YouTube demonetization is an evergreen frustration for creators, one that affects both newcomers and superstars at the very top.
Though demonetization always hits up-and-comers the hardest, new testimonials from well-known names like Philip DeFranco, Casey Neistat and Patreon CEO Jack Conte claim that everyone is hurting. “View suppression” is on the rise, and creators are looking for new revenue streams to support their videos. This even includes exploring different avenues such as possibly moving away from YouTube as a primary platform.
To properly understand what’s happening with YouTubers, and why these new demonetization-adjacent worries are causing creators grief, we need to understand view suppression.
View suppression refers to videos not appearing for a particular creator’s regular viewers on the homepage, on trending or in the recommendation tab. This is slightly different from demonetization. Demonetized videos that fall under mature categories — these include videos dealing with topics that might make advertisers skittish — are also kept from trending, the homepage and the recommended tab, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those videos are suppressed. DeFranco’s videos might not be recommended to a general YouTube audience, but his regular viewers may still get a prompt for his latest update.
Here’s the issue: People who watch YouTubers like Philip DeFranco or Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, two creators who constantly deal with demonetization problems because of their content, are reportedly not seeing the videos at all. The videos are apparently not appearing in the personalized section on YouTube’s front page, which specifically recommends videos for users based on their interests. YouTube isn’t necessarily hiding the videos, but they’re reportedly slightly more difficult for people to find.
Not only are DeFranco’s videos getting demonetized because of the content (covering topics like the war in Syria or mass shootings), but he’s getting real-time feedback from people saying they can’t find his videos as easily as they should be able to. Polygon has reached out to YouTube for more information.
The effects of view suppression are noticeable, with DeFranco claiming a loss of about 300,000 to 450,000 views for every video hit. DeFranco refers to this as a “sister algorithm” problem — a side effect of the growing demonetization issues that are affecting creators.
“Often when you see YouTube comments about demonetization, they often separate it from suppression of views,” DeFranco said. “It’s accurate, but at the same time, very misleading.”
DeFranco is one of the most well-known creators on YouTube, with more than 6 million subscribers. He’s become the voice of the YouTube creator community, speaking out about demonetization woes. His recent video about the state of his own channel, and possibly having to look into other ventures as a means to support himself and grow his business, sent a ripple effect through the community. DeFranco has always been a symbol of grander YouTube dreams, a model of success for people just coming up.
“As of right now, with the current state of YouTube, the Philip DeFranco Show can not thrive,” DeFranco said. “In fact, I think very soon the Philip DeFranco Show may not be able to survive. It all really boils down to the increased crackdown from YouTube against this channel.”
YouTube executives have responded to demonetization issues on multiple occasions. CEO Susan Wojcicki specifically spoke about the problem in a blog post on Dec. 4. Wojcicki acknowledged that YouTube had not done right by its creators, and promised to be more transparent. Wojcicki wrote:
We’ve heard loud and clear from creators that we have to be more accurate when it comes to reviewing content, so we don’t demonetize videos (apply a “yellow icon”) by mistake. We are planning to apply stricter criteria and conduct more manual curation, while also significantly ramping up our team of ad reviewers to ensure ads are only running where they should. This will help limit inaccurate demonetizations while giving creators more stability around their revenue. We will be talking to creators over the next few weeks to hone this new approach.
This is where YouTube’s creator community feels like it’s constantly butting heads with the company. Despite Wojcicki’s claims in the blog post that YouTube wants to be more transparent with creators, the evidence suggests otherwise. A video published three weeks ago by Nerd City, a YouTube channel that has gained notoriety for its in-depth investigations into YouTube issues like demonetization, suggests that YouTube isn’t sharing everything with creators.
YouTube is reportedly using internal MPAA-style rating systems for YouTube videos, and letting advertisers decide the range of rated content on which they want ads to appear. The tool also lets advertisers call out specific types of videos they don’t want ads running on, including “tragedy and conflict, sensitive social issues, profanity and rough language, sexually suggestive and sensational and shocking.” Videos that deal with tragedy and conflict or sensitive social issues cover a large portion of DeFranco’s videos, which would fall under a mature rating, according to Nerd City’s investigation. Polygon has also reached out for confirmation on this internal rating system, and for further information.
“It’s really frustrating to be a creator on YouTube because we don’t really know what’s going on,” Kjellberg said in a response video, seen below. “I think YouTube is so scared of telling people what’s going on for media outrage and for people abusing the system, so they don’t generally keep us in the loop.”
The reported combination of a mature rating and content that advertisers don’t want to touch may lead to suppressed views, which is what DeFranco is airing grievances over. Nerd City’s investigation found that if a video gets labeled internally as mature, it gets recommended far less, even to regular viewers. The bot being used by YouTube to label videos, according to Nerd City, couldn’t differentiate between a video raising awareness about suicide and a video mocking mental illness.
“I am tired of trying to work with the alcoholic, negligent stepfather that is YouTube,” DeFranco said. “At this point, it really doesn’t matter if you’re swerving this car into a tree on purpose, or you’re just asleep at the wheel and that’s what happened.”
Again, this is something that other top creators have spoken about in their own videos. They’ve acknowledged that if YouTube isn’t being upfront with its most notable creators, then lesser-known creators are surely not being told what’s happening to their channels.
“Every time I upload a video, I sort of have to guess, ‘OK, it went yellow. Why? Why was it demonetized?’” Kjellberg said. “I just think this could be solved so easily if we just knew what the rules were and the system was more clear, and we had better guidelines as a creator.”
Frustration is festering, and the result is that notable creators are looking at new platforms. DeFranco is threatening to leave YouTube (something he’s suggested in the past), and Casey Neistat is teaming up with Patreon co-founder Jack Conte for a “billion dollar idea,” according to a new video.
Neistat’s potential collaboration couldn’t have come at a more opportunistic or ironic time. Conte’s core belief is that creators shouldn’t have to rely on problematic revenue streams like Google’s AdSense to support their day-to-day existence. Patreon is built on allowing users to support their favorite creators. Conte wants to build on that idea by partnering with Neistat, a creator whom many see as a spiritual godfather of sorts, and giving YouTubers that same kind of support.
“I want creative people to be valued what they’re actually valued at,” Conte said in the video below. “I want there to be zero gap between what a creative person is worth and the money they are given by the world.”
The idea, based on the video, is to figure out a way for Neistat’s new company, 368, to work with Patreon and support smaller creators. The focus would be on supporting YouTubers directly, and giving creators a chance to figure out how to make a living solely creating content for YouTube.
It might not work; there’s a very good chance that it won’t. Patreon has its own issues with creators that have been voiced before. But it represents another shifting of the winds for the creator community. Wojcicki said in that December blog post that “as challenges to our platform evolve and change, our enforcement methods must and will evolve to respond to them. But no matter what challenges emerge, our commitment to combat them will be sustained and unwavering.”
The everlasting concerns from creators is how far those necessary steps will go “to protect our community and ensure that YouTube continues to be a place where creators, advertisers, and viewers can thrive” and ensure that YouTube actually remains a place where creators can survive.