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'This sucks hard': Smaller YouTubers feel screwed by the new monetisation rules

  • YouTube has changed which creators can make money from their videos as part of its crackdown on inappropriate content, after vlogger Logan Paul filmed a dead body.
  • The new rules mean channels have to have 4,000 hours of watchtime in the last year, and 1,000 subscribers - anyone who doesn't meet the criteria can't make money from ads from February.
  • This cuts out lots of smaller YouTube creators who are big enough to make money from ads, but can't meet those targets.
  • Many small creators have discovered they will be demonetised from February because they won't meet the standards, and feel they are being punished for the mistakes of bigger, more popular YouTubers.

Aaron Meehan is a 28-year-old vlogger and writer based in Dublin who posts game review videos to YouTube several times a week. His channel, SG Gaming Info, doesn't bring him much revenue, but the money he earns from ads is a nice incentive to keep posting. He isn't currently employed, and views YouTube as a way to get his work out there. His most watched video has more than 180,000 views.

On 5am on Wednesday morning, Meehan received an unexpected email from YouTube telling him that his small revenue stream would be cut off in the next 31 days, unless he could meet new requirements.

All he needed, YouTube said, was to hit 1,000 subscribers and rack up 4,000 hours in watchtime by February 20. Meehan currently sits at 139 subscribers and told Business Insider that sometimes he hits the watchtime goal, but sometimes he's under.

"I'm about 800 away from 1,000 subs," he told Business Insider during a call. "I'm a pretty small channel. I wouldn't think it's possible if I go by how [views] increase and decrease for myself. Some channels have a better chance."

YouTuber Aaron Meehan

YouTube/Aaron Meehan

Aaron Meehan

The new rules affect YouTube's partner program, where channels that meet certain thresholds make money from the ads that appear against their videos. Prior to the new changes, YouTubers needed 10,000 views over the lifetime of their channel. What's galling is that YouTube only introduced that 10,000 views threshold in April last year - meaning the goalposts have changed for small creators in less than 12 months.

When Meehan qualified for YouTube's partner program, he had access to a dashboard that projected his monthly revenue - which may not stack up to a YouTuber's actual revenue. Meehan told Business Insider that his month's projected revenue was €1.59 (£1.41). It's a negligible amount but, Meehan said, removing even that small sum means creators don't have a lot of incentive to try any harder.

"I don't get enough ad clicks to be able to make YouTube financially viable, but I was pushing towards that," he said. "Seeing this new roadblock in my way, it's putting me off. Do I want to continue with YouTube, and face this hurdle?"

Meehan also thinks the new requirements don't make sense, and will disproportionately impact anyone who might have lots of subscribers but doesn't rack up lots of hours in watchtime. An example he gives are animators who might be popular in terms of subscribers, but only post very short videos.

"YouTube could have a choice between watched hours or 1,000 subscribers as a compromise," he said. Both criteria together makes less sense to him.

Meehan and other creators believe the new rules are a "kneejerk" reaction from YouTube, which introduced the stricter policies after vlogger Logan Paul posted a video of a dead body from Japan's "suicide forest", and gaming vlogger PewDiePie used the "n" word in a livestream. Both YouTubers have millions of subscribers and viewers.

"Why should smaller YouTubers be affected by what the big boys do, what Logan Paul and PewDiePie do?" Meehan asked.

"Fuck YouTube for taking me out of the YouTube Partnership when I've been a partner for almost 6 years," wrote another YouTuber on Twitter. "These new guidelines are insane for small YouTubers."

The YouTube subreddit also included users upset about the new changes. "As a small Youtube who doesn't meet those guidelines, it's hard for me not to see how I've been ultimately fucked over by this platform who doesn't give a shit about me. Screw Youtube and everything they stand for," wrote one user.

Another user called Torkona commented: "I have over 1,000,000 views but only over 800 subs. This is a great monthly addition to my income. My subs are so slow. This sucks hard. You would think if you have enough views the subs shouldnt matter. 1000 subs is really tough to hit."

For Meehan, there's no reason anyone starting out on YouTube wouldn't turn to a competitor like Instagram, Twitch, or gaming site Mixer.

"I want to see what happens by the time February comes around," said Meehan. "I'm debating moving to Twitch or Mixer, which are more worth my time. I put several hours into making a video review - so if I feel my chance of getting any monetary return was zero, then what's the point?"

You can watch Meehan talking through YouTube's changes here:

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