I started my YouTube channel in its present form in the summer of 2010. I’d been watching a couple of channels consistently for about a year and by the time I entered college I was hooked. I created videos ranging from vlogs about Valentine’s Day to sketches about roommates. YouTube’s tagline was “Broadcast Yourself”, and I was all in.
At the time one of the biggest achievements on YouTube was being a member of the Partner Program. The program that allowed a creator to earn money off the advertisements shown by or in their videos. From 2007 to 2012 (when the Partner Program was opened to everyone) being a partner was coveted. You knew you were making moves when you were granted that status. And that’s what it was, it was status, it was worth. Partnership said, “Oh hey, what you’re doing on this site, it’s special and worth recognition”. And to YouTube, granting partnerships said, “Hey, your views are high enough that we can justify placing an ad on this content, yay money!”
So for me, 28 videos and a year later, I was given that gift. Suddenly I felt my place in the YouTube world take more shape. I was making friends, I had attended my first con, AND LOOK AT THAT, I was making money. You’ll hear most OG and first wave creators say, “When we started, it wasn’t about the money.”, which is true. Back then it was more of a mix of the possibility of relative stardom and the creative output the site drove. But, like how a year later, becoming a part of a MCN was a sign, being able to monetized showed you were heading in a positive direction. A direction that gave more purpose to the content you uploaded. One of my fondest memories on YouTube is the day I became a Partner. I was overjoyed, and it drove me to make more and better content.
I won’t go into a lot of details, I’m assuming that most people reading this are aware of how YouTube works and the latest dramas, but today, YouTube announced this,
Starting today we’re changing the eligibility requirement for monetization to 4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers. We’ve arrived at these new thresholds after thorough analysis and conversations with creators like you. They will allow us to significantly improve our ability to identify creators who contribute positively to the community and help drive more ad revenue to them (and away from bad actors). These higher standards will also help us prevent potentially inappropriate videos from monetizing which can hurt revenue for everyone. (https://youtube-creators.googleblog.com/2018/01/additional-changes-to-youtube-partner.html)
If you haven’t reached a 1,000 subscribers or 4,000 hours (not minutes, hours) of watch time you can not become a partner. And not only that, if you are currently monetized and you haven’t reached either of those metrics by February you will be demonetized.
In the last year on YouTube I didn’t even come close to reaching 4,000 hours of watchtime.
So just like that, after 7 YEARS OF BEING A PARTNER, I’m stripped of that title. Just like that. After no fault of my own except not uploading much in the past year (reasons why are for another time). Granted, being a partner nowadays means pretty much nothing. But I would guess that for a lot of us pre-2012 creators it has significance. It’s hard for me to describe how upsetting this is to me. It’s like if someone has taken the last reminder of a dead friend and burned it right in front of my eyes. Other than my friends and the videos I made, the YouTube that made me love YouTube, it’s gone.
Let me be quite clear and say I have NEVER made money on YouTube. I’ve gotten one check from YouTube. One. I literally do not care if I never see another one (which I won’t). This new policy by YouTube, my problem with it doesn’t have to do with the money, not really. Yes, I believe creators should be paid for driving viewers to YouTube (and thus ad views), and yes creators should see rewards for their hard work. In a YouTube that doled out money according to a more marketplace system this would be the case (which Jason Lanier goes briefly into in the most recent Ezra Klein show.) What I’m most pissed about is the disrespect, the dignity its stripping from creators. This is YouTube’s way of saying, “You all there at the bottom, piss off, we don’t care.”
It’s just another check of fundamental changes YouTube is choosing in order to reshape its business and push the platform into a future based on hollywood structures and platforms like Hulu and Netflix. The future just won’t be about organic creators and content. Sure, they’ll be people who rise out of the mess like there always has, but the well might run dry, and honestly, I hope it does.
I’ve tried to stay out of the past when it comes to this stinking platform. I’ll give my success rate a solid 60%. We’re humans, we love nostalgia and YouTube brings it out of people in full force. I’ll admit my bitterness towards the platform is shaped by those memories of the past. YouTube is special because of its medium, its a social platform gone way beyond that of Facebook or Twitter, and that specialness created an ethos shared by creators that is not easily shook. But the company has abandoned that ethos, and the creators are left with no closure and no explanations, just anger and bitterness.
So we grin and bare it. As each new policy or update comes we hoot and holler and carry on always thinking, “Well maybe next time… ” but we’re slowing approaching a new YouTube so far beyond where we started. It’s sad, but it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been loyal and enthusiastic about this platform and company for almost a decade, and this is how I’m to be repaid. At least now YouTube’s carnage is out in the open, laid out in its policies so clear as day. I quit months ago, too bad I didn’t get to do it in peace.