YouTube: Reused Content and Monetization

During the past few months a lot of YouTube channels are have been demonetized recently do to something YouTube calls ‘duplication’ or (more recently) reused content. The main message to be taken from YouTube’s monetization review process is that in order for your channel to enjoy the benefits of monetization (which is a privilege not a right), you need to:

The issue of reused content (and duplication) is mainly related to this last point—whether you are creating enough content of your own.

1. Duplication or reused content not involving copyright issues, but involving third-party content

The important thing to note is all of these cases, you would have the right to use content commercially. However, that right does not mean that YouTube has the the obligation to assist you in making money from those videos by allowing them to be monetized. YouTube states:

In most cases, even if you have licenses to use the content or your videos are protected by copyright laws, such as fair use, if the main purpose of your channel is to monetize other channels’ or sources’ content, then you won’t be eligible for YPP. You still need to be contributing to the value of that content in some way. Note: some of these videos may still be fine to remain up on YouTube! (Partner Program Reviews and Removals (including Duplication))

Channels with the following characteristics may find it very difficult to have their channels approved for monetization:

1.1 Videos consisting solely or mainly of public domain work created by other people (e.g., public domain movie channels)

1.2 Uploads of copies (or minimally edited versions) of material previously published by other people under a Creative Commons license (this would apply to even the standard CC BY licence). For example, if you use a Creative Commons song from Incompetech (incompetech.com) or a song from YouTube’s music library (www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/music) as a small part of a video about something else, it would be no problem. However, if your videos were merely that same song and a still picture, that would be considered duplication

1.3 Videos over-reliant on things like stock photos and stock video (even though the channel owner may have licensed them for commercial use)

1.4 Compilations of viewer submissions or compilations of videos used with permission.

1.5 Music promotion channels (e.g., channels based on sourcing songs online, getting permission to use them and then using them to create videos, usually with a photo and/or music visualizer for the visuals.). However, there is a recent case of a large music promotion channel—alexrainbirdMusic—getting demonetized for reused content. They mobilized their subscribers to fight for their monetization privileges to be reinstated and were successful. YouTube switched their monetization back on without any explanation. Other channels have not been so fortunate.

YouTube has stated that using third party content can be OK, but the key thing is what you do with it—specifically, what value you are adding to it. For example, there is some value in searching for the funniest videos involving falls. However merely finding them and stitching them together into one video would not be ENOUGH added value. You would simply not be bringing enough of your own content to the table.

2. Duplication or reused content involving original content

The following may cause problems with monetization:

2.1 Different versions of the same video on the same channel (e.g., a ten-minute version and a twelve-minute version).

2.2 Many very similar videos on the same channel (e.g., Twenty slightly different videos of the same Finger Family song, a hundred videos of someone drinking water, etc.).

2.3 Videos that have been done to death already. A good example of that would be ‘learn color’ and ‘baby shark song’ animations. There are tens of thousands of these videos on YouTube already. They do get a lot of views, but children really need to learn more than what the videos are offering. Channels specializing in these kinds of videos are not getting monetized. Another problem affecting these kinds of animated kids videos is that they are targeting toddlers while YouTube (and its advertisers) are targeting people 13 and over.

2.4 Videos that are simply too basic (e.g., if your videos are basically just text on a still image, the channel is very unlikely to get monetization approved)

2.5 Videos generated automatically (e.g., using text-to-speech programmes to convert Wikipedia articles into the audio for a video or using a music visualizer to create the visuals).

3. Duplication and reused content involving copyright and trademark issues

These are more straightforward as the copyright issues mean the videos should not have been monetized in the first place as the uploader would not have the necessary commercial rights. In this list.

3.1 Channels that have received a lot of copyright claims (the one exemption would be for cover version channels in which the performers supply their own background music)

3.2 Uploads of obviously copyright-infringing content that has not been claimed, including videos that attempt to evade YouTube’s Content ID system (e.g., mirroring and videos so that copyright infringement is more difficult to detect)

3.2 Mashup videos, DJ mix and music remix videos

3.4 Compilations without commentary (or with only minimal commentary) of other people’s videos (even if those videos have not been claimed by the copyright owners)

3.5 Gameplay video without commentary. According to YouTube’s policy on Video game and software content, “Videos simply showing a user playing a video game or the use of software for extended periods of time may not be accepted for monetization.”

3.5 Reaction videos with minimal commentary

3.6 Narration of texts (e.g., stories, articles, news reports) written by other people (this would include an actual person narrating as well as the use of text-to-speech programs)

3.7 Live concert footage (and you are not the performer and/or do not own the copyright to the video)

3.8 Lyrics videos of other people’s songs (with or without the actual song in the video)

3.9 Fan-fiction or children’s videos featuring trademarked and/or copyrighted characters (e.g., Harry Potter, Thomas the Tank Engine).

3.10 AMVs

3.11 Lyrics videos (of other people’s songs)

4. Possible other categories

Other channels have also reported having ‘duplication’ issues. These include:

4.1 Audio podcasts. The issue is likely that the videos are mainly to be listened to (not watched), so if ads were placed on the video, they would go unnoticed by most viewers. I have heard of many audio podcast channels encountering problems with monetization. I have heard on one such demonetized channel—Southern Cannibal—getting monetization returned.

4.2 Channels with a lot of very long ambient content (e.g., a ten-hour fireplace video, an hour-long audio tone). These have the problem mentioned in 4.2 (focusing too much on the audio). In addition, the visuals often have the problem mentioned in 1.3 (an over-reliance on stock assets).

4.3 Channels aimed at toddlers. YouTube is intended for people aged 13 and above and the advertisements would reflect this demographic. If you are aiming for a really young audience, your content and YouTube’s advertisers may simply not be compatible. For this one, it seems that if you are aiming to monetize a channel aimed at little kids, you would need highly original, varied, creative and professional-looking content.

4.4 Narration of public domain works (e.g., audio books). There are two main issues. One would be that the videos are mainly to be listened to (not watched), so if ads were placed on the video, they would go unnoticed by most viewers. The other issue would be related to point 1.4 (an over-reliance on public domain work).

There may very well be other kinds of channels affected. I will update the list if I notice any more kinds of channels reporting duplication issues. Let me know if you think any other kinds of channels should be added.

5. Issues related to Community Guidelines and advertiser-friendly content

YouTube appears to be using ‘reused content’ as a kind of blanket reason for denying monetization, so it is possible the ‘reused content’ notification your receive is entirely unrelated.

5.1 Community Guidelines violations.  As mentioned at the beginning of the article, one of the purposes of the review is to check to see if the channel is complying with YouTube’s Terms of Service and Community Guidelines. If a channel is breaking any of YouTube’s many rules (there are a LOT of them ranging from putting tags in the description to requiring people to subscribe to your channel in order to enter a giveaway to showing people how to modify ammunition), that channel  is unlikely to pass the monetization review process. I have a list of possible violations in my article on YouTube suspensions: Was Your YouTube Channel Suspended for No Reason? (A Guide to Community Guidelines-related Suspensions)

5.2 Non-advertiser friendly content. If YouTube decides the content is not advertiser friendly, the channel may be denied monetization for ‘reused content’.  Here are YouTube’s advertiser friendly guidelines: support.google.com/youtube/answer/6162278

6. What about other channels that have the same content but are monetized?

There are three main things to consider here:

6.1 When the new monetization system started in late 2017, channels that  (1) were already monetized and (2) met the minimum requirements for watch hours and subscribers simply kept their monetization privileges. For several months,  YouTube only reviewed new applications. They only started to turn their attention to the already-monetized channels in late 2018. It will take a long time before all channels are reviewed. Therefore, just because you see a successfully monetized channel with the same content as your channel has, this does not mean the channels is OK. It may simply have not been reviewed yet.

