Amidst much controversy, YouTube has revised the qualifications for monetization through its Partner Program, sparking harsh criticism from lesser-known content creators. YouTube says the new rules are necessary to “curb bad actors, stabilize creator revenue and provide greater assurances to advertisers around where their ads are placed.”
In mid-January, YouTube quietly changed its guidelines, requiring that content creators’ channels accumulate at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time in the past year in order to qualify for monetization. Previous rules allowed any channel with at least 10,000 views over its lifetime to qualify, allowing creators to earn money on ads.
The rule change comes amidst a backlash from advertisers, who have been fearful that their ads may appear alongside disturbing and controversial videos, such as the much-publicized Logan Paul video in which the YouTube star finds and mocks the corpse of a person who had committed suicide.
To appease advertisers, YouTube is putting into place monitoring systems in which more videos will be reviewed by human viewers before being paired with ads. In order to streamline this process, YouTube is tightening up the qualifications for partnership.
Creators who do not meet the qualifications received an email from YouTube explaining that the site is putting in place “safeguards… to protect creator revenue across the YouTube ecosystem.” Small creators were given a 30-day grace period to attempt to meet qualifications and reapply.
As you might expect, small content creators were disappointed by the rule. Many have posted angry and sometimes tearful videos, some going so far as to beg users to run their videos in the background while going about their day to help the channel accrue watch hours.
The company admits that many creators will be affected, but that the vast majority of those who will no longer qualify were earning less than $100 a year. They say that 90 percent earned less than $2.50 last month (which proves how difficult it already was to earn on their platform).
YouTube, and many popular content creators with large followings, say that the change was inevitable to keep the site in business. If advertisers lose faith in the site, they argue, they will also lose their biggest content creators.
But many small creators say it’s not about the money. Creator Christine Barger explained “I’ve been a part of YouTube for a really long time, and I’ve finally tried to be part of this platform, just to feel like they don’t care about small creators.”
Other creators encouraged their fellow YouTubers not to be discouraged, and not to focus on the money. Said creator Kiara Nelson in a heartfelt video, “Don’t let the new rules of YouTube keep you from creating the amazing content that you do. Please don’t give up.”