Policies have existed since the dawn of time on YouTube that prohibit creators from monetizing content advertisers might not want their brands associated with.
While YouTube’s policies haven’t changed, their enforcement has.
Over the past few days, creators have been receiving notices left and right about content being de-monetized on the grounds that it isn’t advertiser-friendly.
I talked about ISIS on YouTube. "Not advertiser friendly". pic.twitter.com/m28IU8BXZR
— Ðrewcifer (@autopsy_87) August 28, 2016
When a video has its monetization privileges revoked, it’s an isolated action. The entire channel isn’t affected; no strikes are issued and future content can still be monetized. YouTube dispatches an email to the creator to give them a heads up.
Several different variations of the notice are going around – a more recent version of the email indicates a “shifting landscape” as the reason for an increased number of de-monetizations.
just received an email
son of a bitch pic.twitter.com/VODvUvAYMr
— Tanner of the North (@TannerLPer) August 31, 2016
According to YouTube’s advertiser-friendly content guidelines, the following material is among that inappropriate for monetization:
- Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor
- Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism
- Inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language
- Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use and abuse of such items
- Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown
For those affected, receiving a notice isn’t the end of the road.
Most blocks are being issued through the use of automated systems, to which an appeal system exists that will get your content reviewed by an actual person.
If your videos get flagged as "not advertiser friendly" make sure to appeal the decision! I had monetization reinstated the same day
— Ian Dokie (@IanDokie) September 1, 2016
The process is relatively straightforward. Visit your video’s monetization tab, and look for the “Review my video again” check box.
So… why the sudden change?
Advertisers require brand-safe content, and YouTube needs to keep advertisers happy so creators can continue to support themselves. As the amount of video uploaded increases, YouTube also needs to sell more advertisements to provide an inventory big enough to serve an ad every time (or almost every time) one is requested.
In most cases when an advertiser spends their budget on digital ads, they don’t know what they’re going to get – their ad might run against a family-friendly channel showing toy reviews, or a channel depicting the latest act of violent extremism. While premium options exist, like 100% share-of-voice buys or the Google Preferred program, those can be expensive, costing advertisers quite a bit more than buying against general content.
YouTube is likely facing increased pressure from advertisers to refine their system. More than a year ago, ads from major corporations like Toyota were shown against ISIS propaganda, making global headlines and likely inciting fear in other potential advertisers.
It’s also possible that YouTube can’t keep up with the demand for ads and is working to shift their existing inventory of advertisements to content that’s more brand-safe altogether – pleasing advertisers and decreasing demand as well.
Determining what is and isn’t appropriate for monetization is a delicate issue, and it’s clear that YouTube will need to refine their automated systems to ensure they aren’t harming creators in the process.