetization policies. For most of YouTube’s history, individuals have had the potential to make money through advertisements on their videos as members of YouTube’s Partner Program. However, after companies like AT&T and Johnson & Johnson pulled their ads due to their appearance on extremist and fringe content, YouTube set new restrictions on monetization and implemented content reviews to take control over ad placement and “bad actors” releasing inappropriate content.
In January, the company sent shockwaves through the creator community when they announced channels would need a minimum of 4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months and at least 1,000 subscribers to be eligible for monetization through the Partner Program. These new requirements replaced the previous threshold set in April 2017 of 10,000 lifetime views. Following a 30-day grace period, many smaller creators who had been earning on the platform lost their ability to monetize due to these new restrictions. These changes coincided with updates made to the exclusive Google Preferred platform for elite creators, following backlash from the infamous Logan Paul “suicide forest” video. Though these moves were effective in that they simultaneously won back some advertisers and minimized the voices of inappropriate creators, they also minimized the voices of many quality creators previously earning revenue on the platform.
The Partner Program’s Impact on Influencers
The way that most successful YouTubers make money is the same as it always has been: through the use of advertisements. However, this new set of changes has made earning the right to monetize through these advertisements more difficult. According to YouTube, 99% of the channels affected made less than $100 total in 2017, with 90% earning less than $2.50 in the entire month of December. The bottom line: The majority of Partner Program members affected were not using YouTube as their sole source of income in 2017. However, the new thresholds impact the entire user base as influencers previously focused on earning 10,000 lifetimes views have had to change their strategies to emphasize watch time and subscribers. Additionally, the platform’s potential for passive income decreased, as the 12-month requirement means an ongoing effort to meet subscriber and watch time thresholds is a must.
Creators who were previously Partner Program members but did not meet the new restrictions lost the ability to monetize, but are automatically re-evaluated when they reach the new thresholds. Meanwhile, new creators may submit an application for the Partner Program once they reach the required milestones.
The Future of YouTube
Despite some ongoing backlash from smaller creators and channels, YouTube has no plans to reverse these policies. Instead, they have started to test additional monetization options for creators, including fan-sponsored payments. The platform has acknowledged the “past year has not been easy for many,” but they’re proud of their progress and have more to do. Savvy social media influencers know the importance of staying up to date on platform changes and have made their own necessary changes to continue to monetize, while exploring additional video-sharing platforms like Vimeo. While it has been a tough year for many YouTube creators, the future seems bright for those who are committed to releasing quality content on the platform.