New YouTube Rules Restrict Ads to Vetted Channels as PewDiePie Declares The 'Adpocalypse'

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The brand boycott is getting to PewDiePie.
The brand boycott is getting to PewDiePie. Credit: YouTube

YouTube updated its policies on Thursday to get more control over which videos can make money from ads, requiring for the first time that channels reach 10,000 lifetime views before they can start to generate revenue. Channels also have to go through a new application process to be approved for ads in the partner program.

The move gives YouTube more time to review new channels and weed out bad actors like terrorists, racists and pirates.

"This new threshold gives us enough information to determine the validity of a channel," YouTube said in a blog post. "It also allows us to confirm if a channel is following our community guidelines and advertiser policies. By keeping the threshold to 10,000 views, we also ensure that there will be minimal impact on our aspiring creators."

YouTube has been cleaning house ever since major brands froze spending out of fears they were supporting objectionable content with their ad dollars. YouTube splits the ad money with creators, who show pre-roll commercials before their videos.

A YouTube spokeswoman said that the latest change was in the works since November, so it wasn't directly implemented to address the recent brand safety concerns.

On Thursday, YouTube's most popular personality PewDiePie, Felix Kjellberg, called the brand boycott "the adpocalypse" and showed his fans how his videos were now making only a trickle of money.

Ironically, his video titled "YouTubePartyIsOver" was almost immediately taken down from public, likely because Mr. Kjellberg pretended to shoot himself in the head over the loss of ad revenue.

"The dude is going to be fine," said Brendan Gahan, founder of Epic Signal, a digital agency. "He could make no money in ads and he's still got massive marketing potential for himself and anything he wants to sell for the rest of his life. YouTube is just one sliver of a much larger pie."

In February, Mr. Kjellberg set off the latest round of YouTube brand reviews after he joked about anti-Semitism and Nazis, which convinced Disney to pull out of a sponsorship deal. Last month, brands were alerted to channels that showed ads supporting terrorists. Since then, hundreds of brands have started rethinking where their ads appear on YouTube, which has more than 500 hours of video uploaded a minute.

YouTube has promised to beef up artificial intelligence and human reviews to more quickly uncover offensive videos. The company, owned by Alphabet's Google, also is giving advertisers more control over where their ads appear.

Meanwhile, ad agencies are coming up with their own solutions for brands to have more confidence buying advertising on the most dominant video platform online.

Mr. Kjellberg did not return a request for comment.

The shrinking pool of advertisers has hurt many creators who helped build YouTube, providing the content that draws so many viewers. The creators have been speaking out much like Mr. Kjellberg in online appeals to viewers, discussing how their income has dried up.

Mr. Kjellberg said that his most recent videos were generating more money from YouTube Red, the subscription service, than from ads, which was a rarity. YouTube does not reveal how many Red subscribers there are, but it costs $10 a month for ad-free viewing and money is split among the community depending on view counts.

Mr. Kjellberg also said he would launch his first Twitch channel, which is the gaming streaming platform owned by Amazon.

"The space could benefit from more competition," Mr. Gahan said.

As for the new 10,000 viewer rule, it could thwart low-quality channels, and eventually help the more committed creators. It also could turn off the revenue to pirate channels that pop up to stream live stolen content from broadcasters, which disappear when they are caught and then reappear under another name.

"Ten thousand views is a really smart safeguard," Mr. Gahan said. "If a channel is doing anything sketchy, there's a pretty good chance they would be picked up by then."

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