Updated: Aug 9
YouTube is the world's largest online video-sharing this platform. It provides users with a quick and simple way to put content out and garner an audience. However, a major factor in YouTube’s position in the online video space is that users can monetize their content through their partner program. The YouTube Partner Program has faced its fair share of controversy over the past decade as users have found it difficult to work within increasingly stringent content guidelines for monetization. YouTube has implemented tools to allow for more visibility in the review process, but many content creators such as Jordan Maron, known online as CaptainSparklez, still believe the system is far too vague in determining what content is suitable for advertisements.
A Brief History of YouTube’s “Adpocalypse”
If you are a career content creator on YouTube, you are all too familiar with the sinking feeling that comes with a yellow dollar sign icon next to your video denoting “limited or no ads” will be displayed. This was a new experience for many content creators in late 2016, who were surprised to find the majority of their channel’s current videos and back catalog either completely demonetized, running with limited ads, or receiving a fraction of the revenue it was generating in years prior. These sweeping changes were in large part due to a mass exodus of advertisers from the platform, as many companies did not want their brands associated with some of the more controversial content that existed on the platform at that time. This led to a serious negative feedback loop for both YouTube and its content creators and is why major changes were introduced to YouTube’s content guidelines. Other changes to YouTube’s algorithm would now have it favor “family-friendly” content over content that should be viewed by a more mature or adult audience.
YouTube faced serious controversy with these changes, mostly due to its implementation and lack of transparency in the early days of the “apocalypse” as it was called by creators. Most smaller creators had no ability to appeal to a video with limited ads, and even some larger creators on the platform were having issues with content monetization. This led to many creators utilizing services such as Patreon and Twitch for alternate revenue sources. YouTube later added the ability for users to appeal their content and resubmit it for review by a human rather than the automated system. This was a massive improvement, however, these systems are far from perfect.
CaptainSparklez and YouTube’s Demonetization Disaster
“YouTube, your demonetization system is unfathomably bad!”
That is how Jordan Maron, known online as CaptainSparklez, greeted his audience on Sunday morning. In the video, he walks his viewers through how the current ad suitability system works. Content creators fill out a form denoting any potentially sensitive content and submit a user rating which is then verified by Google’s automated system, and if no issues are found, then the video is approved for ads. If the content is deemed to be unsuitable for ads, users have the option for an appeal in which a person will review their content to ensure it meets the guidelines. Maron does explain that YouTube provides detailed information in its help section to gauge which videos may or may not be served limited ads.
Maron goes on to discuss that when content is flagged for limited ads on his second channel, used to provide full live stream recordings (VODs), “it is generally for the absolute most absurd, stupidest possible thing imaginable.” He referenced a recent live stream VOD that was given limited ads due to the use of “strong profanity” (such as the f-word) in the opening seven seconds of the video. This was not accurate, and Maron explains that he believes the word “focus” used in the beginning was misinterpreted by both the automated system and the human reviewer as “f— us.” He also pointed out a similar situation that occurred with another stream in which another innocuous word was mistaken for a slur and resulted in limited ads being applied to the video. Maron appealed both videos but was unable to resolve either situation without the assistance of his partner manager at YouTube, a luxury only afforded to certain YouTubers in the upper echelon of their Partner Program. Maron finished by saying, “If [smaller creators] don’t have a Partner Manager...they’re completely out of luck…it’s just maddening.” It will be interesting to see how YouTube can improve upon its current system as many creators still see it as fairly limited in the information and reasoning it provides behind a specific video’s ad rating. Improving transparency could be a step in the right direction for a platform that hasn’t had much to celebrate for a while.
How Can Castle Interactive Help You With YouTube Monetization?
Editing/Censoring content that could result in monetization being disabled (eg. profanity, adult content).
Providing Captions for YouTube's automated system will allow for more clarity during YouTube’s initial analysis of the content, avoiding misinterpretation of language as obscene or vulgar.
Scriptwriting for productions to ensure core content is curated to be advertised as family-friendly.
Creating promotional content for sponsorship partners, such as providing voice-overs for ad reads and scripted commercials.
Prior video screening and other content management/moderation.
Building out profiles on sites that provide alternative revenue sources such as Patreon, Twitch, and Floatplane.