Adpocalypse – How YouTube gives preference to ads over content creators demonetizing content
YouTube was created over a decade ago to give a seamless interface to the growing online audience where content creators could upload videos. One of the main sources of income for a majority of YouTubers is ad revenue which has been helping a large number of independent content creators to flourish. YouTube plays the role of a middle man, Brands pay YouTube for placing advertisements in the videos in the form of banners, overlays and imposed video ads
In a connected world, an event happening in the US has repercussions in far off India too. Since the last 3 years, advertisers have become increasingly politically correct, not wanting their advertisements to appear before any ‘offensive’ content, especially the US, becoming easily offended. This can be seen with words and phrases that were in common use a decade back, now becoming unspeakable; race and disability equalizers, gender fluidity etc.
Adpocalypse happened when advertisers started to leave YouTube forcing their algorithms to identify videos with supposedly ‘advertiser-unfriendly’ content and stopped placing ads in them. In the year 2016-17, one such adpocalypse began where Big brands including Nike and P&G pulled out their entire budgets from YouTube because they noticed some ads being played before some racist or ‘objectionable’ content. To ensure their advertisers remained, YouTube began cracking down on Creators and Channel owners; at first with only minor policy changes.
But with the full extent of Russian meddling in the year 2016, US elections via social media began coming to light, they were forced to take stronger measures against the very community that they came into existence for. While blatant hate and racism needed to be monitored, many channels were tarred with the same brush. YouTube started demonetizing the content, withdrew paid advertisements in those videos, denying those content creators revenue and reducing their income.
Shakir Ebrahim Founder of GoBisbo Broadcasting Network Pvt. Ltd. and Creator, Bisbo said, “At Bisbo, we publish news, which by definition will cover events happening around the globe, including violence, wars, terrorism, political fights, race and gender issues. Many of Bisbo’s videos were demonetized on upload; which means algorithms automatically identified them as ‘objectionable’ and no ads are placed before those videos. On a review request, 90% are overturned, but by then, Bisbo’s videos, which often attract 50,000 views within the first 24 hours already lose tons of ad revenue.”
“Out of the channel’s top 10 videos, 4 of them with a combined view of 10 million views just in Hindi, remain demonetized even after a review. The topics were; one each on what led to Ram Rahim & Asaram’s court sentencing and jailing; and one each on the planning behind Pulwama and Abhinandan’s downing of Pakistan’s F-16.The videos are beautifully animated.”, Shakir added.
The content was hardly something that is not publicly known, especially when all sources are mentioned. The same news is still available in text and video format on YouTube itself by big news channels. The only difference is that Bisbo’s videos are animated and they are not as yet a big brand name.
Despite content creators being their most valuable asset, YouTube does not escalate video reviews beyond one level because from their point of view, and correctly so, they cannot physically manage the deluge of content. Often a video is demonetized in one language but remains monetized in another. YouTube demonetization is a huge problem for the content creators for whom this may be their only source of income. YouTube has recently published a new upload policy, however, the words are generic and scope is extremely broad; further, different standards seem to be applied to different channels.