Are YouTube’s Advertiser Friendly Policies Too Draconian? Or Are Advertisers Not Being Fair to Independent Creators?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve delved into some pressing issues affecting small and medium-sized creators on YouTube. One of the most significant concerns is the invalid traffic issue, where creators have seen a drastic reduction in their ad revenue without any clear explanation from YouTube.

In my latest video, I discuss YouTube’s advertiser friendly policies. Are they too restrictive? I believe they are, especially when we consider the evolving media landscape. It seems that advertisers might be giving YouTube a harder time, or perhaps YouTube isn’t advocating enough for its creators.

For instance, YouTube, despite being one of the world’s largest websites with over a billion monthly viewers, faces challenges with monetizable video inventory. Not every video qualifies for monetization due to YouTube’s ad-friendly policies or other related criteria. This has led to frustrations among advertisers who are finding it challenging to place their ads on desired YouTube content. The introduction of YouTube Shorts has also reportedly cannibalized the core YouTube business, making it harder for advertisers to book long-form ads.

YouTube’s response to these challenges is to try and squeeze more advertising inventory out of their existing stock of videos. They’re doing this through becoming more aggressive in restricting ad-blockers and have removed most of the ad placement controls creators used to have when uploading videos. They’re also now automatically running mid-roll ads during livestreams.

Driving the problem might be that only a fraction of YouTube videos can be monetized thanks to the very heavy restrictions YouTube was forced to bring to the platform. The root of these restrictive policies can be traced back to the “adpocalypse” a few years ago. Major advertisers paused their YouTube ad purchases after objectionable videos were found to be paired with their ads. YouTube’s quick fix was to implement an algorithmically driven system to determine video suitability for advertising. Over time, these guidelines have become more restrictive, with many creators finding it challenging to navigate the ever-changing rules.

For example, Juane Brown from the Blancolirio channel, an expert in aviation, has faced numerous limitations in monetizing his insightful analysis of aircraft accidents. Combat Veteran Reacts, a channel that provides valuable insights into global conflicts from a US Army combat veteran, has also faced challenges in monetizing coverage of the conflict in Ukraine.

What’s even more concerning is that while YouTube’s policies are becoming stricter, major advertisers are placing ads on content on other platforms that would clearly violate YouTube’s guidelines. For instance, violent movies like American Psycho that violate numerous policies on YouTube are fully monetized on Peacock with ads from major brands like Subaru, Progressive Insurance, Adobe, TJ Maxx and more.

There was a time when pay-tv channels like HBO (now Max) could push the envelope as they did not have to worry about offending advertisers. But in this new era most of the major streaming providers, including Max, are running ads on that very same content.

So, how can we address this? Trust is a significant factor. Why can’t YouTube develop some level of trust with responsible professional creators who are contributing useful information and discussion to the world? Shouldn’t creators with a track record of responsible reporting be trusted with major brand advertising especially if those brands are advertising on similar content on other platforms?

Instead YouTube treats all creators with an equal layer of distrust, paying content moderators to watch every single video uploaded from channels that have never had an advertiser friendly violation.

Moreover, YouTube needs to advocate for its creators. If platforms like Peacock can have ads on content like American Psycho, why isn’t YouTube pushing back on advertisers to get them to loosen up for responsible independently produced content that is just as valuable as what major media organizations provide?

I fear this is another example of YouTube continuing their corporate march to make themselves more like TikTok and Instagram, rewarding fluff over substance. What sets YouTube apart are the many independent voices that for the first time in history can be heard at enormous scale.

I hope at some point they’ll get back to their roots and build upon their strengths versus emulating their competitors.