Alphabet's (GOOGL) YouTube is moving to crack down on impostor content, but could be resolving some of its brand safety issues in the process.
In a blog post late yesterday, the video site announced that its YouTube Partner Program will no longer serve ads on videos until the provider's overall channel reaches 10,000 lifetime, or total, views. The purpose of the new policy is to prevent users from re-uploading others' content onto YouTube and making money off of it -- a problem that Ariel Bardin, YouTube's vice president of product management, acknowledges has become more and more significant as the site has made it easier for users to make a living on YouTube.
"This new threshold gives us enough information to determine the validity of a channel," Bardin wrote in the blog post. "It also allows us to confirm if a channel is following our community guidelines and advertiser policies."
Additionally, YouTube will soon roll out a new review process for creators who apply to be in the YouTube Partner Program, in which it will review a channel's content against existing advertising policies and community guidelines before approving them to run ads.
YouTube launched the Partner Program in 2007, but only opened it up to all creators in 2012. The move was a pretty significant change for YouTube because it allowed any user to upload videos and almost immediately begin making money off of advertising impressions. But recently the site has been getting complaints from popular content creators who say other users have re-uploaded their original content and are able to make money off of it through the Partner Program. A YouTube spokesperson said the site has been working to revamp the Partner Program since last November.
The moves come as YouTube has faced a growing boycott from several major U.S. advertisers, including AT&T (T) and Coca-Cola (K) , who became concerned that their ads were running alongside videos that promoted hate speech, violence and racism. Many responded by pulling their ads from YouTube, as well as other non-search properties on Google.
"YouTube's biggest strength is also its greatest challenge -- policing this mass of crowdsourced content is an extremely daunting prospect," said Matt Bailey, a digital media analyst at market research firm Ovum. "If Google is to earn back advertisers' trust, greater regulation of at the very least monetizable content, if not all content, on YouTube will be crucial."
YouTube's announcement on Thursday isn't a direct response to those brand safety issues, but should help resolve some of problematic content issues on the lower end, said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. For now, YouTube appears to be "taking baby steps" to address its brand safety issue as it walks a fine line between protecting brands and protecting "creators' livelihoods," Dawson noted.
While the policy change does reduce the total pool of users that can monetize their videos (and by which Google can make advertising revenue off of), the ad dollars that are being restricted by the change are miniscule.
"10,000 views generate such a minimal amount of ad revenue that this isn't going to hurt anyone's ability to make money," Dawson wrote in a post on technarratives.com. "As long as the threshold stays at this low level, then, this might be a relatively painless way to introduce at least a low bar to monetization on YouTube."
YouTube user Morjax wrote in a Medium post that the average ad return per 1,000 views on YouTube is estimated to be at about $1.40. So by the time a user reaches 10,000 lifetime views, they will have only made $14.00. In other words, by setting a 10k threshold, YouTube isn't cutting off a huge source of income under the new policy.
However, the policy affects a sizable number of YouTube users: Morjax also estimates that approximately 2.5 million YouTube accounts have lifetime views that are less than 10,000.
And Bailey pointed to YouTube's recent PewDiePie controversy as a case where this policy won't address some facets of its brand safety issue. Last month, YouTube's top star had his show pulled from YouTube Red, the site's premium content offering, after posting a video with anti-Semitic jokes. The video caused Disney (DIS) to cut its ties with the Swedish star, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg.
"The recent controversies surrounding PewDiePie serve to emphasize the lack of control YouTube holds over even its biggest and most monetizable creators," Bailey noted. "In essence, relying on user-generated content -- as YouTube has done for so long -- may be great for scale, but it is dangerous for monetization."