YouTube has spent most of 2018 ticking off its creative userbase, it seems. And like, also ticking off everyone else too. From the Logan Paul incident, in which one of the most popular YouTube personalities made an enormous fool of himself in Japan, to subsequent policy adjustments making monetization even more challenging for small creators, things just aren’t looking good for the platform.
A lot has been said about the video Logan Paul made, and how his power allowed him to feel like he could upload footage of a suicide victim to the public-facing Internet. But less has been said about the aftermath. YouTube’s representation seemed to not move a muscle on the event until well after the backlash to the video, happy to quietly make money from the controversy and not even enforce its TOS. When the company finally did respond, it was with the usual corporate speak, and an even more disheartening change in policy.
Presented as a response to the matter, YouTube drastically changed how it pays out to its massive stable of content creators. This came in the form of further restrictions that make it even more difficult for smaller creators to get started, much less ever come close to the level of the already established class of YouTube full-timers. Now, in order to even start turning advertisement clicks and views into money, YouTubers have to have over a thousand subscribers at minimum, and at least 4,000 hours in views from a 12-month period.
How this is supposed to address the issue of big creators creating content in poor taste is confusing to say the least. It seems like more of a smokescreen that YouTube can use to eliminate lots of little transaction fees needed to pay smaller creators their smaller payout sums, under the guise of quality control. Granted, that is also a problem on YouTube, with thousands of hours of content being uploaded every day, and a lot of it being either poor quality, or made via scripts for nefarious purposes (look up Daddy Finger to figure that whole deal out).
You may be wondering what any of this has to do with video games at this point. Well, gaming content is a huge part of YouTube, and some of the most successful video creators are producers of gaming-related content, from reviews and video essays to let’s plays and live streams, YouTube and similar services are another part of how gamers have been able to turn their favorite medium into an honest living. But the barrier of entry is now even higher, and the incentive to make good, thoughtful content is actually damaged.
It’s going to be difficult for anyone who isn’t already a known commodity with a Patreon account to make content that’s higher quality and more thoughtful. With the view hour requirement on top of the subscription requirement, shorter videos are going to be seen as less valuable for creators. Anything that could be less than ten minutes could be seen as a waste of time and energy, leading to more let’s plays and streams, and less curated, edited video. Many channels that opt for smaller video lengths, a proven format, might be forced to look elsewhere for their videos, or stop entirely in pursuit of something else.
Ultimately, the struggle continues to be creative people having to jump through hoops in order to turn their skills into a way to provide for themselves and their families. Having to go through third-party corporations like YouTube and Patreon feels like riding on borrowed time. Eventually these companies need to make good with their venture capitalists and shareholders, which means you’ll never know when a policy change will suddenly come and mess with everyone’s income. Hopefully video creators will be able to weather the storm here, and find out new ways to be able to explore their passions and make a real living.