YouTube's new ad policy appeases advertisers but hurts small channels

YouTube has been trying to clean up its act in the wake of a scandal that began after popular YouTuber Logan Paul showed footage of a suicide victim in Japan's Aokigahara Forest, but in the process, it's sacrificing its reputation as a place where small channels can earn cash.

For better or for worse, the latest effort is aimed at appeasing advertisers who wish to avoid accusations that they're funding problematic users such as Paul.

As so often happens, though, it's the little folks who are getting hurt in the process. 

Last night Paul Muret, Google's VP of display, video and analytics, announced that only channels with at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch-time over the last 12 months would be eligible for earning money from the ads displayed on the site. 

Previously, channels merely had to have 10,000 total page views to qualify for the YouTube Partner Program.

Muret does his best to emphasize that "size alone is not enough to determine if a channel if suitable for advertising," and he adds that Google will also consider factors such as "audience engagement and creator behavior" in determining eligibility.

Even so, Google makes it clear that smaller channels simply aren't worth the time for the tech giant, as the post goes on to say that the YouTube channels left standing in the wake of the changes "represent more than 95% of YouTube's reach for advertisers." 

If you're planning on making it big on YouTube in this age of increased video-focused content, in other words, you need to get big quick or go home.

YouTube's decision seems especially harsh considering that Logan Paul has almost 16 million subscribers, and small channel owners throughout YouTube and other social media platforms like Twitter are pointing out that they're the ones paying for his inappropriate posts.

A lot to handle

In some ways, though, the move makes some sense. Google also says in the announcement that it will start manually vetting the channels for its Google Preferred Program for the most popular channels, and that process will undoubtedly take more time than the previous model.

Considering that YouTube is one of the world's most popular websites, the new rules significantly lessen the amount of content that will have to be analyzed directly.

Beyond that, YouTube says that it will introduce a "three-tier suitability system" at some point in the coming months that will give advertisers greater control over where their ads appear. 

Something clearly needed to be done, but with this solution, are we losing too much in the process?