6.2 It is unclear if YouTube is going to be consistent. There are some massive channels that would appear to be unmonetizable. These include channels like NoCopyrightSounds (a music promotion channel using music visualizers and third-party songs). Is YouTube going to be consistent and demonetize these channels. As mentioned elsewhere in this article some larger channels like Southern Cannibal (audio podcasts of user horror story  submissions) and alexrainbirdMusic (music promotion) were demonetized. The owners of both channels launched campaigns to get their channels reinstated and were successful, while smaller channels with similar kinds of videos remained demonetized. Similarly this lyrics video channel VJ4rawr was also demonetized and then remonetized, though the channel owner has another channel that includes less reused third-party content that has had monetization applications rejected.

6.3 Quality may be consideration. I have noticed a lot of top-ten style channels having their monetization applications fail.  They are quite similar to the channel WatchMojo in that they have commentary going on throughout the video, but the commentary never gets very deep or insightful. The only difference I could see (apart from the channels being relatively new), was that the production quality of the videos on these channels (e.g., narration, selection and editing of source material, etc.) wasn’t that good. YouTube definitely hasn’t mentioned anything about video quality, but it seems that it might be one of the the things considered in a monetization review.

7. The elephant in the room

That would be gaming videos with very shallow commentary. In this case, all the visuals and most of the audio would be owned by the game developer (and, if commercially-released music is used, the copyright owners of the music compositions and recording). This is probably one of YouTube’s biggest genre in terms of uploads. It is unclear how such channels will be treated under the new policy. I suspect new gaming channels who don’t do much commentary will find it difficult to get monetization approved.

8. What you can do

According to an official YouTube post (Partner Program Reviews and Removals (including Duplication),  you can do the following to improve your chances of getting monetization:

  • Add commentary or show your presence in your videos (voice or on screen)
  • Link back to your YouTube channel from your website
  • Provide more context about your work in your video and channel descriptions
  • Make sure the content on your channel aligns with [YouTube’s] policies. You can review: Community Guidelines, AdSense Policies, and YouTube Partner Program policies.

Here are my suggestions:

7.1 Beef up the descriptions
The problem that is easiest to fix is when the channel is in line with everything that YouTube is looking for but the video descriptions don’t contain information about the actual production. For example, who shot the video? When? What model of camera was used? Where is the music from? What rights do you have for the music? Who are the other people in the video? If there is any third party content, where is that from and what rights do you have to it? If this information is in the description, the YouTube reviewer than can get a much better idea of what you have created, and what you own, what you have exclusive rights to and what you have some rights to.

7.2 Rethink the content and rebuild the channel
For many channels, the content simply isn’t going to be monetizable because of issues with the content of the video. If you have a channel like that, you need to change the format or accept that the channel is not going to be monetized. For specific kinds of channels, here is some advice:

7.2.1 Fair-use-style channels: You can minimize the use of clips and provide in-depth analysis throughout the videos. Good examples of fair-use-style channels are Vox, Nerdwriter and Wisecrack. it is important to accept that monetizing a video weakens any fair use claim, so there is no guarantee that your fair-use-style videos will be approved.

7.2.2 Music promotion channels: You can choose to (1) do it for fun and not get monetized, (2) actually become a record label and sign artists, (3) really work on the videos (e.g., invite the artists in for recording sessions like the channel Paste NYC or Wood & Wires or 4.  Do music reviews in which only short snippets of songs are used.

7.3.3 Kids channels: It might be better to use adult actors, be sure to include a lot of variety and make the content educational. You can consider shows like Sesame Street, Barney, Blues Clues or the Wiggles as example of children’s programming. To be monetizable, a kids channel would have to be very professional and original.

Obviously, if there are videos that are causing problems, you will need to get rid of them if you want to get the channel monetized. However, you cannot just delete everything, upload a new video and get monetization approved. You will need to establish a strong track record with the new videos (in terms of number of videos uploaded, the watch hours for those videos the and subscribers gained from those videos). Also bear in mind that if you delete videos, the watch hours of those videos will still show up in analytics and you will still be able to apply for a review, but it is the watch hours of the non-deleted videos that will be examined during the monetization review. Similarly if almost all of your subscribers came from your deleted content, you will need to establish that your new content is also attracting subscribers.

7.3 Start another channel
In a lot of a cases I have seen, channels with a lot of views and subscribers would basically have to delete everything and start from scratch. There is no guarantee that if you delete everything and reload new content that your new content will be successful. You may simply end up sacrificing your popular videos for nothing. It might make more sense to leave that successful channel alone and start a new one. Who knows? Perhaps in future, YouTube will relax its monetization rules and the old channel will be monetizable again.

7.4 Simply forget about monetization
That is one option. If my channel gets demonetized I will consider this one.


~by longzijun

writing

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Was Your YouTube Channel Suspended for No Reason? (A Guide to Community Guidelines-related Suspensions)

Two of the most common questions on YouTube’s help forum are

  • Why did my channel gets suspended for Community Guidelines or Terms of Use violations?
  • How do I get it back?

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of some of the more common situations that lead to YouTube channel suspensions and terminations, especially those that come as a surprise. Suspensions are not done for ‘no reason’, basically there are three reasons

  • There really was something wrong.
  • There was a misunderstanding and the suspension was incorrect (e.g., YouTube reviewers mistook a list of supplies in the video description for a list of tags).
  • The videos (or other channel content) are in a grey area where a judgement call needed to be made (e.g., Is a thumbnail sexy or obscene? Is this really harassment?) and that decision, rightly or wrongly, went against you.

1. Suspension Basics

1.1 Duration
Unless YouTube notifies you that the channel will come go back online within a specific period (e..g, after three months), the suspension is permanent (so it is a ‘termination’ really).

1.2 Effects on other Channels
Not only is that channel terminated, but all other channels associated with a particular user are also permanently suspended. This is one common reason for a channel suspension—once you have one channel suspended any other channel or account you open after that will be terminated once YouTube establishes that both channels or accounts are owned by the same user. These other accounts may be terminated immediately, after a short time, after long time or (if they are never linked together by YouTube) never. The main point would be that if you have more than one channel, when one channel gets terminated, all the other channels turn into unexploded bombs.  At any moment they could go off.

1.3 Types of Suspension
There are two different kinds of account suspension:

  • Community Guidelines Strikes, Terms of Service Violations and Other Issues (e.g., trademarks, privacy)
  • Repeated Copyright Violations

The rules for these are very different and you need to take different actions in order to recover your channel (for suspensions related to copyright infringement, you would need to get the number of copyright strikes down to less than three, either by contesting the claim and strike via a DMCA counter-notification or by having the claimant retract the claim). This article focus on the first kind of suspension; I will discuss copyright-related violations in another article.

1.4 Private vs Public Videos
It doesn’t matter whether your videos were public, unlisted or private. The same guidelines and restrictions apply.

1.5 Community Guidelines & Terms of Service: Strike System
Unlike copyright-related suspensions, which strictly follow a three strike system, suspensions related to Community Guidelines and Terms of Service violations can occur after three strikes or can be given without warning after a single violation.

Update March 2019: YouTube has revamped its system of Community Guidelines suspensions. These new guidelines came into effect on 25 February 2019. There are two main differences:

  • There is now supposed to be a warning before the first strike is given.
  • There are increased restrictions placed on the channel as strikes accumulate.
  • More information is given to the channel owner about the actual alleged violation.

These should be welcome changes. What is not clear, however, is whether channels can still be suspended after a single violation (e.g., for very serious violations). I have asked YouTube for clarification, but I have not received a reply.

This video, from YouTube addresses some of the commonly asked question about the new system:

Update 2: Though I have not heard back from YouTube, multiple postings on the help forum indicate that channels may still be suspended without warning and for a single violation.

2.  Appealing a Suspension

There are several ways to appeal suspensions related to to community guidelines or terms of services violations.

