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YouTube Ads Change what you need to know

YouTube Ads Forced on Creators

YouTube ads have changed. YouTube have made a recent and drastic change to their advertising terms. This change affects everyone, both content producers and viewers. 

YouTube Ads: the old situation

Previously, content producers who had a channel with 1000 or more subscribers, and had racked up at least 4000 hours of views in a 12 month period had a choice: they could choose to monetise their channel by placing adverts on it. Or they could choose not to, and have their content shown without any adverts. The creators who chose to place ads on their videos received a percentage of the advertising revenue, generating an income from their content creation. Channels that meet these criteria and choose to opt into the scheme are called YouTube Partners.

Those with less than 1000 subscribers or less than 4000 hours of view time did not have the option to place adverts on their videos. Those videos were therefore always ad free.

YouTube’s explanation for the 1000 subscriber and 4000 hour watch time limits was that it ensured that advertisers were assured of a certain quality of video. The logic was that advertisers needed to know that their ads were displaying on content of a certain quality. By only allowing the more successful creators to display ads, the assumption was that those videos would be of a certain minimum quality. Smaller content producers were not eligible to display adverts on their channel and therefore were unable to derive any income from their channel. 

YouTube Ads Changes

YouTube ads will now appear on your channel

Recently, however, YouTube have done a significant U-turn. They have decided that they will now place ads on any channel and any videos they want to, without the permission of the content creator. The content creator will not be eligible for any of the income derived from those adverts, so will not receive any benefit. YouTube have changed their terms and conditions to reflect this. This means that any channel can now have adverts displayed on it, but the creator will not benefit in any way from those adverts.

A Retrospective Change

This is a retrospective change, in that it applies to all content already on YouTube rather than just any new content that is uploaded under the new terms and conditions. Even videos that were uploaded under the old terms and conditions, by creators who uploaded them on the understanding that no ads would displayed on their videos, will now have adverts displayed on them.

YouTube Ads: the consequences 

This change has serious consequences for creators and viewers:

Firstly, from a viewer's point of view, they will now find that every single video on YouTube can be monetised by YouTube. This means that there will be a lot more advertising for viewers to endure in order to access the content they want to see. Whether this will result in viewers turning to alternative video platforms remains to be seen.

Secondly, this change will affect all creators that do not currently have ads enabled on their content. Adverts are a clear barrier to views. A viewer must be highly committed to sit through a string of adverts before they can view your content. Our clients have already seen this reflected in their YouTube Analytics, with reductions in views of around 400%. This will disproportionately affect smaller content creators, since they are already at a disadvantage by virtue of having smaller channels with less views (which means they will already get less organic reach from YouTube's algorithms). This new barrier will also affect businesses with larger channels who use it for marketing purposes and have not chosen to monetise their channels.

Thirdly, YouTube Partners (channels that have met the criteria and decided to monetise their Channels) can choose what sort of adverts appear on their content. They can choose to block adverts that are political, for example. They can also choose whether they permit only adverts that have a ‘skip’ option, so the viewer can skip them after 5 seconds, or whether the adverts omit the skip function, meaning the viewer has no choice but to watch the whole advert before they can access the creator’s content. Under YouTube's new policy, smaller content creators will have adverts forced onto their content, but will not be given these choices. Our clients are already reporting that adverts with unsuitable content, such as adverts for weight loss pills, are being displayed on their videos. Because they are not Partners they have no choice over the duration or type of advert that is being placed on their videos. 

This is a shocking policy change. It clearly places YouTube’s income above all other priorities. Given how successful and profitable the platform already is, this risks being received as very distasteful and it has not been a popular change.

YouTube Ads and Competition law 

This change may also be unlawful. YouTube are no strangers to competition law, also known as anti-trust law in the USA. This change could be seen as anti-competitive, and/or an abuse of dominance. YouTube are forcing adverts onto the videos of creators. These adverts are clearly reducing views, as would be expected from such a change. Our clients have already seen the hugely detrimental effect that adverts being placed on their videos has created.

Further, in preventing smaller content creators from benefiting from the adverts placed on their channels, YouTube is creating a disadvantage for smaller creators by allowing only their Partners to receive advertising income, despite showing ads on all of the content. This clearly disadvantages the smaller creators. 

YouTube Ads: what next?

Clearly an increase in advertising is not in the best interests of the YouTube viewers. But even beyond these points, there is a larger principle at stake. If YouTube is so willing to disadvantage vast numbers of its own creators - the people who have made YouTube successful in the first place - what will it do next?

Since YouTube can now place ads on anyone’s content and retain the advertising income for themselves, what reason do they have to continue allowing their Partners to receive their own advertising income? It may only be a matter of time before they decide to keep all advertising revenue for themselves and abandon even their Partner creators. 

Given YouTube's relatively recent strategy of introducing ad-free subscriptions, it is likely that this is all designed to push people towards paying for its new premium, ad free accounts. Ad free accounts deprive even the most successful content creators of their income, so it will be interesting to see how the future of YouTube evolves.

This decision should send shockwaves through the YouTube creator community. If nothing else, it is a clear declaration of intent. YouTube has shown us the direction it is moving in, and it is not a direction that seeks to partner or share income with anyone. Nor is it a direction that prioritises the user experience.

There are already anecdotal reports of content creators abandoning YouTube for other video platforms like TikTok. We will be keeping a close eye on this topic, and exploring potential alternatives for our clients. Sign up to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any updates. 


Create robust digital marketing strategies in rsponse to YouTube ads change

We always work with our clients to ensure they have a multi-stranded digital marketing strategy, and this is exactly why. Any business relying heavily on a third party provider is making themselves vulnerable. YouTube ads are not the only thing that has changed in recent years. Time and time again we have seen social media platforms change their algorithms:

  • We witnessed Instagram become more video-centric. After being purchased by facebook it decided to prioritise reels and videos over photographs. This resulted in significant reductions of likes and interactions with photographs, since their organic reach was drastically cut. It has left artists and other creatives who do not want to spend time producing videos at a real loss. 
  • We saw facebook penalise posts that have YouTube videos in them in a bid to encourage people to post video directly onto facebook. More recently we have seen facebook move towards penalising posts that have any external links in them at all. 
  • We have also seen problems with brands relying on social influencers - see our blog post about social media influencers

These are just a few of the changes we have seen from social media sites. Over reliance on any third party site is never a good business strategy. Third party sites have their own agendas and their own strategies. They don't exist to make your business successful - their focus will always be on themselves. At Volanto we focus on building robust, multi stranded digital marketing strategies. Contact us now to see how we can help your business grow

At Volanto we are strategic growth consultants. We have decades of experience in digital transformation, software delivery and technological innovation. Social media and YouTube ads are just one of the areas we have expertise in.

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