- YouTube has made it much harder for smaller YouTube creators to earn money from their videos through advertising.
- New rules say channels need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watchtime over the last year to keep qualifying for YouTube’s partner program, which lets creators monetise their videos.
- Smaller creators have already expressed their frustration, but the impact could be much greater on black and minority creators who already have a harder time getting subscribers.
- Black creators told Business Insider that losing partner program perks like growth tools would make it much harder to grow their channels.
To an ethnic minority woman browsing through the “beauty & fashion” category on YouTube, one thing stands out: almost all of YouTube’s recommended style vloggers are white.
Black creators have often argued it’s harder for them to gain exposure on YouTube, though the reasons are unclear. In a 2015 article for SplinterNews, YouTuber Akilah Hughes wrote that one of the most effective ways to grow her own channel was to collaborate with white YouTubers. Otherwise, she said, YouTube barely promotes black creators.
Beauty and lifestyle YouTubers speaking to Business Insider said they feared YouTube’s new rules, which make it harder for smaller creators to make money from ads, will unfairly penalise minority creators. The new rules now mean creators need 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watchtime to qualify for monetisation. The changes come after YouTuber Logan Paul had to apologise after posting a video of a dead body from Japan’s “suicide forest.”
Lania Theresa is a 25-year-old New York-based YouTuber who makes videos about how black women can manage and style their natural hair.
She’s been making videos in earnest for YouTube over the last year and, as a small creator with less than 1,000 subscribers, will lose access to YouTube’s partner program from February due to the new requirements.
She told Business Insider: “There’s already a hugely disproportionate effect on black YouTubers regardless of size. Period. Some of my very favourite successful black YouTubers have a hard time with reaching their audiences.”
It’s even tougher as a new creator, she added, because YouTube will expose successful vloggers more frequently.
“It’s also easy to get sucked into the same beauty gurus […] and not be exposed to other YouTubers due to the algorithm,” she said. “A lot of exposure comes from word-of-mouth and suggestions, in my opinion. But you have to be active in searching for varied content because YouTube doesn’t do a good job in supporting those with less than (at minimum) 1,000 followers.”
Lania Theresa makes some money from her videos, she said, but that isn’t the point. Losing partner program privileges also means losing tools that help you build your channel, such as the “end cards” that appear at the end of videos.
“I make very little money from YouTube, next to nothing!” she said. “Let’s be honest, a lot of small YouTubers don’t make money directly from YouTube but with this change not only is the incentive or hope that your passion can turn into a profit taken away, our visibility is shot to hell and small YouTubers already received the short end of the algorithm stick prior to this change.
“It’s a Catch-22. I need to grow to receive basic tools that will… help me grow. They’re taking away small tools that aid in visibility such as end cards which help direct viewers to your other videos. It seems so small but it matters.”
Dami Olonisakin runs a YouTube channel, Simply Oloni, dedicated to relationship and sex advice. She won’t be affected by YouTube’s rule change, with more the 3,500 subscribers and averaging 10,000 views a month. While she doesn’t earn much money from YouTube advertising, she has signed sponsorships with big brands off the back of her channel.
Olonisakin recently had 2,000 responses to a tweet calling on smaller YouTubers to publicise their channels. Almost all the respondents were black, with channels covering everything from beauty tutorials to vegan Afro-Caribbean food.
We need to help out small youtube creators.
Respond this this tweet with your youtube URL so we can ALL subscribe and help you reach over 1,000 subs before February 20th.
Hopefully with more subs, you'll also get the chance to get more views too. #YouTubeCreatorsThread
— Oloni (@Oloni) January 17, 2018
Olonisakin told Business Insider: “It’s a very difficult one, because although black people are extremely talented, especially black women, we’re usually the last to reap the benefits. When it comes to gaining subscribers, it becomes an even more difficult task and this could be for different reasons, such as other ethnicities not feeling as they can relate to you.
“[YouTube’s] new rules will make it even more difficult, and I think that black creators struggle to get the same attention as white creators.”
Others share their sentiment.
Let's support each other. Us black youtubers already are the already underdogs. let's network and fight back. #BlackYouTubers #Youtube #UnderDogs #TheyCantStopUs #ThanksLogan #BlackGirlMagic #Queen #naturalbeauty https://t.co/nTWUNgPaUY
— Sister of Wakanda (@Ray_Oshun) January 17, 2018
Dear @YouTube these new monetization rules sucks because I am a smaller youtuber and I can't always get 4,000+ hours of watch time. What you really need to be doing is trying to get rid of some of the other channels that ain't worth shit aka Logan Paul *cough cough* (1)
— Anissa Garland (@InCurvesWeTrus1) January 18, 2018
(2) and try to help the smaller channels out because this shit is for the birds and YOU KNOW IT!
Sincerely, A SMALL BLACK YOUTUBER
— Anissa Garland (@InCurvesWeTrus1) January 18, 2018
There aren’t many high-earning black YouTube stars
A Business Insider ranking of the most popular YouTube stars of 2017, based on data from SocialBlade, features just one black YouTuber, Olajide Olatunji. A Forbes list of the highest paid YouTube stars didn’t feature any black creators.
That isn’t to say there aren’t any successful black creators.
Popular fashion vloggers Jackie Aina and Patricia Bright each boast around 2 million subscribers on their channels.
And actress and producer Issa Rae created the “Awkward Black Girl” YouTube series in 2011 and landed an HBO series as a result. Although even Rae’s dedicated YouTube channel only has around 325,000 subscribers, compared to the tens of millions to popular channels like PewDiePie.
A spokesman for YouTube pointed to the firm’s blog on the changes, specifically the section addressing how YouTubers can gain more subscribers.
The spokesman said: “We have many free resources in place such as our Creator Academy and YouTube Spaces to help those just starting out build a community around their channel so that they can ramp-up fast and monetise their videos.”