2.1 Use the Appeal Form
The normal approach is to submit an online appeal: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802168 (click on the word ‘form’).

The appeal usually takes a few days, but you should receive a response within a week. If the suspension occurred during or after a holiday, the waiting time can be longer.

If the appeal fails, you will get a boilerplate reply. Of course, that is not good news, but you can try appealing again. You will have a much better chance of winning an appeal if you can directly address the problem you are suspected of having. Unfortunately, the notifications either sent to your email or posted on your channel page are usually very vague and could relate to any number of possible suspected problems. That can make it very difficult to guess what you are alleged to have done.

Contrary to what many people believe the decision to suspend a channel for community guidelines violations or terms of use violations is not automated. At some point, YouTube staff approved of the decision to suspend the channel. Therefore, if a channel is suspended, there is either a reason for it or there has been a misunderstanding. If there really was a problem, the appeal will unlikely succeed unless you can persuade YouTube that the problem wasn’t serious enough to warrant a termination. If there was a misunderstanding, if you can figure out what may have caused the misunderstanding and explain that, the appeal will likely be successful. This article also covers possible areas in which misunderstandings may have occurred.

2.2 Backdoor Methods
These methods are additional ways to get your case heard.

  • Several YouTubers have stated that they have gotten their channels reinstated because of interventions on their behalf from YouTube Trusted Flaggers on Reddit or Twitter. These include the Reddit/Twitter users known as TrustedFlagger Ben (now inactive), @Contributors_YT (now inactive) and LightCodeGaming. These people generally prefer to remain anonymous, but seem to have some influence over video strikes and channel terminations. The influencers I mentioned never actually explain how they can affect the review process and it is unknown how much influence they have, but many of them are quite happy to take credit for getting people’s channels restored. It seems they will become inactive after becoming well-known, so I suspect that whatever they are doing is not approved by YouTube. Still, if such backdoor methods exist, you can try to take advantage of them.
  • You can try reaching out to YouTube via social media. For example, one YouTuber has claimed she was only able to get her channel reinstated by bringing her suspension up on YouTube’s Twitter account in India.
  • If you are partnered with an MCN (multi-channel network), they may be able to contact YouTube on your behalf. As far as I know, however, MCNs won’t provide much assistance unless they consider your channel to be important.
  • If you are partnered with YouTube itself, you can try contacting partner support: support.google.com/youtube/answer/3545535

2.3 Scams
If someone asks for your log-in information (or other personal details) or asks you to pay a fee for help in getting your channel reinstated, that would be a scam.

3. The Most Common Reasons for Channel Suspensions

Aside from copyright infringement, channel suspensions mainly involve five areas:

  1. Going too far in attempts to attract views. This is generally related to the metadata (e.g., titles, descriptions, tags, comments, links and thumbnails).
  2. Going too far in attempts to influence metrics such as subscriptions, views and likes. This often involves contests and promotions.
  3. Going too far in attempts to profit from the videos. This is often related to things like unrelated affiliate links, requests for money, trying to sign up YouTube viewers and pyramid schemes)
  4. Encouraging people to violate YouTube’s terms of service (e.g. linking to a YouTube downloader) or the terms of service of other social media platforms (e.g., demonstrating how to hack a Facebook account), software companies (e.g., providing links to cracked versions) or game publishers (e.g., posting videos showing game cheats or exploits) or to commit a crime, terrorist act or dangerous activity.
  5. Going into areas that YouTube wants to keep its site free from (e.g., pornography, fetishism, harrassment, hate speech, pedophila, etc.).

The first three areas are where most problems seem to occur. This is because YouTube encourages uploaders to make their videos search-engine friendly, build up a strong subscriber base and make money via their YouTube videos. When suspensions occur, it is often a matter of the YouTuber going too far.

4. The Spam, Scams, Misleading Content Suspension

This particular suspension encompasses a lot of possible areas that are discussed at different points in the article. Such a suspension could be related to anything under points 6. 7, 8, 9, 11, 16. 18 and 20 as well as many of the issues under point 10,

5. Your Content

One common misunderstanding is that suspensions are only related to the actual video. However, suspensions may be related to:

  • The video content
  • Metadata (titles, tags, video descriptions)
  • Comments and messages
  • Playlists
  • Video features like captions, annotations and cards
  • Channel descriptions, channel art and profile pictures

The majority of suspensions would be for inappropriate video content or problems with the metadata. Suspensions related to other kinds of content, though not as common, still do occur

You may be wondering how a channel with only a playlist and no videos may have problems. Let’s look at one possible example. If someone assembles a playlist of young girls doing stretching exercises and names it “nubile cuties in leotards”, it is a kind of fetishistic content and can lead to a channel suspension even though the playlist itself is comprised of videos that are uploaded by other people and are perfectly in line with the community guidelines.

6. Attracting Views: Issues with the Metadata (Title, Tags, Descriptions)

YouTube is the 2nd most popular search engine and is owned by Google, which runs the most popular one. Therefore, YouTube is very aggressive in dealing with attempts to unfairly manipulate search results. Most of the problems in this area are referred to by YouTube as ‘spam’ or “deceptive practices” and fall under this policy: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801973

6.1 Misleading titles
If the video doesn’t contain what the title says it should, that will cause problems. For example, if a video is entitled ‘five steps to happiness’ and it only contains someone saying “to find out the five steps to happiness, visit my website”, that would be considered a misleading title.

6.2 Click-bait titles
Some YouTubers find themselves in a Catch 22 when they use click-bait titles like ‘Free Cracked Gears of War’ or ‘Leaked Sex Tape of Hollywood Star’ . If the video has what the title suggests, it will likely be a community guidelines violation (due to inappropriate content). If the video doesn’t have that and the title is “just a joke”, that is a community guidelines violation, too (because of the misleading metadata.

6.3 Parodies and pranks: Titles and description
If you are doing a parody, it should be labeled as such in the title. Similarly if you are doing a kind of prank ‘advice’ video, there should be an indication somewhere in the description or video itself.

6.4. Unrelated or only marginally related tags (new policy: this should no longer lead to suspensions)
The tags should represent what the video is about. Having unrelated tags can result in a strike or channel take down. A more common problem occurs with people using tags that are only tangentially related to the video. If you include ‘Jennifer Lopez’ as a tag, she should be one of the main points of focus of your video, not just someone who was briefly mentioned in one sentence.It doesn’t matter if tags are related to others videos on your channel. Tags should refer only to what is in that specific video. A good rule of thumb is: if someone searching for that tag word or phrase will NOT consider your video to be what they are looking for, the tag is likely inappropriate.

Update: On 15 February 2017, YouTube initiated a new policy at the video level. Now videos with unrelated tags, will be set automatically to private and channel owners will have the opportunity to edit their tags and then appeal to have the videos made public again (without a loss of views). Only one appeal is allowed. If that is unsuccessful, channel owners would have to reupload the video to a new URL. No strikes will be given. Although channel suspensions were not mentioned, it would appear that the use of misleading tags will no longer result in such suspensions. However, this has not been confirmed by YouTube.

6.5 Tags in the description
Stuffing a description with list of tags is simply not allowed.

6.6 Lists in the description: Possible misunderstanding
There is nothing inherently wrong with lists, but sometimes lists of things—e.g., songs in a medley, art supplies needed to create a project—are mistaken for tags; therefore, it is better to avoid long lists. If you think this sort of misunderstanding may have caused a community guidelines strike, you can explain the situation in your appeal.

6.7 Irrelevant descriptions
The description should be related to the video content, channel and/or the production of the video (including information about the participants).

6.8 Same description in multiple videos: Possible misunderstanding
As the video description should describe the video, having the same description in multiple videos can lead YouTube to conclude that you are spammily uploading near identical videos. This sometimes happens when people use the same description for a long series of videos in order to save time.

