The last 24 hours has been interesting for many online creators. Creators, or influencers as we marketing folk like to call them, who use YouTube in particular, were hit by an unexpected change in the platform’s monetization policy. The policy has many creators scratching their heads wondering why, with some going as far as creating the #YouTubeIsOverParty hashtag on Twitter, which has generated over 232K tweets.
In short, the new policy prevents creators from monetizing their video content if it contains any of the following:
At a quick glance, you might think this policy is nothing out of the ordinary to help keep all content at least somewhat appropriate. It completely makes sense for those that violate the terms in extreme ways – especially if the content being posted is overly suggestive or contains grueling amounts of profanity. But major policy violations aren’t exactly what YouTube is enforcing. Within the last day, many popular creators including one of YouTube’s first partners, Philip DeFranco, had been notified that monetization had been removed from roughly 12 of his old videos for questionable violation.
You heard me right. Old videos. Not videos he’s posted within the last week, but videos that range from a month old to over a year old. Many other YouTubers have also publicized emails claiming to have been affected by the change.
Instead of discussing how this affects the creators individually, YouTube’s new policy begs the answers to many questions, particularly in regards to
a) how strictly they will be limiting their partners in terms of content creation; and
b) what this means for brands who advertise on YouTube.
The reason I mention how strictly YouTube will limit their content creators, is because of the overall impact these creators/influencers have had on the marketing world and on brands the last few years. If influencers are restricted in the type of content they post, it could have several outcomes that will indirectly affect brands and how other influencers perceive them. Outside of the extreme possibility of the influencer model burning up into oblivion, here are a few more realistic outcomes:
1) Influencers will get really, really angry.
Not only will they not want to use the channel, it may make them less willing to work with brands in the future for fear of being “censored” or micro managed.
2) It will be harder to create engaging content.
Influencers won’t be able to create content that is equally engaging because they no longer have creative freedom, and could lose credibility within their sectors.
To back up a bit, the influencer model works as follows: brands research influencers to determine a) alignment with values and b) relevance to target audience. From there, they work with the influencer to develop an idea the influencer can work from in their own video – promote a product, mention a name, etc.
Brands find the results more more successful when they give influencers freedom to take an idea and make it their own, rather than micro managing it every step of the way. If you think about it, this is effectively what YouTube has done with it’s policy change, which is why I’m making the connection, and I have no doubt others will too in the future.
The other interesting point to mention is the principle of advertising on YouTube videos in general. Keep in mind, creators have (for the most part) had the freedom to post whatever they want, about whatever they want (within reason of course) and still make money off of it.
Obviously the end goal for all YouTubers is to monetize their videos as it is their primary source of income (outside of any sponsorships). Ultimately, money rules all, but where do you draw the line? If creators, especially the most popular ones, aren’t able to speak their minds and say what they want without fear of repercussion then they may be less-than-willing to continue posting videos, or will simply find another outlet.
During yesterday’s weekly Adweek chat about podcasts, and advertisements, the question “what are the pros and cons of advertisements during podcasts?” was asked, and yielded some very interesting, but similar responses.
— Eric Bomyea (@eBomyea) August 31, 2016
— John Digles (@JohnDigles) August 31, 2016
— BJW (@GQBound) August 31, 2016
Funnily enough, the majority of people agree that the only pro to an advertisement is how well the podcaster can seamlessly integrate it into the discussion. If we take away the freedom creators have to do this, advertisements will seem more forced, less organic and most importantly, less trustworthy.
One question that hasn’t been answered, aside from the “why is this happening now?” is: is this YouTube’s own doing, or are they being strong armed by brands and advertisers? The topic of this post asks whether all influencer created video content is advertisement-friendly, and my honest answer is no, it isn’t.
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