All posts in “Youtube”

YouTube promises expansion of sponsorships, other monetization tools for creators

YouTube says it’s rolling out more tools to help its creators make money from their videos. The changes are meant to address creators’ complaints over YouTube’s new monetization policies announced earlier this year. Those policies were designed to make the site more advertiser-friendly following a series of controversies over video content from top creators, including videos from Logan Paul, who had filmed a suicide victim, and PewDiePie, who repeatedly used racial slurs, for example.

The company then decided to set a higher bar to join its YouTube Partner Program, which is what allows video publishers to make money through advertising. Previously, creators only needed 10,000 total views to join; they now need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of view time over the past year to join. This resulted in wide-scale demonetization of videos that previously relied on ads.

The company has also increased policing of video content in recent months, but its systems haven’t always been accurate.

YouTube said in February it was working on better systems for reviewing video content when a video is demonetized over its content. One such change, enacted at the time, involved the use of machine learning technology to address misclassifications of videos related to this policy. This, in turn, has reduced the number of appeals from creators who want a human review of their video content instead.

According to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, the volume of appeals is down by 50 percent as a result.

Wojcicki also announced another new program related to video monetization which is launching into pilot testing with a small number of creators starting this month.

This system will allow creators to disclose, specifically, what sort of content is in their video during the upload process, as it relates to YouTube’s advertiser-friendly guidelines.

“In an ideal world, we’ll eventually get to a state where creators across the platform are able to accurately represent what’s in their videos so that their insights, combined with those of our algorithmic classifiers and human reviewers, will make the monetization process much smoother with fewer false positive demonetizations,” said Wojcicki.

Essentially, this system would rely on self-disclosure regarding content, which would then be factored in as another signal for YouTube’s monetization algorithms to consider. This was something YouTube had also said in February was in the works.

Because not all videos will be brand-safe or meet the requirements to become a YouTube Partner, YouTube now says it will also roll out alternative means of making money from videos. 

This includes an expansion of “sponsorships,” which have been in testing since last fall with a select group of creators.

Similar to Twitch subscriptions, sponsorships were introduced to the YouTube Gaming community as a way to support favorites creators through monthly subscriptions (at $4.99/mo), while also receiving various perks like custom emoji and a custom badge for live chat.

Now YouTube says “many more creators” will gain access to sponsorships in the months ahead, but it’s not yet saying how those creators will be selected, or if they’ll have to meet certain requirements, as well. It’s also unclear if YouTube will roll these out more broadly to its community, outside of gaming.

Wojcicki gave updates on various other changes YouTube has enacted in recent months. For example, she said that YouTube’s new moderation tools have led to a 75-plus percent decline in comment flags on channels, where enabled, and these will now be expanded to 10 languages. YouTube’s newer social network-inspired Community feature has also been expanded to more channels, she noted.

The company also patted itself on the back for its improved communication with the wider creator community, saying that this year it has increased replies by 600 percent and improved its reply rate by 75 percent to tweets addressed to its official handles: @TeamYouTube, @YTCreators, and @YouTube.

While that may be true, it’s notable that YouTube isn’t publicly addressing the growing number of complaints from creators who – rightly or wrongly – believe their channel has been somehow “downgraded” by YouTube’s recommendation algorithms, resulting in declining views and loss of subscribers.

This is the issue that led the disturbed individual, Nasim Najafi Aghdam, to attack YouTube’s headquarters earlier this month. Police said that Aghdam, who shot at YouTube employees before killing herself, was “upset with the policies and practices of YouTube.”

It’s obvious, then, why YouTube is likely proceeding with extreme caution when it comes to communicating its policy changes, and isn’t directly addressing complaints similar to Aghdam’s from others in the community.

But the creator backlash is still making itself known. Just read the Twitter replies or comment thread on Wojcicki’s announcement. YouTube’s smaller creators feel they’ve been unfairly punished because of the misdeeds of a few high-profile stars. They’re angry that they don’t have visibility into why their videos are seeing reduced viewership – they only know that something changed.

YouTube glosses over this by touting the successes of its bigger channels.

“Over the last year, channels earning five figures annually grew more than 35 percent, while channels earning six figures annually grew more than 40 percent,” Wojcicki said, highlighting YouTube’s growth.

In fairness, however, YouTube is in a tough place. Its site became so successful over the years, that it became impossible for it to police all the uploads manually. At first, this was the cause for celebration and the chance to put Google’s advanced engineering and technology to work. But these days, as with other sites of similar scale, the challenging of policing bad actors among billions of users, is becoming a Herculean task – and one companies are failing at, too.

YouTube’s over-reliance on algorithms and technology has allowed for a lot of awful content to see daylight – including inappropriate videos aimed a children, disturbing videos, terrorist propaganda, hate speech, fake news and conspiracy theories, unlabeled ads disguised as product reviews or as “fun” content, videos of kids that attract pedophiles, and commenting systems that allowed for harassment and trolling at scale.

