In 2018 YouTube announced further changes to it’s YouTube Partner Program. As a result there are unintended consequences for small businesses. If you already have been active or part of the YouTube Partner Program prior to this, you’re likely grandfathered in.

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YouTube has been under fire for “allowing” hate speech and other controversial content to not only appear on it’s platform and for “allowing” advertising to appear alongside those videos potentially creating the false impression that advertisers approved of controversial messaging. To be fair to YouTube: it’s really difficult to police a giant open platform, even with sophisticated algorithms and a trained workforce. Go to any city and you’ll find graffiti.  As part of continued effort in reducing fraud/spam/hate speech, YouTube has added the additional requirements for becoming a YouTube Partner.

#1. Your Channel must have 1,000 subscribers.

For many marketing teams not focused on video, this can be a tremendous number of subscribers to achieve and before you go to a crowdsourcing platform to “buy” subscribers, consider how much damage you’re doing to your data. I would rather have 50 “true” subscribers than 50,000 “fake” subscribers. Furthermore, fake subscribers would ruin your chances of remarketing through PPC campaign or some other means.

#2. Your YouTube channel must have 4,000 hours of content play over the previous 12 months (from date of application).

If I’m understanding what they’ve written correctly, they need a channel history of 12 months and 4,000 hours of content play. That’s about 334 hours a month OR 20,040 minutes of playtime over the course of 12 months. That means a 1 minute video requires 20,040 complete plays per month.

How this affects marketing teams

In most cases, businesses are not monetizing their content and many people have figured out monetizing YouTube content is a true game of patience anyway, unless you make a viral hit.  Where it really affects YouTube marketers the most is with having the ability to create a call-to-action that allows the viewer to travel to a website or landing page. It used to be that all you had to do was some simple verification that allowed your YouTube account to be “verified” and then use the annotation (remember the blocks of text with links to click?) tool to create a clickable call-to-action. YouTube has since removed annotations and replaced them with an “end screen” feature, which has it’s merits and “cards” which allow marketers to create in-video offers. What’s missing now is the ability to travel to external sites without first becoming a YouTube Partner.

Interactive calls-to-action are incredibly important tools and marketers that aren’t using these are missing out.

I think marketing teams will respond in 1 of 3 ways:

  • They will seek alternatives, looking to platforms like Vimeo and Wistia for their video marketing needs, if they haven’t already.
  • They will double down on their YouTube marketing practices and make an effort at spreading their message in order to  achieve YouTube partner status.
  • They will focus on developing YouTube as a means of search marketing and delivering value, caring less about the advanced features of the platform.

While it’s not an end of the world scenario for marketers, it’s certainly one to be aware of as you make an effort to build a video presence on-line, especially through YouTube.