A REALITY CHECK FOR “SMALL CREATORS” ABOUT YOUTUBE MONETIZATION AND ENTITLEMENT…[OPINION]
YOU ARE ENTITLED TO NOTHING. WE ALL ARE.
In 2013 I started uploading content around creativity and technical skills on YouTube. In 2015 my community saw my growth and had questions so I started making content explaining what I had learned as YouTuber, I believe I didn’t make any content about actually growing your YouTube channel until I had about 20,000 subscribers.
I’ve always been an advocated for creators, whether they be photographers, designers, filmmakers or social entrepreneurs, so what I’m going to say in this article is going to come across harsh but is well intentioned. For one moment imagine I’m your COACH on the sports team, and not a creator who has “already made it”, that will help with context…
YOUTUBE DOESN’T OWE YOU ANYTHING. HUSTLE. OF COURSE IT’S HARD. IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE HARD. IF IT WERE EASY, EVERYONE WOULD DO IT, AND EVERYONE WOULD CRUSH IT.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let me go into some specifics.
Creators since February of 2018 have bemoaned the changing of a YouTube policy that allows creators to monetize (get paid through ad revenue) the content they post for free on YouTube.
YouTube is one of the only platforms that directly pays creators to publish their content, based on the views that content gets if ads are run before, after or during this content.
In 2013 YouTube made this option openly available to anyone who had a YouTube account. This was a mistake. previously you had to put in an application and be reviewed in order to be allowed to monetize content.
While this is not ideal and ultimately the rise of the popularity of YouTube can be attributed to the ability to get paid, it also attracted many negative elements to the platform. Since YouTube has suffered many public scandals due to creators that exploited their system for fame or money.
Like any business a course correction was necessary and inevitable. So in 2018, 5 years after opening the floodgates on the heals of a massive advertiser boycott the previous year, referred to by creators as the “Adpocalypse”… YouTube changed the requirements for being a monetized creator:
YouTube currently requires YouTube Creators to earn 1,000 subscribers and 4000 Hours of Watch Time across their channel in a 12 month period.
Many creators were outraged by this change, but they also attacked establish creators who pointed out (correctly) that this was not going to take money out of their pockets for food off of their table, because at that level a creator would not be making remotely significant money 99% of the time.
HOW YOUTUBE ADS WORK
For context I need to explain how monetization on YouTube works briefly.
TLDR: Unless you are “lucky” it’s rare to make a living on YouTube Ad money, so playing the lottery to have a viral video is a poor business strategy. 100K views to get $100 is very hard to accomplish. And only some people get better rates, the odds are you’re not them…
THE DETAILED VERSION
YouTube pays creators who earn up to $100 or more in ad revenue monthly for their content on the platform, as long as their account is in good standing. Ads are distributed when viewers watch a video on a YouTube creators account. Typically this is CPM (cost per thousands views) based advertising, and most creators average a CPM of between $.25-$2.00
For 100,000 views the average creator makes about $100. If that seems odd you have to consider that not every single view displays and advertisement and not all advertisements or audiences are equal. Some niches pay more, some pay less. Some audiences are deemed more desirable by advertisers. So even a “successful” YouTuber may not be able to make a living wage directly from advertising revenues tied directly to YouTube.
THE CREATOR SIDE OF THE ARGUMENT
There are differing points of view, established creators and aspiring creators. Many aspiring creators are upset because this is discouraging for them and it feels like they are being PUNISHED or having something taken away from them. But this is not reflective of reality.
You will have the argument made that they deserve to be compensated because they work hard and put content on the platform and if it wasn’t for creators that YouTube wouldn’t make money.
Also why create content if you have not chance of getting paid for it?
This is where my opinion, which will be an unpopular one comes into play…
YOUTUBE DOESN’T OWE YOU (OR ME) ANYTHING.
I have a background in Web Design and Web Hosting. The advertising dollars YouTube makes on content, under normal circumstances, would not cover the cost of hosting and distributing the content that is uploaded.
Also, YouTube takes a loss on small creators, (creators bringing in less than a few hundred thousand monetized views, or for simple terms under 10K-100K Subscribers), what YouTube calls, Bronze Level and Sliver Level. YouTube makes roughly 90% of its advertising revenue from creators that are Gold Level or Higher (1 Million to 10 Million+ Subscribers, Gold and Diamond).
Google, the parent company that owns YouTube has the ability to subsidize the cost of the servers and bandwidth with it’s infrastructure, however that doesn’t cover the cost of the engineers, product development, R&D, etc.
This is an emotionally plea and argument from small creators that has no basis in reality or technical terms or fiscal facts… which is fine if it is framed that way instead of framed as being in the best interest of the company to give them something they feel they deserve.
Creators feeling discouraged, is a valid argument, but that still puts individual responsibility on the creator for their own perspective, motivation, and how they choose to value their work. It hurts to feel like platform you love and have spent time on doesn’t care about you or value you, but at the same time, making it worth their while matters too.
It is after all giving you unlimited hosting for free, and giving you a voice and outlet you couldn’t build on your own with the resources you have. It’s made the ability to reach an audience or build a community accessible.
To be frank, helping you directly make money is a gift, not something you are specifically owed… which is why for all the social media platforms that have existed it is one of the few that has bothered to operate in that way, and frankly it has been without it’s headaches as a result of that generosity.
The issue is that many aspiring creators have an employee mentality, and I realize I’m going to be taken out of context in my next sentence.
