Now this’ll be a story all about how YouTube got flipped, turned upside down. I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how YouTubers are getting screwed out of their money. Why the Fresh Prince reference? Don’t ask questions I don’t know the answers to.
For the majority of you out there, you’ll have not the faintest idea what I’m talking about when I refer to the YouTube “Adpocalypse.” It’s not something you’ve heard of unless you’re really into YouTube or follow a lot of content creators on the site. Basically, as stated earlier, YouTube content creators have been getting screwed out of their money for the better part of 2017 so far. Months ago, YouTube instituted a new algorithm for flagging (marking) videos as “not suitable for all advertisers,” effectively stripping these videos of all ads that usually play periodically during them. Now, as a viewer, your first instinct may be, “Hell yeah! I hate ads!” But, what you should know is that revenue garnered from these ads goes mainly to the content creator, and is a prime source of income for them. Without ads running on videos, these content creators are suffering heavy losses in income. For many YouTubers, this is their job, this is their livelihood, and completely robbing them of their ad revenue is forcing many to decide whether or not to find work elsewhere.
If you’re curious as to how this all started, let’s go back in time about eight months. In February of this year, Disney cut ties with famous YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, a.k.a. Pewdiepie. Kjellberg was, and still is the number one most subscribed to channel on YouTube, with roughly 57.6 million subscribers at the time of writing this. In other words, he’s arguably a pretty big deal. Disney cut ties with him and YouTube cancelled his premium show, Scare Pewdiepie, due to a video he made in which he paid freelancers to hold up a sign with a rather anti-Semitic message written on it. Now, I’m not here to defend him, that’s not the point of all this. However, this event is largely what set into motion the “Adpocalypse” that’s wreaked havoc across YouTube for the past several months.
Due to Kjellberg’s actions, advertisers on the platform began to pull out at a steady rate, causing YouTube as a whole to rapidly lose money. From that came the new YouTube algorithm which flags any and all videos across the site which it deems “not suitable for all advertisers.” This algorithm is relentless, and entirely vague. It flags videos as “not suitable” before they’re even published, right when they’re published, as well as videos uploaded years ago. Again, this algorithm literally goes into content creators’ pasts, and flags all of their videos throughout their entire channel history that it finds, once more, “not suitable.” Because of this, there are many content creators that have been around for a very long time, and have uploaded hundreds if not thousands of videos, who now find hundreds if not thousands of their videos stripped of ads and therefore worthless. But hey, don’t worry, because you can in fact request manual reviews on flagged videos to get them checked out by an actual human being and possibly unflagged. I hope you don’t mind the fact that the process will take days for each video and if you have hundreds of videos needing review you’re basically up the proverbial creek. Did I also mention that any video you want reviewed has to have 1,000 views in the past seven days and that you also have to have at least 10,000 subscribers? Don’t worry though, I’m sure that video you uploaded 5 years ago is still getting plenty of views.
Let’s get into the actual algorithm itself. The problem is, content creators don’t actually know how it works. Sure, there are some guidelines that supposedly lay it out, but the problem is that for one, they’re kind of ridiculous, and two, they’re not even universally enforced. Some of the things this algorithm allegedly flags videos for includes “tragedy and conflict,” “sensitive social issues,” anything “sensational and shocking,” whatever that means, and straight up “profanity and rough language.” So apparently, no one is allowed to talk about any tragic world events in their videos, or anything anyone could deem “sensitive,” or even use any form of curse word whatsoever. Which, you know, is basically the majority of content on the platform.
The real problem, however, with the algorithm is that it’s wildly inconsistent. It flags anything and everything, often times with no logical reason why. You would think, for most, that it’d be profanity, and that may be true in some cases, but then why do other channels remain untouched? YouTuber John Bain, a.k.a. Totalbiscuit, has only had a select few of his many thousands of videos flagged, while others have found themselves with no ads on nearly all of their content. Some have even experimented with changing the thumbnails on videos from something possibly “not suitable” to a something like a picture of a puppy or a kitten, and all of a sudden the video is unflagged. But when content creators have to do things like that and attempt to figure out on their own what YouTube expects from them, something is clearly wrong. YouTubers at this point are essentially guessing at what YouTube wants, because there is next to zero communication on their end. The best way to describe content creators’ situation right now is this. Imagine your boss all of a sudden just stops paying you, and you ask why, and your boss just stares at you in silence.
As the “Adpocalypse” rages on and content creators keep on getting screwed, I’m attempting to be hopeful. I’ve been active in the YouTube community as a viewer for years now, and I’ve seen YouTube do things like this several times in the past, screwing over their creators in some way, and eventually things have always returned to somewhat normal. However, this mess has gone on far longer than any mess that’s come before it and will persist as long as the people at YouTube remain atop their mountain in the sky, far away from us mere mortals. Because at the end of the day, as they’ve proven time and time again, YouTube really doesn’t care about their content creators.