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YouTube’s new monetization policy won’t mean much for gaming channels

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Let’s Player says only a fifth of all channels could stand to lose ads

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YouTube courted some controversy yesterday with the announcement of a revision to its partner program. Content creators will no longer be able to profit of their videos until their channels hit 10,000 total views. Although this threshold may sound steep for YouTubers with small followings, one statistically minded Let’s Player told Polygon that the actual impact will be minimal at best.

Steve “Morjax” Sylvestre runs a gaming-focused YouTube channel, which features playthroughs and explainers on a regular basis. He’s got about 3,000 subscribers; that’s way below the likes of Slowbeef or PewDiePie. From a certain perspective, this may put Morjax into the “small content creators” camp.

But beyond just making videos, Morjax also has a thing for looking into the data behind the Let’s Play and greater YouTube communities, and a recent post to his Medium site gives insight into how many creators really stand to take a hit from the new partner program policy.

The answer? Not as many as one may think.

“If we use this average value of 0.008 subscribers per view, that 10,000 lifetime view requirement for monetization works out to about 80 subscribers on average,” Morjax wrote on Medium. That average is derived from a series of studies he conducted on the number of subscribers YouTube content creators have, both Let’s Play-based and otherwise.

Ultimately, Morjax found that just about 20 percent of YouTube channels fail to meet that 80-subscriber threshold. That shakes out to some 2.5 million channels. But Morjax and many of his fellow Let’s Play makers aren’t in that camp. Those who are, Morjax told Polygon, are most likely content creators with channels full of superficial, spammy content.

“As it is right now, anyone can make an account, and partner with YouTube, and then run any kind of content they like so long as it's within YouTube's community guidelines,” he said. “The difficulty of getting a channel to 10,000 views will likely be enough to stop most of the trolls (not from making their videos, but from running ads against them). So in that way, it's somewhat a protection for advertisers and an extension of goodwill from YouTube to their advertisers. “

While there are certainly YouTubers upset with this change and other recent issues with advertising on the platform, there are many creators with varied follower counts who seem to share Morjax’s view.

An anecdotal glance at gaming-based channels on YouTube also finds that getting to the 10,000 lifetime views-mark isn’t as lofty as it may sound. Let’s Players are prolific; uploading an entire game in parts means that there will be a lot of videos to sift through, even if they don’t all rack up a ton of views. Many content creators have thousands of videos to their names, so even if none of them have more than 100 views, they’ll still be eligible for monetization under the new policy.

Even if they don’t ever make it to 10,000, as Morjax explained on Medium, they likely weren’t generating much money before the policy change anyway. By his calculations, the average profit per 1,000 views is $1.40. That means channels need to be worth at least $14 for YouTube to consider placing advertisements on their content. $14 isn’t peanuts, but it’s not enough to convince someone to make YouTube-ing their full-time pursuit.

Still, the change likely won’t be enough to get rid of those spammy, subscribers-for-subscribers-type channels. It’s not difficult or expensive to buy YouTube views in the thousands. There’s an important note that some may have missed about the new threshold, though: Hitting 10,000 views doesn’t automatically mean YouTube will place ads on a channel.

“You simply get audited at that point,” explained Morjax. “It's going to be a LOT of work for YouTube to screen all those channels, but YouTube is, as I have said, good at seeing spammy tactics and screening for them.”

The big takeaway here is that small-but-growing YouTube channels will have a very slightly tougher time to start generating a small cashflow. Meanwhile, spam accounts and junk channels may never again be able to profit off their lacking content.

This is a change that most should be able to live with, according to Morjax and many of his peers.

“Creators seem to like to get really worked up and get out the old pitchforks and torches whenever there's a change to YouTube (because it's many of their livelihood), but I think this is going to be a positive change overall,” he said.