YouTube implements tighter restrictions for creators to monetise their content
This one’s going to upset a lot of people. That much is obvious. Because, whenever YouTube move the goal posts required for monetisation, people always get upset. This morning I received an email which serves as 30 days notice that my channel is being removed from the YouTube Partner Programme. As I’m sure have countless thousands of other people.
The email (and a blog post) states that there are now new thresholds that must be met to monetise your YouTube channel. Those requirements are now a minimum of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time in the previous 12 months. They seem like unattainable goals to a brand new YouTuber just starting out today, and may cause us to see fewer new creators in the future. But are things as bad as it may seem?
It wasn’t that long ago that YouTube implemented a 10,000 views minimum requirement in order for your channel to qualify for monetisation. And, boy, was there a lot of noise from those who didn’t meet the requirements.
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.
– YouTube Blog Post
When such things happen, there are generally two ways we can respond.
Option #1 – Moan, complain and blame everybody but yourself
The first is to get on social media and start yelling at YouTube, ranting about how unfair it all is. Blame your ineligibility on everybody and everything but yourself. Your failure to create good enough content that people want to watch and share is everybody else’s fault, right?
When the 10,000 minimum views limit came in there was such an uproar. People were complaining about YouTube “destroying my career!” and going on about how much of a difference that income would make to their lives. But let’s be real for a minute. With the average income per thousand views on YouTube through AdSense, 10,000 views is about $14.
That’s hardly going to make or break most people, and it’s certainly not enough money to justify words like “career”. Especially when the AdSense minimum payout is $100. If you’ve been on YouTube for a year and you’re struggling to hit those 10,000 views, then chances are you won’t get your first payment for a few years anyway. So, what income are you really losing? How is it affecting you right now?
I saw a lot of people threatening to leave the platform, but where else are you going to go? If income is your goal, then Vimeo’s no good. They don’t really have any income potential there at all. Facebook? Their video advertising is still in beta, and only available to a small region of people throughout the world.
Some just gave up entirely and stopped creating videos anywhere. To me, this is the saddest course of action to take. Yes, everybody needs an income. We all have bills to pay, but if you’re worried about losing out on $14, then you’ve got bigger issues anyway. Losing $14 is not enough justification to give up something you’re supposed to be passionate about.
Creatives exist to create. Regardless of any income that we may derive from it, we have an urge to create. And if we’ve got another job to support us, then why give up creating over the cost of a couple of coffees? And if you do want to turn YouTube into some kind of real income, well, that just leads us to the second option.
Option #2 – Use it as motivation to push yourself and improve your content
This is the option I tend to go with when things like this come and hit me in the face. These thresholds aren’t really YouTube’s fault. The YouTube bosses don’t wake up every morning wondering “Right, how can we screw over the little guys today?” with evil grins on their faces. They’re responding to pressure from advertisers. Advertisers who pay YouTube money that YouTube then uses to pay us. No advertisers means no income.
YouTube also doesn’t pick arbitrary numbers when they set these thresholds, either. They’ve got millions of users and access to all the statistics. They can see the kind of analytics that all of the spam accounts get. As well as all of those channels simply breaking stealing the work of others and reposting it. Channels that are taking that advertising money off the back of content they didn’t even create. Stealing it from genuine creators.
YouTube has to make those advertisers happy, and so do we, as the creators making content for the platform. Content against which those advertisers names are associated.
Yes, 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours viewed over the previous 12 months sounds like a whole lot when you’ve got 3 subscribers and the only person who watches your videos the whole way through is your mother. But if your channel’s that new, even if monetisation was enabled, you’d still not see a payment for years with stats like those.
You have to put in the effort to create great content. Content that people want to watch, want to engage with and want to share with other people.
I’ve been slacking on my own YouTube channel. I’m currently sitting at a little under 700 subscribers, and my watch time is just a tad short of the required 4,000 hours. But it’s all my own fault. Like I said, I’ve been slacking.
I’ve been happy with my growth, and it’s been nice to get a little income bonus every few months, but I’ve still not been able to create and put out content as often as I’d like. But it’s still my own fault.
This is something that I think we should all be doing as creatives, regardless of whether we’re earning from it or not. And this goes for all platforms, too. Whether it’s YouTube, Instagram, Facebook or wherever. There are plenty of people out there who are still succeeding on all of these platforms, and more. Do you think that’s by accident?
How much do the new regulations relate to in real money?
It’s difficult to answer this question. One has to make a few assumptions. The first is that the only income we’re talking about is AdSense, and no sponsorships, no affiliate programmes, or anything else. The second is an average income per thousand views. And thirdly we have to consider the average watch time many creators will have on their channel. So, let’s say it’s $1.40 average per thousand views, and that your average watch time on your channel is 3 minutes.
4,000 hours is 240,000 minutes. With a 3 minute watch time average, that’s 80,000 views. At $1.40 per thousand views, that’s about $112. If that were a monthly income from AdSense, it’s a nice little boost. It might cover your Adobe CC subscription, let you buy yourself a little treat each month, or cover promoting your YouTube content on other platforms to build up your audience and income even further.
But we’re not talking monthly. It’s 4,000 hours over the previous 12 months. So, that $112 is in a year. That works out to about $9.33 a month. Which is basically just a couple of coffees. And it’s only about 200 video views on your channel (with a 3 minute average watch time) each day, which is nothing, really. If you’re worried that you’re no longer getting that less-than-$10 a month until you up your game, then your priorities are a little off anyway.
What can you do?
Well, the obvious suggestion is to get 1,000 subscribers and at least 4,000 hours viewed on your content as quickly as you can. But how to actually do that is another matter.
Use these new thresholds to motivate yourself to create better content. Up your production value. Create content that’s more interesting. Engage more with your audience to keep them coming back. Make them like your content so much that they want to share it with other people. If you create the kind of content that YouTube’s users want to see, then YouTube’s algorithm will take notice and promote your content to more people.
My own videos now are better than they were when I first started. Trying to film myself has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever attempted to do. And I’m totally not used to being on the other side of the camera. But the more I do it it, the better I feel I get at it. My videos now, hopefully, tell more of a story now than they used to. My watch time and engagement has gone up. I’ve got a slow but steady stream of new subscribers coming in. But I know that I’ve still got a very long way to go.
My biggest issue at the moment is actually making the time to be able to create content more often. Not how I said “making” and not “finding”. If you want to succeed on YouTube or anything else, really, you have to prioritise it and make the time for it. Finding the time suggests that everything else you do in life is more important. Perhaps, for you, it is. But, if that’s true, why be upset about not making an income from Youtube?
For me, income is not the driving factor for my YouTube channel. I just want to create videos. To learn how to do it by myself, rather than working as a tiny cog in a big machine, which is how I’ve worked in video in the past as just one of a whole crew. I want to create videos that I want to watch and document the shoots and other things I do with friends. I want to answer questions I get about the gear I use for photography. That may mean I’m making a video for an audience of one person. If others enjoy watching it too, then that’s awesome. If not, that’s ok, too.
But for those that do want to earn, there are plenty of other ways to generate an income from your content without AdSense. And even for many of the big YouTubers (100K+ subs) that I know, AdSense is the lowest performing of their income streams anyway. Check out things like Patreon to have your subscribers support you directly. Use affiliate programmes like Amazon, B&H or others better suited to the content on your channel. You can even seek direct sponsorship, too. Yes, some companies will still sponsor content with small channels if there’s a common goal and audience.
Whatever your reasons for being on YouTube, don’t get too disheartened by these new regulations. Use them as motivation to push yourself. Because if YouTube’s going to create any kind of serious income for you, then you’re going to be well over these minimum requirements anyway.
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John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.