6.9 No or minimal description: Possible misunderstanding
One of the purposes of the description is to put your video in context–to tell someone reviewing your video what it is about. If the description field is left empty, someone reviewing your video doesn’t have that context. For example, a video of you trying on shoes as part of a haul video could be be reported as a foot fetish video. When the YouTube reviewers take a look, and there is nothing in the description to provide any context, they may decide the report is correct and take the video down.

6.10 Overly-sensational title, descriptions or tags
This problem can occur if you are trying too hard to attract views. For example, if you make an educational video about breastfeeding and include things like “hot moms”, “sexy” and “big t***” in the description and tags, you are clearly presenting the video as a kind of fetish video and not at all as an educational video. As previously mentioned, one purpose of the metadata is to put thw video into context for anyone reviewing.

6.11 Unrelated links in the description
Links are fine, provided they relate in some way to the video (and are not referral links or affiliate links).

7. Attracting Views: Thumbnails

There are two common problems (these fall under YouTube’s policy on spam and deceptive content: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801973):

7.1 Unrelated thumbnails
If you are using misleading thumbnails as a kind of clickbait, that can be a violation as it would be viewed as an attempt to unfairly gain views.

7.2 Overly provocative thumbnails
The thumbnail should not only represent what is in the video, but should steer clear of nudity, fetishism and overly sexually provocative thumbnails. I came across a case recently in which the YouTuber had uploaded videos of females interacting with animals but had titled them and used thumbnails in such a way as to suggest the videos were really about bestiality. Clearly that would not be acceptable.

Also, together with titles and descriptions, thumbnails are another way in which you are telling viewers (and in the case of channel suspensions, YouTube reviewers) how they should interpret your video. Therefore, if your video contains sex or violence and you choose the sexiest or most violent shot to represent your video, you are in essence telling the viewer/reviewer what to expect and what your video is about. Therefore, if you video gets flagged for violence or nudity, an overly provocative thumbnail will harm your chances of getting a favorable decision.

8. Invalid Attempts to Influence Metrics

This would refer to schemes to boost thing like views, likes, comments and subscriptions. YouTube wants these metrics to reflect the viewer’s true wants. For example, YouTube wants people to subscribe to your channel because they are interested enough in your content to do so, and so that they can enter a giveaway

8.1 Giveaways and contests
If you force people to subscribe or comment on a video in order to be eligible to win, that would go against the guidelines on contests. A lot of channels do this, but that does not mean it is OK. Similarly, if it is found that you don’t follow any of the other guidelines on YouTube’s Policy on Contests (support.google.com/youtube/answer/1620498), that can also lead to suspensions.

8.2. Buying views, clicks or subscribers
It is against YouTube’s policy for channel owners to buy views (support.google.com/youtube/answer/3470104). This generally doesn’t lead to channel suspensions because it is next to impossible to prove. Usually, the only consequence are that bought views are rolled off, paid subscribers are cut away and monetization privileges are suspended. However, buying views, ad clicks or subscribers may still possibly lead to channel terminations.

8.3. Using viewbots, uploading bots or clickbots
The use of bots against YouTube’s terms of service. Of course, almost all third-party view providers will claim that they use real humans and not bots. However, if you use these services you are placing your trust in people running an unethical enterprise as well as they people they have contracted out to actually view the videos.

9. Money-related Issues

A lot of people look at the top YouTubers, who are able to bring in millions of dollars in every year, and want to use YouTube as major income stream. There is nothing wrong with that, but earning anything substantial from a YouTube channel is actually very rare, so sometimes people try too hard to squeeze whatever they can from their channels. This can lead to the following problems:

9.1 Affiliate links, referral links and ad.fly links in the description
Affiliate links are a grey area and Youtube has no clear official policy. According to YouTube’s terms of service, advertisements, which affiliate links are, are not allowed in YouTube content without permission. However, the general consensus is that one or two links are acceptable if:

  • They are directly related to the content of the video. For example, if you are reviewing a book, an affiliate link to the Amazon page for that book would be “related”. An affiliate link to the Amazon page for the shirt you were wearing in the video or the camera you shot the video with would not.
  • They are identified as affiliate links.
  • They are not shortened.
  • They are not at the very beginning of the description.
  • Adfly links and other kinds of commercial links are not used.

YouTube doesn’t like it if you are profiting by sending people off its site (which is why ad.fly links are frowned upon). If it feels the main reason for your video to exist is to earn money off of the links, your video may be taken down. For this reason, it is better not to start your description with an affiliate link (even if it is related) as it is sending a message to YouTube that this is the main thing you want people to see.

9.2 Links to non-approved fan funding and merchandise sites in the description (or video)
The list of approved sites, such as Patreon is here: support.google.com/youtube/answer/6083754
If you request funding through some other means (e.g., via a bitcoin account), that can pose problems.

9.3 Cash for call-outs
Don’t ask people to send you money in exchange for a callout in a video. You are free to give call-outs to people who donate to your channel, but you are not allowed to state: give me a dollar and I will give your channel a call-out.

9.4 Videos that serve only as ads
Advertising is permitted on Youtube, but there should be some entertainment or informational value to the ad.

9.5 Videos that promote pyramid schemes and other kinds of scams
You should steer clear of any kind of scammy financial scheme as a video subject.

9.6 Links that send viewers to a sign-up or registration page
If you send viewers to your website, that is fine, but if the first thing the viewer sees is a pop-up window requesting them to sign up and leave their personal information, that may be construed as using YouTube as a means to harvest its users’ personal information.

9.7 Monetization without commercial rights
If you habitually monetize videos you don’t have the right to monetize, this can lead to a suspension of monetization abilities. Usually that is all that will happen, but there is the potential for a channel takedown of YouTube feels you are habitually abusing its monetization policies. Recently I have noticed several takedowns affecting channels with no obvious problems by all with the same profile: recent rapid growth, a large number of copyright infringing videos being uploaded and monetization of these videos.

9.8 Ad campaigns on your own monetized videos
This is kind of like paying YouTube to pay you. If you are going to run a campaign through YouTube to promote your videos, you should demonetize them first.

10. Encouragement to Violate YouTube’s Terms of Service, Violate the Terms of Service of Other Companies, to Commit Crimes or to Perform Dangerous Acts

10.1 YouTube Downloader links (or encouragement to use a downloader)
It is against YouTube’s terms of service to download videos without authorization. Therefore inviting viewers to download your video from YouTube (in the description, comments or video itself) via a third-party service would be encouraging viewers to violate YouTube’s terms of service. This falls under the policy on encouraging terms of service violations: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801981

10.2 Videos showing and links leading to software or game cracks, hacks, mods, cheats or exploits
YouTube does not want its services used to undermine other products. Videos involving cracks, cheats and hacks are never a good idea. Whether a video with mods is OK mainly depends on the policy of the game or software developer.

10.3 Hacking videos
YouTube is especially sensitive to hacking videos. Some people will argue that by posting the videos, they can help a company eliminate vulnerabilities. This is a disingenuous excuse. The best way to do that would be to reach out to the company directly and not disseminate hacking techniques on a worldwide video platform. Similarly, if you are showing people how to protect themselves from being hacked, is it really necessary to show in detail how to do the hack in the first place?

Hacking would generally fall under YouTube’s policy on circumvention of technological measures:support.google.com/youtube/answer/6156383

10.4 Hacking: possible misunderstanding
The word ‘hack’ alone simply being enough to raise a red flag even when used innocuously (e.g., top 10 life hacks) or in an educational context (How to keep your Facebook account safe from hacks). If you had the word ‘hack’ in your title or description in such contexts, you can explain your innocent use of the word in your appeal.

