The free flow of information from Youtube content providers might be coming to an end; only partly, due to political correctness, but mainly due to the greed of all participants.
Just ahead of the long Labor Day weekend, Youtube began informing content providers that specific videos they have uploaded were demonetized because they violate the Youtube Terms of Service agreement. If the term “demonetization” doesn’t mean anything to you, allow me to explain by way of defining the opposite.
“Monetization” is the Holy Grail of all internet content producers.
It’s a badge of success for having the ability to generate a reasonably large amount of internet traffic. The content producer’s thoughts and ideas have a broad reach and enough resonance with an audience that people are willing to come back for more.
And a little cash in the producer’s pocket doesn’t hurt, either. As a matter of fact, some folks on Youtube manage to make a living from the cut of advertising dollars their content garners. It’s good work, if you can get it, but posting videos of a buddy and me kicking each other in the nuts seems like a weird way to make a buck.
Besides, my mind wanders into weird places and my vocabulary is entirely too colorful for polite company. Everyone is probably better off that I stick to the written word, where opportunities to edit and rephrase abound. Freedom of speech is great, but getting off a watch-list is a huge pain the ass that I’d rather not deal with.
Writers don’t often get in hot water for what they write. They get in trouble for what they say in interviews.
Luckily for me, I never jumped onto the Youtube bandwagon. I’m a homesteader with a writing problem. Despite owning a picturesque farm and possessing ruggedly handsome good looks, the content I produce doesn’t lend itself well to video. Writing weekly articles, producing novels, making sure the farm doesn’t go to hell, and holding down a regular job keep me busy enough that the thought of plastering my mug all over Youtube blathering on about God-knows-what-all makes me want to curl up into a ball with a bottle of single-malt and a bucket of ice.
Despite the foot stomping and cries of “censorship” from content providers, there hasn’t been a change in the Youtube Terms of Service. Rather, it’s a combination of Youtube informing content providers that the rules are being enforced and the hubris of the content providers themselves.
In a similar dilemma, I’m giving serious consideration to abandoning Twitter entirely because I don’t see the return on effort expended as worth it.
Every piece of media produced, whether it be a movie, book, video, novel, article, etc., requires resources to both produce and deliver. Those of us silly enough to believe the things we produce have value to people outside our immediate circle of family and friends undertake the endeavors with varying levels of belief strangers will find out products sufficiently valuable that they will be compelled to reach into their wallets and hand over a couple of dollars.
Every writer, farmer, artist, craftsman, and storyteller since the beginning of time cherishes each laugh, gasp, ooh, and aah at what they produce. Unfortunately, those expressions of enjoyment suffer from a poor exchange rate.
Part of that springs from a generalized idea that everything on the internet should be free. No one is immune from the phenomenon. I’m just a guilty as you are.
Getting me to part with a dollar is as tough as convincing Hillary Clinton to send air cover to Benghazi.
Convincing people to unclench their fists from around their bankroll is never an easy task. Starbucks and Apple seem to have figured out that magic formula, but the vast majority of producers of ephemeral delights don’t have that sort of mojo.
The difficulty in getting people to part with their hard-earned ducketts is compounded when the product is not tangible. How exactly do you value words, sounds, and images?
The goal of radio and television has often been described as keeping the customers attention between blocks of advertisement. Youtube is no different. Neither is Facebook or WordPress (where you are very likely reading this) different. While I don’t receive monetary benefit from the ads you see at the bottom of the page, make no mistake they serve a purpose. That purpose is to cover the costs of delivering the “free” content.
Your mother was right. There is no free lunch.
Believe me when I say that I would happily take a piece of the advertising action, if I could deliver a big enough pool of readers who hang on my every word to quit my day job and concentrate of writing about homesteading full-time. Alas, I don’t.
While I pretty much suck at what I do, there is an elite strata of content producers who have managed to parlay their popularity into gainful employment. Some have attained their level of success for reasons that elude me, but ultimately, it comes down to eyeballs.
Folks who work in marketing departments probably have fancy words like “demographic reach” or some such made up term to describe the ability the convince a group of people to buy something.
With that in mind, I’m total open to saying your crappy product is the best there is or ever will be, as long as a check is included with the sample product.
Youtube is a refuge for content producers who are unable to marry into money, but are still gold-diggers at heart. Just like politics is Hollywood for the ugly, making a living on social media platforms is like a gentlemen’s club outside the gates of a Navy base.
It’s the very lowest end of a seedy industry with no real hopes of advancement, but it’s a rollicking good time while you’re there because the few rules in place aren’t really enforced.
By now, you may have asked yourself exactly why I care about any of this Youtube fiasco, since I’ve already admitted that I’m neither part of that producer community nor beneficiary of the advertising revenue stream.
Aside from envy due to my lack of success, I have a small dog in the fight. I aspire to make money using a similar model and frequently hold unpopular opinions, which in the marketplace of ideas seems to give license for all manner of personal attacks that have little to do with whatever issue is at hand.
I’ve been called a racist so often that I’ve started to believe there somewhere exists a mural of me and Nathan Bedford Forrest embracing, while David Duke stands in the background wearing a Klan robe, waving a Confederate battle flag, and curb-stomping Martin Luther King, Jr.
Youtube demonetizing videos has less to do with violating Terms of Service than it does with advertisers caring about their image. It’s tough to blame them. Advertisers are ultimately concerned with maximizing the sales of their product and won’t risk alienating any segment of the purchasing public, which is to say, anyone with a dollar in their pocket. Free speech has little to do with it.
Every time a celebrity gets in some sort of trouble, whether it’s Bill Cosby, Ryan Lochte, or R. Lee Ermy, their corporate sponsors are the first to abandon them. Advertisers are smart enough to understand that consumers aren’t very bright and seem to make sport of product boycotts for the most trivial of reasons.
How many millions of dollars in lost revenue or percentage of lost market share can the right viral boycott cost a Fortune 500 company? None are willing to find out for certain.
In an effort to make themselves attractive to the really big advertising money, Youtube is tightening its definition of “advertiser friendly.” The broad categories of what is not advertiser friendly don’t seem unreasonable:
- 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, 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.
That’s easily half of the videos on Youtube, and taken broadly, means an awful lot of people will have videos demonetized, since I’m not even sure Disney content escapes this dragnet. Despite the screams of “censorship,” Youtube isn’t abridging anyone’s free speech. It’s not like they are refusing to bake gay wedding cakes.
Content providers can still post. They just might not get paid for their trouble, which for many of them takes away the incentive. If you make your living creating Youtube videos, Youtube kinda becomes your boss and has the ability to modify the work rules. Your other option is to leave, if the conditions are intolerable. Just as with a regular job, the balancing act becomes one of how much are you willing to give up versus how much you gain.
If you have a better offer, take it. Otherwise, suck it up and adapt to the new rules of engagement, buttercup.
Ultimately, the content providers will calm down from their tantrums and realize this is a good thing. After all the teeth gnashing, content providers who want to step up to the real advertising money will figure out how to play by the Big Boy rules. Those who want to keep doing their thing as always will have to pay a price for exercising their freedom.
Nobody ever said speaking your mind was free of consequences.
Youtube is not in the business of providing a platform for content providers to spout off anything that comes to mind. They are in the business of selling as many ads as they can for the highest price possible. Any content that frustrates that goal will not be rewarded.
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