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Will Your Videos Survive? How to Handle The Terms-of-Service Changes on YouTube

YouTube Terms of Service Changes
Video graphic from Envato Market.

Could it really be the end of YouTube as we know it? After rolling out their new Terms of Service changes, YouTube has sent the internet and its publishers into a frenzy trying to make sense of the whole ordeal.

So what are these changes and how will they affect YouTubers? Let’s take a look and find out below.

Changes to the YouTube Terms of Service

When YouTuber Phillip Defranco posted the video, YouTube is Shutting Down My Channel And I’m Not Sure What To Do, the internet reacted with a flurry of panic, specifically from video creators.

The hashtag #YouTubeisOverParty became a popular trend on Twitter, with channels of all sizes contributing their two cents to the matter.

The Big Worry

So what was everyone upset about? Any why would it mean the end of YouTube?

Take a gander at this little section under Youtube’s Partner Program Policies:

“Content that may be acceptable for YouTube under YouTube policies may not be appropriate for Google advertising. Google’s program policies
provide additional guidelines for what can be monetized, and
advertisers also have their own standards and requirements for content.”

“YouTube reserves the right to not monetize a video, as well as suspend
monetization features on channels that repeatedly submit videos
violating our policies.”

Dropped an F-bomb in your latest video? Demonetized.

Wrote a sex joke into your headline? Demonetized.

Commented on a violent news topic? Demonetized…maybe.

The Actual Changes

But wait, it gets more confusing?

For many creators, these guidelines are a huge deal, but they actually aren’t new. According to an official statement from YouTube:

“While our policy of de-monetizing videos due to advertiser-friendly
concerns hasn’t changed, we’ve recently improved the notification and
appeal process to ensure better communication.”

In other words, you might’ve already been losing out on ad revenue, but now YouTube provides a notification to creators.

How thoughtful.

How You Might Be Impacted By the Changes

As a publisher on YouTube, you run the risk of having your videos “demonetized” (or outright removed, in some cases) if they violate the terms of service. Demonitization means that you will no longer receive ad revenue on those flagged videos, and may never have ad revenue reinstated if the videos don’t survive the appeal process.

To run ads on and alongside your videos, YouTube prefers that you create Advertiser-Friendly content. This means that you won’t receive ad revenue on videos with any of the following:

YouTube Advertiser Friendly Content
Advertiser-Friendly Content via YouTube
  • Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor
  • Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism
  • Inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language
  • Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use and abuse of such items
  • Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including
    subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and
    tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown

It’s still tough to say which channels will and won’t survive because these terms are extremely broad, and vague. Anyone could violate them. Many video creators are experiencing a kind of shock at the new feeling of unpredictability in a system that has been relatively stable. How do they determine which content is accepted versus content that isn’t? Where is the line? Some of your favorite daily vloggers, comedians, musicians, and news shows are on edge knowing that their content is so often in direct violation.

Can They Really Do This?

Yes, they can.

Keep in mind that this is 100% legal. When you accept the terms of service for YouTube it is your responsibility to follow their rules, even if there are parts of those rules you disagree with. YouTube is not a public service or a utility, it’s a business. Google has a right to do with that business whatever they please.

For years, YouTuber’s took pride in the ability to create brands, large communities, and an income off the back of being themselves. But now, with changes in how the ad-friendly content clauses are enforced, many are worried that these policies are a form of censorship.

Let’s try to look at this topic from a different angle. If you were a company investing thousands towards your online ad campaigns, would you be happy if your ads appeared next to a controversial or offensive video? YouTube isn’t stopping people from putting videos online, they’re saying they’re only interested in financially supporting certain kinds of videos from now on.

In other words, YouTube is taking a more active role in managing their internal economy. There are some classes of video advertisers are willing to pay to show their ads with, and some they just aren’t.

Regardless of the number of views your videos get, YouTube has a bottom line to maintain, and it’s important for brands to feel well represented by the content their ads adorn. Remember, Google isn’t just any business: it’s an advertising business. Though they obviously have a strong interest in supporting YouTubers, their first priority is to create an attractive platform for advertisers.

So What Can I Do?

It’s not the end of the world just yet. YouTube has been a game changer
for the lives of many, creating communities and transforming regular Joes with internet stardom, but it is a fickle partner. There are several possible routes to take from here.

Re-brand Your Channel

If there is room for re-branding, consider small changes you could make to keep your channel alive. Test out those changes by creating new advertiser-friendly content. See how your audience responds, as well as YouTube. If the rebranding works, keep rocking out with these new videos. Depending on your channel and the kind of income you need to get from YouTube this could be a relatively small shift in the balance of what you make.

Retain Your Current Brand

Maybe you’re known for your harsh potty mouth. The first step to retaining your current ad revenue is to appeal. With the new notifications, you can now receive alerts when your videos have been demonetized so it’s important to act fast and get a person in front of your content for review. 

Switch to Alternate Sources of Income

If your channel is too controversial, now is the time to separate your income from YouTube. You can still post videos there, of course, but seek out sponsors that will pay you directly: just cut YouTube right out of the equation.

Here are some other types of income you could bring in:

  • Sell merchandise, online and offline
  • Create a Patreon page for additional audience-direct support
  • Start a related business inspired by your channel
  • Become a paid consultant or speaker
  • Do native advertising (also called content marketing) or product placement
  • Sell “sponsored by” advertising spots in your videos

Consider Other Video Platforms

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your income by taking advantage of what the internet has to offer. Depending on your following as well as your willingness to adapt, you could always try to:

And so much more! Remember, you’re running a business here. Learn to adapt to these changes and you’ll be stronger for it in the end. Interested in getting into live streaming, for instance? Learn more from our tutorials below:

Build Your Own Platform

YouTube is an extremely powerful way to reach a wide casual audience, and you should have some presence there, but it’s actually a somewhat poor way to build deep repeat engagement with a more committed audience. Whether you already have a big audience on YouTube or not, it’s worth considering a self-hosted video alternative. These days it’s not that hard to create a personalized, and potentially more lucrative, video streaming website of your own.

VHX (owned by Vimeo) and Uscreen are powerful white label video services that will host you videos, build your web presence, and handle the money. You get a fully branded set of sites and apps for yourself, and they’ll distribute your videos to Over the Top services like tvOS and Android TV. VHX and Uscreen are perfect if you’re less technical or don’t have the time to worry about building websites.

Of course there are other streaming video hosts that will work with your existing sites, too. Envato Tuts+ uses a website of our own construction and design, but we host videos with Wistia. Hosting video with a third-party host like Wistia gives us a high level of dependability, powerful stats, plenty of flexibility, and cutting edge video players. It’s great for SEO, too.

So is This the End of YouTube?

The number one problem YouTubers have is a disconnect. YouTube is a business, but they built that business by heavily funding and creating as a space for creative expression. Video creators are justified in feeling some ownership over that success. Ultimately, though, YouTube is not a public space, and there is no such thing as free speech on a private platform, let alone the right to be paid for it.

Although it feels like censorship, your viewers are receiving free entertainment supported by advertisers. There are inevitable repercussions and limitations when advertisers foot the bill. You can sustain your brand and community if you’re willing to bend to those wishes.

Could this be the end of YouTube? Do you consider their guidelines a form of censorship? What will these changes do to the kind of videos on YouTube? Join in on the conversation and let us know what you think!

And to follow this topic, check out some of these links below: