If you haven’t heard of the YouTube adpocolypse, you’re clearly stuck in the Negative Zone. For those not stuck in the Negative zone, it’s been quite tiresome, to say the least, YouTube’s reputation has been falling due to their lack of transparency among other reasons. Video after video has been demonetized with little to no explanation. The issue with YouTube is transparency. I’m not so deluded to think YouTube will hear my opinions, but I do have recommendations I think YouTube should implement to finally address the mistrust that is growing. This isn’t a commentary on the political or social controversies that YouTube is also under fire for, I’ll leave that to those with more knowledge to debate. I only want to address transparency issues and how YouTube can fix these problems.
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My channel is quite small, but that is irrelevant to this topic. I have over 15 years’ experience in Information Technology operations support. I understand what goes into providing a service that is reliable and trusted by the users who utilize those services. I also understand how quickly and devastating bad service and lack of transparency can be to a service. I see many of these mistakes being made by YouTube right now.
Over the last 12 months, I’ve had several videos demonetized, be it temporarily or permanently. I am hardly alone experiencing demonetization. This doesn’t have a big impact on me, since my channel is so small. For those with large channels, however, the loss of money while waiting for a manual review is becoming insurmountable for some. If you’re not familiar, YouTube has been tweaking their monetization algorithms, and adding a new monetization classification. The new classification includes a yellow icon which indicates your video is currently receiving limited or no ads, which means you might not be receiving advertisement revenues while in this state. This means your video is either considered not suitable for most viewers or it doesn’t meet the criteria for advertiser-friendly content. YouTube, however, doesn’t feel the need to inform you, or give you specific details of what’s in the video causing the issue.
It has become clear YouTube does not find it necessary to keep content creators informed. Instead, these demonetization actions just happen. The only way to know it happened is by scrolling through your content to see the monetization status to find those that have changed. Yes, there is a new view filtered to only show de-monetized content, but this is not enough.
I won’t explain the process to request a manual review in detail, but it’s a single step process where you click the manual review link, then wait and hope while you watch the critical first 48 hours of your video being publish just ticking away. Instead, let’s get into what I hope YouTube will do to address these transparency and trust complaints I and others have with the platform.
First, we need notifications. As a creator, I need to know as soon as my video monetization status changes. I used to get the copyright violation e-mails, but I’ve yet to get a notification when the monetization status changes. This shouldn’t be hard to implement, assuming the back-end software is written efficiently. Notifications can be as simple as an e-mail, an alert in the notifications, or a new dashboard widget displaying alerts. This change alone would provide an immense amount of transparency and give creators control of their channels. There have been numerous cases in which videos published years ago end up demonetized. Without a notification, a content creator must constantly check their content to ensure all videos are green. A simple notification would go a long way to increasing trust and transparency between creators and YouTube.
Second, content creators need details about these violations. Currently, we have the general definition of the status, nothing more. How about you, YouTube, give us what category our video matched which warranted it being flagged? Your algorithmic system clearly has this information or it couldn’t flag the videos; output that info into the notification you provide. This too, shouldn’t be that difficult to do. As a creator, it would be invaluable to know what to look for in my video so I can make a decision whether I want to modify my video or not. This information would give creators actionable information to decide whether a manual review is truly warranted or not. This can save both the content creator and YouTube time and money.
Third, give us the timestamp where the violation is. Assuming the processing is automated and algorithmic, YouTube should be able to store the timestamp and include this information in the notification provided. I shouldn’t have to explain why this information is useful, but clearly, I do. Finding the potential violation to determine if it’s legitimate. Right now, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack, except you don’t know if it’s a needle a joke, a political reference, or some other arbitrary thing. We have no idea what we’re looking for, or where it is in the video. Your software is already scanning through the video, storing the timestamp when a match is found should not be out of reach technologically.
Fourth, don’t assess strikes against channels for content that was once compliant and now is not. YouTube, you have every right to change your policies and re-certify older content to the new rules, but it is entirely unfair, and I would claim un-ethical, to assess a channel strike after a video had originally been compliant. You’re punishing channels for having content on your platform that no longer follows your guidelines.
Fifth, and likely the most difficult, is that YouTube provide more support options for creators of all sizes. I think a tiered system in which major channel creators would have a more direct and faster access to support services; while the smaller channels. might have to wait longer but if it’s clearly defined and easy to submit a support request and get a response, that would tone down the unrest considerably. As a creator, when you’ve worked on a video for a month all to find the video is not monetized and you have no recourse but a link to click and hope, that just doesn’t set a precedent of trust in YouTube.
I’m not trying to complain, or disparage you, YouTube. I just want you to treat content creators with a little more respect. When there are communication and transparency issues like this I see it as a culture of arrogance driving a wedge between YouTube and content creators. Trust can be lost very quickly and it’s so hard to gain it back. YouTube, you’ve been working to improve, I’ve seen those attempts through your various surveys you’ve put out over the last year. I applaud the efforts, but for how large you are, a lot of us expect so much more. We expect to see innovation. Of all the companies to solve this growing problem, it should be YouTube that can solve it. Perhaps the solution isn’t going to come from your own staff, perhaps the solutions will come from your creators. Listen to your content creators. Please, listen to us.