10.5 Dangerous activities: Challenge videos
People like watching dangerous things. In the past, however, TV shows and videos tended to include disclaimers like “These stunts were performed by trained professions. Do not try this at home.“ However, since the ice-bucket challenge proved popular, a lot of things that carry some minor risk are now being presented as a “Yeah, try this at home!” challenge The problem comes with challenge videos that by their nature encourage viewers (some of whom are young children) to do similar stunts. Some things look harmless, but have the potential to do harm, especially if done by young children. These include:

  • Cinnamon challenge (choking, asphyxiation, inflammation and scarring of the lungs)
  • Duct tape challenge could lead to suffocation if done by really young kids, could lead to head injuries if the ‘victim’ falls over (as they have no means to protect themselves from the falls)
  • Fire challenge (burns, obviously)
  • Alcohol challenge (alcohol poisoning)
  • Condom challenge (choking)
  • Cold water challenge (hypothermia and drowning)

Challenge videos are fall under YouTube’s policy on harmful or dangerous content (support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801964), though these guidelines do not specifically mention challenge videos.

10.6 Illegal activities and drug use
If you make a bomb-making video, don’t be surprised if it gets pulled. If you are teaching people how to make meth, that would also not be wise,Of course a lot of things are in a grey area. What about smoking marijuana and getting high on screen? Marijuana is legal in some places but not in others. How would that be handled? Is your video promoting illegal drug use or is simply educating people about the effects of a drug? Or what if the whole thing is an act and you aren’t really high at all? What if is just part of a short drama in which one of the characters gets high?

In any case, if you are shown to be getting high in your video, you may be forcing YouTube to make a judgement call. Scenes of drug use would be more acceptable in dramatic and educational contexts.

10.7 Links to inappropriate sites (e.g., pornography)
If you were to link to a pornography site, that could cause problems

10.8 Links to sites selling federally-regulated goods
It is advisable not to link to things like firearms retailers or websites selling pharmaceuticals.

10.9 Counterfeit and knock-off products
You should not promote counterfeit products. Even videos in which you are educating people about the differences between an authentic product and a counterfeit are risky as the trademark/patent owner of the existing product may not want a worldwide audience being informed that counterfeits of its products are available. The policy regarding counterfeits is here: support.google.com/youtube/answer/6154227

10.10 Dupes and alternative products: Possible misunderstanding
Another problem arises with YouTubers who make videos about legitimate products that can act as cheaper alternative to more expensive products. The problem occurs when the YouTubers themselves use ambiguous language (e.g., Dupes, which is a word derived from duplicate) or incorrect words (e.g., Knock-off, which implies a kind of patent nfringement) to describe the products in their video. If you are presenting a cheaper alternative, just call it that.

10.11 Terrorism
Videos supporting and/or inciting terrorism are not allowed. This is covered in the polciy on dangerous or graphic content (https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802008)

10.12 Firearms and ammunition are here
YouTube policies regarding firearms and ammunition are here. You are not allowed to upload videos showing things like how to modify and/or manufacture firearms, ammunition or peripheral equipment. You can’t link to sites selling firearms, ammunition or peripheral equipment. The policy page is here: Policies on content featuring firearms

11. Large Amounts of Repetitive, Unsolicited, Untargeted Content

YouTube refers to this as spam and it is under the policy on spam, deceptive practices, and scams (support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801973)

One thing this policy would definitely refer to is copy-pasting comments and shamelessly promoting one’s own channel in comments sections, but this is usually dealt with by issuing a commenting ban.

Some channels simply upload things like photos of a product and an automated voice reading from a promotional brochure. Such a video would not offer any kind of value whatsoever and a channel full of them could be suspended.

Uploading different language versions of the same video would not be a problem. Uploading exactly the same video on another account would also not be a problem. Uploading the exact same video in several accounts, however, could be interpreted as spam.

12. Sexual Content, Nudity and Predatory Behaviour

YouTube’s Guidelines on Nudity and Sexual Content: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802002

Three is a lot of misunderstanding about this. Of course, being a family-oriented site, YouTube does not allow porn. When reviewing videos flagged for nudity or sexual content YouTube is not only looking at how explicit the video is, but it is also considering the purpose. As the guidelines state: “If a video is intended to be sexually provocative, it is less likely to be acceptable for YouTube.”

There are allowances for nudity and sexual material for artistic and educational purposes, but simply slapping an artistic or educational label on something doesn’t make it so.

12.1 Pornography
Obviously, it is not allowed.

12.2 Nudity
It is allowed to a certain extent depending on the purpose, though the video may be age restricted. For example, it may be allowed for educational or artistic purposes, but if the main reason for the video is sexually provocative for the sake of being sexually provocative, it may be removed and the channel associated with it punished

12.3 Fetish videos
A lot of people have turned to YouTube to explore their own fetishes or to earn money by exploiting the fetishes of others. Fetishes range from foot fetishes to emetophilia (sexual arousement via vomiting) to breastfeeding to beastiality. If the main purpose of the video appears to be to turn people on (sexually), it may violate the community guidelines related to sexual content though no nudity or sexual activity is shown. Some fetish videos are, such as foot fetish videos are not graphic at all, but would still be considered inappropriate.

12.4 Inadvertent fetish videos
These are videos that start off innocently enough, but attract a fetishistic audience. This becomes apparent in the content. For example, a guy may start of doing workout videos wearing only a pair of tight shorts in order to better show off his body. However, if the comments start becoming lewd (e.g. I love your package) and suggestive (e.g., “”Can you wear wet white cotton briefs next time?”), it can turn the video into a fetish video. The channel owner would have a choice:
try to cool things off by disabling comments and wearing less provocative clothes or leave things be and and risk losing the channel.

12.5 Sexualization of minors
Children and young teens should not be presented in a sexually suggestive context. This would fall under YouTube’s policy on child endangerment (support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801999)

12.6 Inadvertent sexualization of minors
Similar to the above, a young teen running a channel may begin to pander to suggestive comments and requests not knowing they are sexual or fetishistic in nature and inadvertently create content that appeals to pedophiles.

12.7 Fetishistic playlists and playlists that sexualize minors
As mentioned earlier, it is possible for a channel to suspended based solely on playlists. If a girl uploads a video of her doing gymnastics in a leotard, that is just a gymnastics video.If someone comes along and then makes a playlist of such videos entitled “young girls stretching in leotards”, that is a lot creepier and a lot less innocent.

12.8 Predatory behaviour
This refers to adults trying to strike up relationships with minors online. This would be done via comments or messages. This would fall under YouTube’s policy on child endangerment (support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801999)

13. Violent or Graphic Content

YouTube’s Policy on Violent or Graphic Content: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802008

This only rarely results in channel suspensions. YouTube has a high tolerance for violence provided there is some kind of context (e.g., you are reporting on people being attacked during a riot), though it is likely violent and graphic videos will be age-restricted and made ineligible for monetization. If the main purpose of the video however, is to shock people that could cause problems unless your video was clearly fictional

14. Hate Speech

YouTube’s Policy on Hate Speech: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801939

It is actually quite difficult to get a channel suspension for this. You have to be actively promoting violence against or hatred for a specific group based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, sexual orientation/gender identity.

YouTube’s policy regarding hate speech lies somewhere between the American legal system’s anything-goes free speech laws and the hate speech laws of countries like England. Thus, some American find YouTube too controlling while people in other countries may be surprised at what is allowed.

15. Harassment

YouTube’s Policy on Harassment: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802268

YouTube is notorious for rude and ill-informed commenting. To a large extent this is allowed. There is a policy intended to protect users from harassment, but the action needs to be quite obvious and serious. If you upload a video of yourself, to a certain extent, you are pushing yourself into the public sphere and are open to the same kind of abusive comments that celebrities get. According you YouTube’s policy harassment MAY include:

  • Revealing someone’s personal information, such as their address, private email addresses, private phone numbers, passport number, or bank account information (Note: This does not include posting widely available public information, such as a public official’s office phone number)
  • Content that is deliberately posted in order to humiliate someone
  • Content that makes hurtful and negative personal comments/videos about another person
  • Content that incites others to harass or threaten individuals on or off YouTube
  • Content featuring non-consensual sex acts or unwanted sexualization
  • Content threatening specific individuals with physical harm or destruction of property
  • Content featuring abusive or threatening behavior directed at a minor
  • Sexualizing or degrading an individual who is engaged or present in an otherwise non-sexual context
  • Content claiming that specific victims of public violent incidents or their next of kin are actors, or that their experiences are false

Some of the points in the above list are meant to deter Doxxing and other forms of online attacks. It is OK to negatively comment on another channel, but if you instruct your own fans to interfere with someone else’s life and/or YouTube channel,that would be going too far.

