The Death of YouTube
When YouTube was founded in 2005 it promised its subscribers an opportunity to ‘Broadcast Yourself’. Suddenly, vlogging and all sorts of homemade content was the click of a button away for anyone with an internet connection. Once Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion dollars in 2006, it was possible for popular YouTubers to quit their day jobs and make a career out of the platform.
YouTubers such as PewDiePie amassed over 50 million subscribers speaking their minds and providing a loyal fan base with entertainment. Yet, after The Times reported in mid-March that YouTube’s advertising algorithm had not prevented ads from appearing with antisemitic content, major advertisers, such as Pepsi, Starbucks, Walmart and GM all boycotted YouTube and pulled funding from any advertising.
The Times fail to mention that the antisemitic YouTube channel they use as an example has less than 1000 subscribers. In 2006, a channel with 1000 subscribers may well have been respectable. Though, in 2017, compared to a channel like PewDiePie, this channel is completely insignificant. The overreaction of the companies that have pulled funding poses an existential threat to vloggers and political commentators on the platform. While antisemitism is obviously never acceptable, a less aggressive response may have been more appropriate. This overreaction has had unintended consequences.
In response to the boycott, YouTube announced it would tighten the algorithm that allows advertisements to appear on videos. In the process, YouTube has virtually cut the income of any YouTuber that discusses any controversial topic.
Any video that contains the word ‘ISIS’ or ‘terrorist’ in the title, has been automatically demonetised, despite how anti-ISIS it may be. Any video which contains the word ‘religion’ or ‘atheist’ has also been automatically demonetised. Any video that overtly discusses foreign policy has also lost all ad revenue.
As one can imagine, several prominent YouTube channels that dub themselves as the ‘New Media’ such as The Young Turks, Secular Talk and the David Pakman Show have had their advertising revenue cut by almost 100%. Indeed, David Pakman revealed this week that on a day where he received over 500,000 views on videos, he only earned 34 cents. For context, Pakman would usually expect to earn several hundred dollars per day before the boycott.
Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk told his audience on April 1 that the boycott marked “the crushing of all of your favourite YouTubers…You can no longer talk about anything interesting”. Moreover, many YouTubers, such as Kyle Kulinski have suggested that the boycott marks a concerted attack on the YouTube community as it surpasses the popularity of conventional media: “It seems a convenient timing that YouTube is eclipsing mainstream outlets in terms of popularity and so what do you do? Go for the wallet [of YouTubers]”.
Could this be the bite back of traditional media?