YouTube changes the rules (again)

New regulations will crack down on offensive content. But for advertisers and content creators, is it worth the hassle?

For YouTube – that Google-owned, multi-billion-dollar-valued, virtually-monopolising video platform behemoth – it’s been a rough year.

I’m not expecting too many tears to be shed, obviously, but YouTube’s ubiquity means any large-scale change does demand our attention.

Such a change came this week in the form of new advertising and content review regulations.

Let’s take a look at what has happened.

Quick catch up

For anyone who has somehow missed it, YouTube has suffered a load of bad press recently – essentially due to its lack of content moderation.

Most recently, YouTube vlogger Logan Paul uploaded a film apparently featuring a suicide victim in a Japanese forest. The video was eventually taken down (after 6.5 million views) and YouTube has placed all future projects with the 22-year-old on hold.

But it was the latest in a string of controversies about unsuitable videos and offensive YouTube stars.

What has YouTube done?

Google has promised that by the end of March, all the most popular videos eligible for advertising will be fully reviewed to ensure they are suitable to be hosted on the site.

Also, new rules mean content creators on YouTube are now required to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of video watched in the last year before they can monetise their content with ads. (It’s the second such measure YouTube has made in less than a year.)

The move, say YouTube execs, “will significantly improve our ability to identify creators who contribute positively to the community and help drive more ad revenue to them (and away from bad actors).”

Who is affected?

So before you can make any money, you need 1,000 subscribers. Sounds suspiciously like bigger brands and YouTube stars will fly straight through the barriers while new or smaller/niche content creators will be caught up in the red tape.

But away from that, for content marketers, should we be concerned about the move?

In reality, with a business hat on, probably not. Very few content marketers are pushing YouTube content with an eye to making a few quid in advertising money. Logan Paul may be worth millions thanks to his videos, but most content marketers are not really operating in the same stratosphere here.

Instead, consider the advertising situation. In advertising, as with marketers, reach isn’t everything. Numbers at all costs is no longer the name of the game. What brand would bother risking its name and advertising content appearing next to offensive, unsuitable and potentially illegal content?

A bit of (not so) common sense

As with so much of the internet (Twitter being an obvious example) we’re somewhere near breaking point. A solid, simple idea – a platform for easy video upload – has grown too much, too quickly, relatively unregulated.

There’s only one thing that will save it now: human intervention. In come the editors.

We’ll never reach a point where all video content on YouTube is monitored for suitability. And nor should we – it’s against the open principle of the internet and would essentially be censorship at the hands of… who exactly?

But some old fashioned human judgment is exactly what YouTube needs after seeing its wagon career off the rails in the last few months.

In the meantime, advertising budget spent on YouTube looks like dodgy territory. It can also mask lazy thinking. You know better than anyone where your audience is… so go talk to them. And not just in five-second chunks before being skipped at the start of a video someone is half-watching on the train.

Print remains a prestige format and one that people devote genuine time and energy into actively consuming. LinkedIn is undoubtedly the number one place for B2B communication. Trade shows still have huge significance for a broad range of industries.

Think more clearly about the type of company you want to keep with your brand and advertising communication.

To draw on some parlance from another prominent and unfiltered internet user, when it comes to YouTube, it’s time to drain the swamp. But actually, your brand might be better off simply taking a route around it.

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