Another form of harassment would include actual threats (YouTube’s Policy on Threats: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801947)

Blackmail is another kind of harassing behaviour and is included in YouTube’s policy on scams (support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801973)

16. Impersonation

YouTube’s Policy on Impersonation: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801947

If you impersonate another channel or user, YouTube may consider this a form of harassment and your channel may be suspended. Individuals can report impersonation to YouTube directly while businesses and organizations would need to submit a legal complaint.

17. Privacy

YouTube’s Policy on Privacy: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801895

If you receive a privacy complaint, this usually will not lead to an immediate taken down. Usually, you would be given the option to blur the faces of people in your video. For a privacy complaint to be accepted YouTube looks at how identifiable the person is as well as how public they are. For example, if someone uploads a video clip of themselves to YouTube and you use a screenshot of that video, they wouldn’t get very far making a privacy complaint.

Privacy complaints would generally only lead to a takedown if there was malicious intent as well as an invasion of privacy (and this would fall under the policy on harassment (“Maliciously recording someone without their consent.)

18. Trademarks

Generally speaking, if you are doing a product review, you do have the right to show that product in the video (it is a kind of trademark-related fair use). The two main things to avoid would be:
Making your video appear to be an official or officially endorsed release. For example, ‘’Revlon’s New Lipstick Line” is potentially misleading, whereas “My Review of Revlon’s New Lipstick Line” would be a lot clearer. Also, you should avoid using trademarked logos and slogans more than necessary (e.g., don’t use the logo in the thumbnail).
Showing the trademarked item or logo in ways that could bring the brand into disrepute.

Trademark infringement problems are generally resolved by removing or asking you to remove problematic videos. If the trademark problem is compounded by problems related to counterfeiting (see Section 9.10), that can lead to channel suspensions.. YouTube’s trademark policy is here: support.google.com/youtube/answer/6154218

19. TOS Section 4 Part H

This is the part of the Terms of Service that deals with bots (used for mass uploading,viewing and/or subscribing) and also with harvesting user data. However, it used to be relatively common for YouTube to send this notification of violations unrelated to anything in that section.

20. Ineligible Channels

As mentioned earlier, channel suspensions are:

  1. given to the user
  2. are permanent
  3. affect all channels managed by that user

Thus, if you don’t resolve a channel suspension and instead keep making new channels, the very existence of the channels would be Community Guidelines/Terms of Service violations and could result in their termination.

22. Buying & Selling Channels

This would violate the terms of service.

22. Mass Flagging

By itself, a mass flagging campaign against your channel, will not work. This is because reports are reviewed before strikes and suspensions are dished out. The problem is that many channels have one or more of the many problems listed above and it only takes a few “correct” reports to bring a channel down.

23. Avoiding Channel Suspensions

Basically you just need to to do two things. The first is to ensure your channel has none of the problems listed on this page and that you closely adhere to YouTube’s terms of service and community guidelines. The second thing to do is to use the titles, description and thumbnails wisely so that if any videos of yours are flagged, the reviewer knows exactly what they are looking at and exactly what you intended.


~by longzijun

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Is it OK to buy views for YouTube videos?

The short answer is this: Buying YouTube views is a questionable and risky strategy that can work but that can also backfire. If you are thinking about buying views, do check out the article so that you can make an informed decision. The  article covers four questions:

  1. What is the purpose for buying views?
  2. Is the practice of buying views allowed according to YouTube’s Terms of Service?
  3. Can YouTube detect whether or not you are buying views?
  4. It it an effective way to build up your channel’s popularity?

I decided to research this topic when I noticed that someone using a song from my free background music collection had started a new channel and had a surprisingly high view count for a new channel with run-of-the mill content. A quick look at the channel stats suggested the views were being bought, so I started wondering, “Wow, that was a quick way to get views! Is it something I should be doing? What are the risks?”    

1. Why do people buy YouTube views?

The purpose of buying views is to help hasten the natural, organic growth of your channel. Inflating your view count would make your videos appear more attractive. For example, if you see thumbnail links for two cover versions of the same song and one has 100,000 views while the other has 100 views, which link would you be more likely to click? Similarly, if you come across a channel with ten of thousands of subscribers, wouldn’t you be more likely to subscribe as well? Basically, buying views and subscribers is meant to attract more real viewers and subscribers in future.

2. Is buying views allowed under YouTube’s Terms of Service?

No. This is mentioned in this YouTube Policy Article: Working with third party view service providers

“What’s downright not allowed?
Purchasing views for your videos directly from third-party websites (e.g. paying $10 for 10,000 views).”

If you are a partner, buying views and/or subscribers is explicitly forbidden under YouTube’s Partner Progam Policies, which state:

  • Do not click on your own ads or use any means to inflate video views, impressions and/or clicks artificially, including manual methods.
  • Do not encourage others to click your ads or use deceptive implementation methods to obtain clicks, including clicks on your videos to inflate views. This includes commissioning third party agencies that advertise these services to increase your viewership. The purchase or gaming of subscribers, views or any other channel features is a violation of our Terms of Service.
  • Do not manipulate or incentivize others to click on video features, such as “Like” or “Favorite,” to improve your standing and visibility across the site. We consider these to be fraudulent clicks and/or queries.
  • Do not employ third party sites and tools to automatically generate artificial subscribers or views.  (from Partner Program Policies, www.youtube.com/yt/partners/program-policies.html, Accessed 22 November  2013

If it is detected that you are buying views and/or subscribers, your account will be terminated.

If you are not a partner, and therefore are not monetizing your videos, buying ‘human’ views or subscribers does not seem not to be explicitly against YouTube’s Terms of Service (TOS), but it is explicitly forbidden under the policy article quoted at the top of this section. Buying automated views is definitely against the TOS. Once such practices are discovered, your account would be terminated.

You agree not to use or launch any automated system, including without limitation, “robots,” “spiders,” or “offline readers,” that accesses the Service in a manner that sends more request messages to the YouTube servers in a given period of time than a human can reasonably produce in the same period by using a conventional on-line web browser. (YouTube Terms of Service www.youtube.com/t/terms accessed 22 November 2013)

The problem here is that if you are a non-partner buying views, you would need to have complete trust in the view-selling service to never use automated techniques such as viewbots.

3. Can YouTube detect bought views and subscribers?

A view-selling service CAN operate undetected, but channels buying views can often be easy to spot either through viewbot-generated activity or through anomalous viewership statistics (e.g., a huge and sudden spike in the number of subscribers).

Most view-selling services state that all bought views, comments and subscribers come from real people and are spread out over a period of time to avoid detection and will therefore be impossible to detect. However, this kind of business is already kind of shady—the business model is, after all, based on deception—so it is difficult to trust such statements 100%. Can you really guarantee that the human viewers the services hire always follow their instructions to the letter and will never take shortcuts? Can you guarantee that YouTube will not update it’s monitoring methods to catch behaviors that now go unseen?

Accounts do get terminated regularly; it is not an empty threat. If you drop by the Google Products YouTube Forum, you will see quite a few posts that start off with “Why was my account terminated for no reason?” with replies that go along the lines of “Well, I looked at your stats on SocialBlade and it is obvious that you were buying views and subscribers.”

