There is something curious going on with YouTube; it’s a strange phenomenon that Forbes called ‘Adpocalypse.’ The rampant demonetization of videos by Google on YouTube has heavily hit the earnings of popular content creators. Amos Yee, Singapore’s enfant terrible who is famous for dissing the city-state’s founder Lee Kuan Yew on YouTube, recently stirred up more controversy in his former homeland.
Yee asked his followers to support his videos on Patreon:
“Now more than 50 percent of the current videos on my channel have been demonetized, and because future videos of mine will obviously deal with controversial political subjects and [have] vulgar language, there’s a very high chance that more than 50 percent of my videos will continue to be demonetized and I won’t make money [off] them.”
Yee is not alone; there are others who have also been hit by this wave of YouTube demonetization. Philip DeFranco, a YouTuber with 4.5 mln subscribers called demonetization a “form of censorship” in a Business Insider article.
If income loss is an issue then people can simply choose an alternative platform right? The answer would be, it is not so simple. YouTube has over one bln users and according to them, that is one-third of the Internet.
The second most wellknown video-oriented website is Vimeo, which has 170 mln users worldwide out of which 42 mln are in the United States.
However, Vimeo is seeing phenomenal rise and they claim that they have grown 80 percent over the last year.
The philosophy behind the two platforms is completely different. Vimeo basically charges content creators for putting their content on the platform and offers 500/MB per week of free storage (25 GB/year).
YouTube is fueled by advertisements and sharing that revenue with creators. Some YouTubers though have experimented with Vimeo by making films. These include Joey Graceffa and ComicBookGirl19. CNBC quoted Kerry Trainor the former CEO of Vimeo as saying,
“When it comes to monetizing that viewing experience, it's about allowing and empowering creators to actually charge for content instead of relying on a purely mass advertising-based model.”
YouTube claims demonetization strengthens creators
YouTube published a blog this year which claimed that they want creators to ‘express themselves while earning revenue.’ They wrote, “There’s a difference between the free expression that lives on YouTube and the content that brands have told us they want to advertise against. Our advertiser-friendly content policies set the tone for which videos can earn revenue, ensuring that ads only appear where they should. To make sure we apply this process fairly, we also give creators the chance to appeal if they feel any of their videos have been unfairly demonetized. We take these steps because advertiser confidence is critical to the financial success of our creators.” On first sight, this may feel like an effort to balance the needs of sponsors and advertisers and those of creators, but it also appears that YouTube is nudging creators only to make content that is palatable to moneybags or else suffer financially. This is at the heart of the problem.
Third party revenue streams
San Francisco based Patreon has emerged as an alternative model for raising funds for YouTubers who are unhappy with the current state of affairs. Patreon lets viewers make monthly and ongoing ‘pledges’ that benefit creators directly. The website claims that they have sent over $150 mln so far to creators. They charge a five percent fee from the revenue that is raised for the creators. At the moment they are supporting a wide variety of content creators beyond just video creators like musicians, writers, comic book artists, podcasters etc.
Now Brave too have jumped into the fray with their latest desktop browser. We have already covered how Brave ICO raised $35 mln through an ICO that issued BAT tokens. Brave users have a choice, they can either distribute contributions based on the time they spend viewing videos or by ‘pinning’ a set amount to their favourite creator. Brendan Eich, CEO of Brave Software Inc. explains why they choose extend the reward system to YouTubers, “We see big platforms exploiting the new generation of content creators who generate so much value for the platform owners, yet increasingly face sudden drops in ad revenues, and even demonetization.” Emphasising the need to connect viewers and YouTube content creators, he adds, “Brave reconnects users directly to content creators; with Brave Payments which we made available in beta using Bitcoin over the last year, and now provide built into Brave for laptops and desktops using the Basic Attention Token (BAT) instead of Bitcoin.”
Space for a decentralized solution
YouTube content creators who were up till now only at the mercy of Google have started to explore options when it comes to monetization of their content.
The arbitrary nature of demonetization, which puts the onus on creators to ensure that they either produce ‘advertiser-friendly content’ or go through a ‘process’ with YouTube.
Brave will help YouTubers avoid the vague rules that they are subject to at the moment, as an example creators with less than 10,000 lifetime views do not receive ad revenue.
While there are alternatives available like Patreon, that also puts creators at the mercy of an intermediary.
Talking to us about how a decentralised platform could play a role here, Brendon tells us, “Patreon is successful because it lets people contribute directly to creators registered there, but we see Brave as a decentralized way for users to go direct, via pinned contributions in Brave Payments.
These pay a percent of the user's chosen monthly budget in BAT to recipients, without any centralized registration-based website acting as intermediary.”
Everyone can benefit
It is not only the content creators that Brave is focusing on but also the viewers. Brave users enjoy an ad-free experience without having to worry about installing extra plugins. Brendan tells us that YouTube creators who will promote Brave will see a ‘lift in contributions via Brave Payments.’
He reveals, “We will move to give Brave users BAT grants soon, and we have user-private ads that pay users the bulk of the revenue on our agenda, starting with trials in the first part of next year.
This should be win/win/win for YouTube content creators, their fans, and Brave.” At the moment these features that Brave are introducing are only available on the desktop.
We are told that the release for mobile will be announced in the near future. Brave has already passed one mln downloads on Android.
Fortune favors the Brave
What Brave is doing is letting YouTube users enjoy an ad-free experience, while letting YouTube content creators enjoy an alternate stream of revenue through Brave Payments fuelled by BAT token.
This decentralized Blockchain based system is an alternative universe and a new way of doing things, which is dynamically different from what Google are offering.
Brendan acknowledges that but also tells us that it is about being Brave in the end, “Brave is for users who have the courage to defend their data and experience against tracking and advertising, which have proven to be two sides of the same abusive coin controlled by the big platforms.
If this puts us at odds with Google in the short run, we believe in the long run the Web Standards will rise to address user rights, privacy by design, intermediary-free payments and even anonymous ads -- all of which we are building into Brave and Google is not building into Chrome.”