To name a few.

YouTube may have woken up late to its numerous issues, but it’s not ignorant of them, at least.

“We know the last year has not been easy for many of you. But we’re committed to listening and using your feedback to help YouTube thrive,” Wojcicki said. “While we’re proud of this progress, I know we have more work to do.”

That’s putting it mildly.

StudioBricks is a Barcelona-based startup that sends you a studio in a box

My friend Rick is a voiceover artist and works in Ohio – right along the flight path for jets taking off and landing at the Columbus airport. As a result, he said, he had to record late at night when the airport closed, a limitation that he found exasperating.

Enter StudioBricks, a cool startup from Barcelona. Founded by Guillermo Jungbauer, the small company makes and sells soundproof studios that click together like LEGO. The company started in 2008 and created a USA subsidy in 2014.

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StudioBricks aren’t cheap. Rick paid $9,940 for his including almost $2,000 shipping. However, he said, it’s been a life-saver.

“The Studiobricks sound isolation booths are designed to be incredibly fast and easy to install without compromising the booths excellent sound isolating properties,” said Jungbauer. “This is achieved thanks to its modular panels which are built of high performance sound isolating materials and can simply be slotted together.”

The company sold 1,053 cabins in 207 and they’re on track to keep growing.

“About ten years ago I created the first booth as rehearsal space out of his own need as saxophonist,” said Jungbauer. “I developed the first bricks with acoustic engineers already having in mind the market possibilities.”

The system includes a ventilation system, a heavy, sound-proof door, and solid, sound-proofed wall panels. Rick, in his long build post, found it easy build and quite effective at keeping the plane noise at bay.

“From the beginning on Studiobricks aims to be eco-friendly. We are in a continuous process of improvement and have a strong commitment with the environment,” said Jungbauer. “That means that both, on an organisational level and product level we are improving continuously our processes and product considering the best options regarding the environment. For example years ago we changed our lacquer to a water based one. Our plant is the first and right now only in Spain using a biomass based central heating boiler.”

It’s cool to see a small European company selling a niche product gain such success. Because the company solves a notoriously difficult and wildly frustrating problem they are getting all the organic traction they need to keep going. Given the rise of corporate podcasting and other recording needs, a system like StudioBricks makes perfect sense. Considering it can be put together by two people in a few hours it is almost like the Ikea of vocal studios – compact, easy to build, and incredibly useful.

And now Rick doesn’t have to worry about the Delta flight from JFK intruding on his audio book reading session. Ganar-ganar, as they say in Barcelona.

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Music app Genius launches its own take on Stories, aided by YouTube

Genius, the big database of song lyrics and musical knowledge, is today launching its own version of “stories,” the Snapchat and Instagram-like short form sharing format that’s been rapidly spreading to a number of sites and apps, including Facebook, Messenger, Skype, and even Google. Genius’ “Song Stories,” as the new product is called, combine Genius artist interviews with YouTube content like concert footage, music video clips, and playlists.

As the user moves through the story, they’ll see the sort of behind-the-music details that Genius is known for, but in a more interactive format.

If you’re already familiar with Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories, you’ll find Song Stories easy to use as well.

As you listen to the song, you can tap to advance through the cards in the Story, tap and hold to pause a card, or do nothing and watch the story advance automatically, appropriately synced with the music.

On some of the cards, you’ll also be able to swipe up to access additional YouTube content directly.

For example, a Song Story might point you to other YouTube videos to watch, like concerts, covers, interviews with the artist, themed playlists, and more.

The collaboration between Genius and YouTube is notable, given YouTube’s plans to launch a revamped premium subscription service in the near future. A deeper integration with Genius could be a competitive advantage for YouTube.

And while nothing was announced in terms of a YouTube product today, this launch signals a closer and productive working relationship between two companies – despite the fact that Genius already works with YouTube Music’s competitor Spotify to power its “Behind the Music” feature.

“At YouTube we’re working every day to push the envelope and find new ways to enhance the overall music experience by better connecting artists and fans,” said Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s Global Head of Music, in a statement. “This project with Genius provides a more immersive way to explore music—it’s the perfect example of innovating in pursuit of this goal.”

“Genius and YouTube, the two biggest sources of musical deep cuts and rabbit holes on the planet, are natural collaborators on this mission,” added Ilan Zechory, Genius’s co-founder and president.

Not all bands and artists have been given the Song Story experience, however.

At launch, there’s a Gallery of Stories available on the Genius website, featuring artists like Lil Uzi VertCardi B feat. 21 SavageJoy DivisionTroye Sivan, and others. It remains to be seen how widely the Story format will roll out across the Genius database of song info going forward.

