In some form or another, YouTube has been floating around the World Wide Web since 2005 – making it officially as old as the Xbox 360, and older than the PlayStation 3.
It is difficult to remember the very early days of YouTube. The platform stood at the genesis of one of the biggest trends the internet has ever seen, and has inspired countless creators – both professional and casual – to lend their face, voice, and ingenuity to the amorphous and ever-growing archive that is ‘the internet’.
Change was rapid, and by 2009, the company began to cash in on their success by implementing ads within certain videos. As a result, their monetization programme was instigated, and certain creators were entitled to earn a ‘salary’ from the ad money garnered from authentic views on their videos.
The move gave rise to an entirely new profession – an enviable career as a self-employed content creator come celebrity, also known as the social media influencer, able to work from home.
Of course, success is not guaranteed, and only a lucky few are able to earn enough from ad money to support a luxury lifestyle. New changes to the ways in which YouTube monetises its videos are, however, threatening small and upcoming channels’ abilities to thrive on the platform – and to change the way YouTube operates forever.
The Creators Driving the Platform
YouTube has created its fair share of household names, and these star-studded creators originate from an incredibly wide array of disciplines, interests and vocations. From talented makeup artists showing off their skills and musicians putting out original content, to gamers live-streaming their prowess on casino slots and MMORPGs and those with a trade offering free tutorials, the platform has excelled as a result of the endless list of gifted, artistic and technically skilled users investing time and money into their channels.
YouTube offers a platform from which creators can reach mass audiences – much more successfully than they would were they to simply create their own site from scratch. We have seen this phenomenon replicated across other, more recent channels – most notably, TikTok. These platforms, however, offer no draw without content creators – and the continued growth of YouTube over recent years demonstrates that we are nowhere near ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’ for new content, or creators; there will always be skilled creators demonstrating their abilities from home.
As such, new and growing channels continue to arise each and every day, and YouTube’s model should prioritise their ability to grow in order to ensure that it remains the self-sustaining environment it has been since the platform first began to take off on a global scale.
Monetisation without Earnings
For many years now, channels that have achieved a certain level of success are free to become a YouTube Partner, and earn money each month through advertisements placed at the beginning, middle and/or end of their videos. The greater their viewership, the more they earn – with some able to quit their day jobs and live entirely off of the funds generated each and every time they post a video suitable for monetisation.
Now, however, YouTube has plans to monetise videos via ads that have been posted by small-scale channels – or those which, according to the previous model, would not yet have earned the ability to monetise.
Of course, this could offer a boon to small-scale content creators, but the only issue is that YouTube will not be paying these small-scale creators – instead, it will be pointing them to YouTube’s terms and conditions, which state their right to monetise any video they see fit.
This will no doubt result in an incredible boon to YouTube’s revenue stream, which already saw an addition 32% from ad revenue compared with the numbers from 2019. The only problem is that YouTube’s environment has worked for many years, and given voices to those who deserve them most. Now, small creators will be under YouTube’s thumb – and it is worrying to consider the long term impact this move could have on YouTube’s future.