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October 25, 2017

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YouTube's Adpocalypse

October 25, 2017


    For over a decade YouTube has reigned supreme as the internet’s go-to platform for sharing and enjoying video content. Short form media created not by a Hollywood studio, but by amateurs, artists who are just getting into videography as a hobby. In time, the more successful of these artists have grown their audience into the tens and even hundreds of thousands. Around the beginning of the 2010’s, YouTube began partnering up with corporations and companies both big and small. These businesses would offer a small per-view payout in exchange for running a 15-30 second ad at the start of the YouTuber’s videos. Over the past 5 years, the YouTube platform has grown exponentially both in terms of the size of the community and a number of creators making profits. Many such creators have been able to make a comfortable living off of their profession on the site. It is relatively commonplace to see YouTubers with subscriber counts in the millions and videos with views over 300,000. This is the beauty of the site. However, things have changed for the worse in recent years, both globally and for the platform. With the recent 2016 election year and the massive controversy and divide is has wrought, there have arisen quite a few extremists on the site. Some of the new content creators started making videos with hate speech and which further indoctrinate those with strong political leanings. When advertisers learned of this strong shift in the community on YouTube, they became extremely conscious about which videos their ads appeared on. So much so, they pressed the company for answers. YouTube happily agreed to provide new tools and algorithms for the advertisers, what follows is known now as the adpocalypse.
    Creators on the site have been able to pay all their bills and then some with the profits made from monetizing their videos. At the beginning of the adpocalypse in February 2017, profits were cut down to on average ⅕ what they were before according to a number of users affected by the change. The tools given to the advertisers were too effective, taking profitable ads off of videos that were not inappropriate at all. One of the new rules implemented by YouTube on behalf of the advertisers was that no ads would appear on videos covering controversial topics. This has been very broadly defined for the past 9 months, with a few exceptions. One of the largest exceptions surrounded two YouTubers, Casey Neistat, dubbed YouTube’s golden boy, and Jimmy Kimmel, a late night talk show host. Both uploaded videos on the topic of the recent Las Vegas shooting which left 50+ dead and many hundreds injured. Casey’s video was monetized for the sole purpose of raising money for the victims and families of those impacted in Las Vegas. All profits off of ads were to be sent to victim’s fundraising organizations based in Nevada. However, YouTube demonetized Casey’s video. On the same day, Jimmy Kimmel’s YouTube Channel uploaded a video talking about the tragedy, not raising funds, not offering support. This video was monetized, it ran GMC ads among others which made them profit. In my view, YouTube is not taking the right approach to this situation, without a doubt advertisers should be critical of hate speech, but should not go so far as to alienate channels that are adding something productive to the debate. Just because a video covers a controversial subject, does not mean the discussion will always be controversial. The platform may have it’s darker side but much more than that it has acted as a vehicle for change, above the bureaucracy of old media and national news. YouTube is a space where the voices of citizens with a passion for positive change can reach the masses. In The United States of America, this is something that all citizens should be excited for. Frankly, so should YouTube and it’s advertisers. The country and its people need a place to find opinions they can’t on national news. These companies have the opportunity to do the right thing and help both the advertisers and their content creators that make the YouTube platform special and unique. After all, it is the home of new media and the spirit of the new age videographer. 

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