It’s kind of like steroid use. Does it work? Yes. Can it be detected? Yes, if you are not careful. Can one evade detection? Yes, until the detection methods catch up with the doping methods. Is it worthwhile? Is it worth the risk?

4. Is buying views an effective way to build up a channel?

To a certain extent, it does work. You will get those bought views, but will it lead to more views down the road?

It definitely did work in the past, especially if you were buying the hundreds of thousands of views that would propel your video to YouTube’s front page and the top of relevant search results. If you ask, you will find people who say, “Yeah, I bought views from Company X and everything was great. It really helped a lot.”

YouTube, however, operates differently now. It is now placing a lot more emphasis on viewer engagement when ranking search results and selecting recommended videos. If real views are being bought, it is likely these viewers will only watch a few seconds of each video. Under YouTube’s new algorithms, this would be interpreted as either ‘this video is rubbish’ or ‘the title or thumbnail is misleading’ with the consequence being your videos disappearing from search results or recommendations. If this happens, you would be hurting your ability to attract new viewers and organically grow your view count, thereby defeating the purpose of buying the views in the first place.

You also need to bear a certain amount of risk. If YouTube detects suspicious activity on you videos it may simply reset the views of those videos to zero or it may terminate the account. I was just reading an interesting post on Google’s YouTube forum. The original poster had hired someone to get real views, but it was found that the freelance ‘promoter’ had used viewbots instead. It seems that the dispute has escalated to the point where the promoter is now trying to blackmail the original poster. Do you really need such trouble?

Conclusion

I would recommend against buying views, especially if you are in the partner program. For non-partners, you can consider the following question: “It is OK for me if the existence of my channel depends on the ability of a third party service (and the people it hires) to fulfill their promises?” For me personally, the risks would outweigh the benefits.

Postscript: Can YouTube’s rules be used against you?

Would it be possible for an enemy or rival to hire a service provider to send fake views to your channel and get your account terminated? Yes, it would. I guess the only thing to do is to be vigilant and if you see a sudden and unexplainable surge in views, report the matter on the Google YouTube forums immediately. You can consider taking the following protections to prevent your video from being removed. This advice comes from XXLRay on the YouTube Products Forum:

  • Set the video to private to prevent additional false views.
  • Use the feedback button on the bottom of your video editor menu to inform YouTube about your observations and counter actions. Tell them you are going to search pro-actively for the source and that you are going to make sure it will not happen again.
  • If your video is monetized inform AdSense as well by using their Invalid Clicks Contact Form. Users had their AdSense Account permanently terminated for invalid clicks in the past.
  • Once you took these “first aid” actions try to find out the source website for these views from your Youtube Analytics. Search the web for the depending contact data and tell the responsible [parties] to stop directing views to your channel. If they repeat their behaviour take legal action.
  • Note that this is no guarantee that YouTube won’t delete your videos. It’s just the best way to tackle the problem I can think of.
  • If your video got deleted anyway you may use the YouTube View Abuse Appeal Form. Make sure to describe the counter-actions you took to prevent the YouTube system from damage. (productforums.google.com/d/msg/youtube/OSpl8xFs0SI/b_XW_zmnuoYJ, accessed 13 March 2014)

~by longzijun

More articles on YouTube

 


~by longzijun

writing

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How Much Money Do The Top YouTube Stars Make?

This is the first in a series of articles about YouTube. Now that almost everyone is able to monetize their videos, one question that keeps coming up is ‘how much can I make from this gig’? Assuming I am good at making entertaining videos, is this something that can make me rich? Can I at least quit my day job and make videos full-time?

If you want the most up-to-date statistics, you should visit SocialBlades Top YouTubers chart and start clicking on some of the names.

According to SocialBlade’s statistics, the most viewed channel of the past year (at the time of writing)—PewDiePie—is estimated to have raked in an annual income of between 2.1 million and 17 million dollars (accessed ovember 2014). The true figure would likely be towards the bottom of that range as only a relatively small number of people click on ads. If you are looking for the estimated revenue of a particular channel, you can search for that channel’s data on the Social Blade site. Form this data, we can assume that several of the top channels are now bringing in over a million dollars a year via advertising revenue (but these would only be the channels at the very top).

 

How Much Do the Top YouTube Earners Make?

OK, so you want to be a YouTube star. Is it worth it?Everybody is keeping their cards close to the vest on this topic (YouTube does not allow partners to publicly disclose revenue figures), but if you are extremely successful (the ‘extremely’ part is important!), you can make enough to live fairly comfortably with your YouTube work being your full-time job.The top earning channels at present are certainly bringing in six figures from advertising revenue annually (before taxes) with the channels at the very top earning at least a million dollars per year. According to the Social Blade website (Social Blade, accessed May 2013), the top earning YouTube channel in May of 2013, the gaming channel BlueXephos, was earning anywhere between $681,700 and $6.4 million annually. Given that few people actually click on ads, however, the actual figure would likely be towards the bottom of that range (and not the 6.7 million dollars reported in Brian Warner’s CelebrityNet Worth article The 25 Highest Earning Youtube Stars. However, even that ‘bottom’ is close to a million dollars. That is a high bottom!

This article from several years ago (2010)—Meet the Richest Independent YouTube Stars— lists the top 10 YouTube earners at that time with Natalie Tran (aka CommunityChannel) placing 10th with an estimated pre-tax annual income of just over $100,000. Although the list has been criticized as being inaccurate and based on overly simplistic analysis, it does provide a useful starting point.

The list of the top ten earners has changed substantially since that article was published, with newer channels like Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg’s PewDiePie and Ray William Johnson’s =3 pushing past almost all of those on the list. In 2013, the top earners are making even more.

According to Open Slate’s 2012 research—YouTube’s Top 1,000 Channels Reveal An Industry Taking Shape—the top 1000 channels at that time were making an average of $23,000 per month (i.e., over a quarter of a million dollars per year). However, there were claims that the average is too high. For example, commenting on the article, Alex Ikonn writes,

I am a co-founder of a Top 300 YouTube channel and one of the biggest channels in the How-to category and I can tell you that advertising revenue is nothing close to $23k a month.

It is likely that among the top 1000 channels, the most successful ones (i.e., the top thirty) are far ahead of the chasing pack and are therefore distorting the average (i.e, the mean income may be have been $23,000, but the median income—the income of the channels right in the middle of the top 1000—would be much lower).

Importantly, there are other possible sources of income such as merchandising, product placement, live performances and speaking engagements as well as advertising on associated websites.It is definitely possible to earn a living and have a comfortable lifestyle if you are one of the top YouTubers and are pulling in millions of viewers for each video, but we are not at the stage yet where we are reading articles about YT stars buying luxurious LA mansions and private jets.

 

Sharing the Pie

To further muddy the picture, it is not always clear how a channel’s revenue is being distributed. For example, The Yogcast, the team behind one of the top-earning channels, BlueXephos, consists of twenty people (as of May 2013) including the two co-founders. In addition, the Yogcast team is part of the TheGameStationNetwork (TGS), which is a a division of Maker Studios, one of the largest YouTube networks (these are somewhat akin to television networks). If you belong to a network, a chunk of your revenue will go to that network. Yet another expense may be licensing.

To sum up, the revenue from the The Yogcast related channels like Blue Xephos would be somehow divided amongst the 20 or so Yogcast members, but not before a large chunk is gobbled up by TGS, Maker Studios and producers of some of the games featured on the channel.Besides handling licensing issues, what else do the networks/studios do? Looking at the credits list in the following video in the Epic Rap Battles in History series (who are associated with Maker Studios) can give you a clue.

