A while back, some major companies pulled their ad spend from YouTube and parent company Google amidst concerns that their ads were appearing alongside hate speech and other controversial content pieces. This boycott of the internet video hosting giant is ongoing, and Google’s Chief Business Officer, Phillipp Schindler, published a public reply in the Google Blog to the boycott which was picked up by numerous news outlets.
So, what was Google’s reply to the boycott? Is the search engine giant set to overthrow advertising?
Probably not, giving the content of the post:
What Did Google Say?
The blog, which was titled Expanded Safeguards for Advertisers, stated that:
Google has enabled millions of content creators and publishers to be heard, find an audience, earn a living, or even build a business. Much of this is made possible through advertising. Thousands of sites are added every day to our ad network, and more than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. We have a responsibility to protect this vibrant, creative world—from emerging creators to established publishers—even when we don’t always agree with the views being expressed. But we also have a responsibility to our advertisers who help these publishers and creators thrive. –Phillipp Schindler, CBO, Google
Schindler went on to state that Google will take “a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content” and that “the YouTube team is taking a hard look at our existing community guidelines to determine what content is allowed on the platform—not just what content can be monetized.”
Part of this initiative will take place in the form of new controls for advertisers, such as:
- “Safer” Brand Setting Defaults; and
- Simplified Exclusion Management.
The post also mentioned “fine-tuned” controls to be released over time, but did not supply specifics about their nature or operation.
The general idea presented in the article seems to be that Google will tighten restrictions on content creators while giving advertisers more control and transparency in exactly how their ad dollars are applied.
Why This is a Problem for Content Creators on YouTube
This YouTube boycott—let’s call it the “Adpocalypse” for now, already posed a significant threat to content creator ad revenues when only a few of the biggest spenders pulled their ad budgets from the platform. Fewer advertisers competing for ad space means that the ad space is worth less, meaning smaller gains from each ad play.
However well-intentioned the changes highlighted in the Expanded Safeguards article may be, they’re likely going to have a harsh impact on many content creators while still falling short of advertiser expectations for a number of reasons:
- The Impossible Content Load. Although Google is promising to add more people and automated tools to moderate content on their YouTube platform, it’s never going to be enough to prevent every issue or handle every content creator’s needs fairly. In Google’s own post, they state that over 400 hours of content is uploaded to the platform every minute. That’s 576,000 hours of content a day! To watch one day’s content generation, Google would need 72,000 people doing nothing but watching new video for 8 hours a day with no breaks.
- Who Arbitrates What’s Appropriate? At first glance, promising to crack down on controversial content seems like an easy enough proposition. However, it can be far too easy for someone to have their videos marked controversial for a parodic or even instructive work. One person’s biology lesson might be interpreted as too risqué by another. A comedy routine that gets laughs from one audience might offend someone else. Even critical reviews of works might get flagged as inappropriate—much like what happens to some critics when they release a negative review of a product and the product’s owner abuses the copyright claim system to take down the video.
- Lack of Resources on the Advertiser’s End. The advertisers themselves will need to spend time and resources on managing their advertising revenue. However, not every advertiser will have all of the necessary resources to check every website and YouTube channel that their content will be displayed on—even with the new tools Google’s promising.
These issues will limit the effectiveness and accuracy of any efforts by Google to moderate the placement of ads. Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools can index videos super-fast and even help manage “trustworthiness” levels for different content creators, but no system is perfect.For example, flaws in the Content ID system that YouTube used to identify copyrighted content allowed some companies to abuse ID claims and outright steal money from content creators. The issue was eventually fixed, but it took a massive uproar and some grass roots activism using the hashtag “#WTFU,” or “Where’s The Fair Use?”
What Can Content Creators Do?
With the only certainty regarding ad revenue on YouTube being continued uncertainty, what can content creators do to continue making a living? The first thing every content creator should do is explore alternative methods of monetizing their work and their fans.
Forming partnerships with advertisers to directly embed ads in videos, creating online shops, and setting up special subscriber-only mobile apps complete with exclusive access to behind-the-scenes videos and other special content.
Learn more about how YouTube content creators can weather the Adpocalypse on YouTube by using a personal white-labeled mobile app today!