YOUTUBE IS NOT A JOB.
Now I”m going to add context, to beat anyone who wants to just quote me on that for all eternity to validate their point or criticize me or call me a shill:
YOUTUBE IS NOT A JOB, IT’S ENTREPRENEURSHIP OR FREELANCING.
As someone who has been an employee, a freelancer, and now an entrepreneur, I can tell they are all very, very different. There is some overlap but lets focus on why YouTube is not a job…
If you were an employee of YouTube and Google, they would be responsible for you providing you a workspace, resources, and health care benefits, as well as an agreed upon salary, set forth by a contract, and you would have hours and deliverables you would be expected to provide as labor in exchange for this compensation. Does that sound like being a YouTuber/Creator? No.
You are someone who was not contacted by YouTube/Google and chose to use a free website and service on the internet to post content at no cost, and get exposure and distribution of the content, at no cost.
As someone who buys ads for their traffic for products and services on their own website, I have to tell you, it’s a fantastic deal and better than paying for web hosting and email list, the difference is you give up control and should have reasonable expectations.
YouTube giving creators an incentive, does not make them responsible to provide creators a living or compensate them for their work. It was not work YouTube/Google commissioned or asked for, or demanded.
Imagine I showed up, unsolicited, and painted a beautiful picture for you, without you asking, and then presented you an invoice… it doesn’t really work for you does it?
Part of being a creator, means that you have to make everything your responsibility and understand what is and is not in your control. If you decide to go all in on a platform where you don’t make the rules and they have a history of changing them, you should expect some pain and disappointment to follow… but that is what being and entrepreneur is, pain and disappointment in exchange for a massive amount of freedom and autonomy.
AND THERE IS THE PROBLEM…
The expectations and entitlement. YouTube is within their rights to move the goal post. Is it discouraging, yes? Make that argument and stick to it.
But they are in no way obligated to give you a living wage. That argument does not make sense and it is not wrong for people with experience on the platform and who know how to succeed on the platform and monetize beyond it, to point that out to you.
It is not punching down, it is not big vs small, it is not an attack and it is not “oh easy for you to say…” or “you just don’t want competition”.
It is a seasoned athlete or champion or coach, telling you how hard it is, asking if you’re prepared for setbacks and sacrifices and telling you that after the trophies and interviews and attention… it’s back to the gym, bleeding and sweating just to be 1% better and still risk taking a loss…
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A SUCCESSFUL CREATOR IS HONEST ABOUT YOUTUBE…
Recently Jon Prosser, a YouTube Creator of the Tech News Show Front Page Tech (FPT), came under fire for a statement he made:
“Unpopular Opinion: YouTube shouldn’t allow monetization till 10K Subscribers.”
You can just imagine how well that went over with the Small YouTuber Community… Jon got everything to harassment, cursing, and wishes for his death following this statement, which is completely unacceptable.
While one could make the argument, that he could have kept what he knew was an unpopular opinion to himself, Jon is someone who has been helping small creators within the tech niche in YouTube grow, and has been mentoring many of those creators on their journey.
Would “Small Creators” prefer that if we are not going to cheerlead, we keep our mouths shut, even if it means not revealing the reality or mindset behind our successes and failures on the platform?
Often successful creator (regardless of audience size or view counts, because making a living as a creator is another measurement of success), get criticized and accused of being out of touch with the struggles of small creators.
This is very far from the truth, as many successful creators, still have the scars and traumas from their climb to where they are. Anyone who has overcome adversity knows, you never full move past or get over certain things.
But it just seems that the small creator community constantly is defensive, and no battle is ever won from a defensive position.
But wouldn’t moving the “goal post” again, just make it harder and discourage many small creators? Yes. Yes it absolutely would. And that’s okay…
If something getting incrementally harder is becomes a reason to quit, even when the barrier to entry or accessibility is relatively the same, then it usually means that one has to question their motives and the intentions behind why they started something.
Many smaller creators, if they were being painfully honest, may not have the purest of intentions:
Common examples of why people today start YouTube:
- I want to quit my day job and make passive income
- I want to be internet famous
- Being a YouTuber is my dream
None of those examples is something that gives value to an audience you want attention from. None of that gives value to advertisers who spend money on content, and none of that makes YouTube a better experience or brings value to the platform. Does that mean what you want doesn’t matter? well no, but it doesn’t matter to the people you want to extract something from.
And that is what most creators don’t seem to understand and why I am writing this article.
Everything comes down to your intentions.
If you want to quit your day job, the economic reality of YouTube dictates there are far easier ways to make money online, I’ve covered a lot of them, and even with 300K subscribers and generating $2000–3500 in ad-revenue, I still make far more money from my other online ventures than YouTube ads.
If your goal was to become internet famous, have you the talent or charisma required for that, and if so there may be better platforms (like Instagram) to do that then YouTube… they just don’t hand out trophies…
As for the idea that being a YouTuber is your dream, it’s not my goal or place to discourage someone directly from pursuing a dream… I would say be careful, what you think is a dream, when confronted with the reality of it not meeting your expectations could be the formula for a living nightmare.
That probably came off harsher than I intended.
Let me put it this way, dreams don’t let us down because they are an idea. In life, we have to deal with reality which can never stand up the to world we’ve built in our own minds. However, the ability to create brings the world in our mind closer to the one we experience each day, but it can never hold a candle to our boundless imagination, we have to learn to live with that…