Brain Chatter: Let's Talk About YouTube's New Guidelines

January 24, 2018 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

In the battle for better content, YouTube has drawn some serious lines.

After facing heavy scrutiny for its handling of the Logan Paul “suicide forest” video, YouTube sent out an “open letter” to its community, addressing the platform’s delay in responding to the video and what it intended to do.

That open letter also faced scrutiny.

So, YouTube did what any brand should do – it took some serious action and announced that it was going to overhaul the YouTube Preferred network. This overhaul included how it would vet content, as well as how advertising would be handled.

While this seems like a good response at first (we can’t fault YouTube for trying to elevate its content), there’s a massive problem of scale.

See, while it ultimately looks like a way of YouTube covering its bases and cracking the whip for big stars that make oodles of money through the platform, it also has a negative effect on smaller creators.

How? According to Recode:

YouTube’s new rules require anyone who wants to generate ad dollars on the platform to first generate 4,000 hours of “watchtime” over a 12-month period, and to attract at least 1,000 subscribers.

While YouTube says that this really only affects people who weren’t making much money to begin with, herein lies the issue with all of this.

A sweeping policy isn’t necessarily the best answer to an issue like this. Though the issue of problematic content on YouTube IS a big problem, it’s more nuanced than this.

See, here’s the thing: being a member of the Preferred program certainly doesn’t ensure better content, at least not by default. Logan Paul is proof of that (and yes, we know he’s been kicked out).

It’s certainly good to ensure that not just anybody can money off of harmful content and/or ads. And, with YouTube’s push to use “an army of contractors” that will review content, it all seems to be a fairly genuine push to keep the platform intact.

Instead, it just removes the small creators from the equation, who, may in fact be producing very relevant, quality content. They just don’t have the massive viral numbers behind them.

Also, not all creators want to force people to subscribe. Obviously, that’s an ideal end game but some people just like creating because it makes them feel fulfilled. And in our experience, creating along with the things you believe usually leads to better work for everyone.

It’s problematic to associate popularity with quality. No one can ride on popularity forever, no matter the brand or YouTube superstar.

All said, yes, YouTubes updates are not so black and white in all aspects. Furthermore, it’s been reported that some smaller channels actually rip off the real channels to try and make money off of the ads.

But again, this is why this issue needs to be treated in a more nuanced way. There are all sorts of scenarios and angles that need to be addressed and it’s reasonable to argue that one couldn’t possible fix everyone’s concerns. After all, there will always be someone who doesn’t like what the establishment does.

However, if this is in the interest of redeeming the platform’s trust factor with those who want to engage with it, this seems all too hasty. Content exists in all forms, at all levels and is created by all types of people. Harmful content, is harmful content – period. But using numbers to help identify that seems misaligned, especially when people who genuinely want to give this a go and are making awesome content are going to struggle to even break the surface.

Whether it’s dealing with things in parts or acknowledging the problem, dealing with immediate issues and working on things for a longer period, YouTube might want to revisit how it wants to sweep the junk.

It’s hard to do a sweep and keep the appropriate filters in place. After all, that’s not what sweep means. 

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