Princeton study finds very few affiliate marketers make required disclosures on YouTube and Pinterest

Convincing humans to buy products is a massive business called marketing, and few areas of marketing are growing as fast as influencer marketing. Influencers on platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube can command prodigious fees based on their audience size and engagement: some data suggests that a single video on YouTube by a top influencer can command as much as $300,000.

While top influencers often have direct partnerships with product companies, others with smaller audiences often take advantage of affiliate networks to build their revenues. These networks allow an influencer to take a small cut of any sales that are generated through their unique affiliate link, and their flexibility means that influencers can prioritize products that they believe best match their audience.

This industry is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, which has set out a series of rules requiring paid affiliate links to be disclosed to users. There’s just one problem according to a new analysis by Princeton researchers: very little content on sites like YouTube and Pinterest with affiliate links actually disclose their monetization.

Computer scientists Arunesh Mathur, Arvind Narayanan, and Marshini Chetty compiled a random sample of hundreds of thousands of videos on YouTube and millions of pins on Pinterest . They then used text extraction and frequency analysis to investigate URLs located in the descriptions of these items to determine whether the URL or any redirects behind it connected to an affiliate network.

For all the growth in affiliate marketing, the researchers found that less than 1% of videos and pins in their random sample had affiliate links attached to them. Some categories had a significantly higher percentage of affiliate links though, such as science and technology videos on YouTube which averaged 3.61% and women’s fashion on Pinterest, which had a rate of 4.62%.

What’s more interesting is that content with affiliate links was statistically more engaging than videos without affiliate links. The researchers found that affiliated videos had longer run times as well as more likes and view counts, and a similar pattern was seen on Pinterest. The incentives around affiliate marketing then are clearly working.

The researchers next investigated the text of content with affiliate links and analyzed whether they made any disclosures about their economics to users. Among content that had affiliate links, 10.49% of YouTube videos and 7.03% of pins on Pinterest had disclosures. Worse, the disclosure language recommended by the FTC was only included on roughly 2% of affiliated content across the two platforms.

Given the NLP and basic machine learning methodology of the paper, these numbers should be perceived as a lower bound on disclosures. The researchers also didn’t evaluate audio or video to see if an influencer disclosed affiliations in the content itself rather than in the text. Nonetheless, it is clear that much of the influence economy that exists on these platforms remain cloaked from everyday users, despite being in clear violation of FTC guidelines and rules.

These results raise a series of challenging product and policy questions for startup companies with user-generated content. In the wake of the 2016 election where fake news factories built viral content and generated serious advertising revenues, social networks like Facebook have had to confront the tradeoff between a maniacal focus on quantitative engagement like page views and time on site and the quality of that engagement. If affiliated content does have higher engagement statistically as this study showed, that poses a dilemma for companies looking to boost revenue while also improving engagement quality at the expense of quantity.

For instance, the authors of the study suggest that products like YouTube should have better native features to disclose affiliate sponsors. Placing disclosures though could dampen enthusiasm for some clearly high-engagement content. How then can companies build a framework for building ethical policies that follow FTC requirements while also ensuring their products reach the right metrics?

Finally — and much harder to measure — is evaluating the effect of disclosures on affiliate revenue. Do people click on links less if they know they were placed there because of marketing economics? If proper disclosures dampen the influencer industry, that could put a brake on its breakneck growth.

Such policy and product challenges aren’t simple to answer, but the intensity of the problem is only going to increase with more and more money flowing into the influencer economy. This research clearly shows that there is a wide gap between what the government requires, and what affiliate marketers actually do that needs to be rectified.

YouTube to add Wikipedia background info on conspiracy videos

YouTube is taking action on the proliferation of conspiracy videos found on its platform: YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told an SXSW panel Tuesday that the company would be introducing so-called “information cues” sourced from relevant Wikipedia articles on videos that talk about popular conspiracy theories.

These will appear as text boxes that can prevent alternative perspectives on subjects including chemtrails and the supposedly fake Moon landing, both of which were used as examples to show how this would work in practice during the panel. The info pop-up appears below the video but above the title and description, giving it a certain amount of prominence in the interface.

The YouTube CEO didn’t go into detail about how many conspiracy theories will be covered by the feature, but praised the format’s extensibility, suggesting that it could grow to expand as many as needed, and that it could also introduce alternate information sources in addition to Wikipedia.

Some critics are pointing out that this looks less like a solution to YouTube’s role perpetuating and legitimizing batshit crazy ideas, and more like a way for it to absolve itself of a responsibility of taking a more critical look at the problem. In fact, the examples YouTube itself provided on stage seem to back up this criticism, since the Moon landing video contained only a brief couple of sentences (one cut in half) visible on the video itself, the content of which doesn’t even necessarily counter the info shared by the conspiracist who posted the video.

The bottom line is that all social platforms relying on user-generated content will eventually become completely co-opted and unusable.