You might assume that the video was produced entirely by the two stars Nice Peter and EpicLLOYD; however, the credits in the description also include:

  • Three additional writers (Zach Sherwin, Dante Cimadamore, and Mike Betette),
  • music beats (The Unbeatables and Dizzy Productions),
  • song producer and mixer (Choco),
  • director and editor (Dave McCrary),
  • directors of photography (Jon Na and Layne Pavoggi),
  • gaffers (Arthur Hong and Blake O’Neal),
  • compositing and background design (Andrew Sherman),
  • assistant editors (Ryan Moulton and Marc Chester),
  • costume designer (Sulai Lopez),
  • makeup and hair stylists (Eva Buinowsky and Tara Lang),
  • art consultants (Mary Gutfleisch),
  • production assistants (Jose Mendoza, Yev Belilovsky and Trent Turner),
  • production coordinators (Shaun Lewin and Atul Singh) and
  • producer (Michelle Maloney).

That’s a lot of help! That’s a lot of salaries. Many YT stars have either signed contracts with large YouTube networks/studios like Maker Studios and Machinama or are working with their own crews. The studios provide technical, legal, creative and administrative support while taking a large percentage of the advertising revenue. In the contract dispute between Maker Studios and Ray William Johnson, Maker Studios argued that it deserved a larger percentage of Ray’s current and future income because of the large number of staff involved in the =3 show. In Ray’s written response— Why I Left Maker Studios—he reported the terms of the new contract he was being asked to sign:

They wanted 40% of my YouTube channel’s Adsense revenue after production costs, and more importantly, they wanted 50% of the show’s intellectual property in perpetuity. Let me clarify: they wanted to own 50% of the intellectual property of “Equals Three” for the rest of eternity.

Note that the cut taken by the studio is ‘after’ production costs.Most popular video makers will eventually have to decide whether it is worthwhile for them to join a network; however, owners of gaming channels looking to earn money don’t have much choice because of the difficulty of obtaining rights to monetize game-play footage. Even if you don’t join a network and are independent, like Ryan Higa of Nigahiga, there are often co-founders (in Ryan Higa’s case, Sean Fujiyoshi, Tim Enos, and Tarynn Nago), as well as recurring actors and/or technicians that might need to be paid.

Thus, the terms ‘gross revenue’ or ‘turnover’ might be more accurate than ‘income’ when describing the money generated from a video channel. From that revenue, you would need to pay the staff working for you (or indirectly pay those working for the network you belong to), any production costs, licensing costs and related expenses, not to mention taxes.If your format is a relatively simple one that doesn’t require much support like doing monologues directly to the camera (Phil DeFranco) or doing monologues and short skits (Natalie Tran, Ryan Higa), there is obviously more pie for you.

 

Can’t I Just Do Everything Myself?

You can, and you might have to at the beginning, but one trend is that popular channels and videos now tend to have high production values (well, a lot higher than a couple of years ago).  And these values come with their own costs. In commenting on YouTube’s own list of top ten viral videos, Josh Dawsey reports:

Five years ago, when YouTube pieced together its first list of the year’s top ten videos, many were accidental home videos or amateurish films never designed for widespread consumption, said Kevin Allocca, a trends manager for the company.With nine of the ten videos that made this year’s YouTube list coming from professional producers, making a video that appears to be an accidental hit is becoming increasingly typical….“There are more and more people who know how to build an audience, how to use YouTube,” Allocca said. “There are companies who spend millions and millions of dollars trying to create these videos.” (YouTube’s Top Ten Viral Videos of 2012

The Harlem Shake video craze, for example, was pushed heavily by Maker Studios. Though they did not create the original, they did create and promote the video (Office Version) that sent the silly dance viral (qz.com/67991/you-didnt-make-the-harlem-shake-go-viral-corporations-did/). A more recent example of a professionally produced and promoted viral hit is Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise, which is a promotion for the remake of Carrie.

It is getting more and more difficult for an independent amateur video maker to create a splash on YouTube. If you look at some of the relatively low production work of the early videos of the established stars, you might wonder how these videos would fare if they were new releases by unknown YouTubers in 2013.

Freddie Wong’s First YouTube Upload

A More Recent Upload from Freddie Wong (2013)

 

Do the Top YouTubers Deserve the Money?

The answer to that would have to be an unqualified ‘yes’. The most successful YouTubers have all been able to climb to the top of a very crowded and easy-to-enter market and are pulling in huge numbers of views. As of May 2013, the videos on Ray William Johnson’s =3 channel have received over two billion views and the 23 videos of Epic Rap Battles of History Season 2 have received half a billion views.

These views are not from one-off viral videos; they are from an established fan base built up steadily over the past couple of years. With those viewership figures, shouldn’t the stars be paid comparably to television celebrities? If we are going to make that comparison, we might conclude that YouTubers are underpaid if anything.

 

Caution!

Becoming hugely successful is one thing; staying there is another. The average number of views per video appears to be dropping among almost all the top YouTuber channels. For example, a couple of years ago, vlogger Jenna Marbles (www.youtube.com/user/JennaMarbles) was pulling in at least 10 million views per video, with her more popular ones receiving several times that number. Now, though still highly popular, she is generally reaching a more modest two to four million views per video, with only her most popular ones hitting 10 million. As most vlog videos get the vast majority of their views in the few weeks after being released, it is unlikely these new videos will ever come close to enjoying the popularity of her older ones.

This Wired article, The rise and fall of YouTube’s celebrity pioneers, looks at the video career trajectories or the original success stories on YouTube. Most of them have gone back to obscurity (which is not necessarily a bad thing!). How many of these early YouTube stars have you even heard of?

A related problem is keeping your audience, especially if you are targeting tween, teens or young adults or if you are making a trendy kind of video. If you are targeting younger viewers, they are going to grow up and will probably grow out of whatever it is you are doing. Will you be able to captivate the next generation of young viewers? As for trendy videos, now reaction videos are quite popular, but will viewers start to get bored of the format after a year or two?

Another potential problem is that there is no guarantee that companies will continue to pour as much money into social media advertising as they are now doing. If companies. especially those using the banner ads, caption ads and pre-roll adds that most channels earn their money from, find such ads are no longer worth the price and stop running them, the advertising rates paid to YouTube channel owners would also drop, as they have done already earlier this year, falling from $9.35 per 1000 views (using pre-roll videos) to $6.33 (www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-04-22/its-getting-harder-to-make-money-on-youtube).

A fourth problem is that YouTube fame does not always lead to fortune. A good example of this can be seen in the work of the indie band OK Go, who have had phenomenal success on YouTube, with the the Rube Goldberg machine video for their song This Too Shall Pass getting over 40 millions views and the video for Needing/Getting closing in on 30 millions views. However, the band’s music has not really taken off. Of the three albums the band has released since 2002, the highest position on the US Billboard Album charts has been 40 (the first two albums reached positions 107 and 69, and the albums barely registered on the British charts).

As the band had to pay off advances from their former record label, they are not seeing any money from YouTube. In short, their great success with viral videos has not translated into great record sales OR advertising income (you can read antiquiet’s article Why OK Go Make Awesome Videos but No Money for more information).

Conclusion

Yes, it’s possible to earn a good living, but this only holds true for the most popular channels. Unless you can also develop and nurture a channel so that it stands out from thousands of competing channels or unless you can find a way to make money from your video work above and beyond advertising revenue (e.g., by selling your music arrangements or craft patterns, by setting up speaking engagements or consultancy work etc.), you can consider being a YouTuber as a kind of part-time job or hobby. And even if you can claw your way to the top of the heap, at the moment, the financial rewards do not really compare to the possibilities offered to the top stars in other entertainment fields.Let’s take one last look at Natalie Tran, the top 10 earner mentioned at the beginning of this article. She recently took a half-year hiatus from her CommunityChannel vlogging and has just returned to making videos, though less frequently than before. The reason for the hiatus? She got a job in the ‘real world’. For anyone aspiring to Youtube stardom, that should be a sobering thought.Your Thoughts?What do you think? Do the YouTube stars deserve the money? Leave a comment below.


~by longzijun

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