YouTube is under heavy criticism of late due to a controversial new policy regarding its advertising program. Under the new rules, videos that are not "advertiser friendly" can no longer participate in the online service's ad monetization system. That is to say: They can't make money off of the ads that YouTube appends to its videos.
That spells trouble for news organizations, who have a duty to report all kinds of news, whether friendly to advertisers or not. Jules Suzdaltsev has the details in today's Seeker Daily report.
It works like this: YouTube's policy is ostensibly designed to protect advertisers from having their product ads pop up adjacent to a video they may not want to be associated with. For instance, if you're watching a video about ISIS beheadings and a laundry detergent banner pops up from the bottom, that adjacency could be considered damaging to the brand.
As such, videos with themes of sexuality, violence, drugs or anything controversial -- like war or tragedy -- are now considered to be unfriendly to advertisers, according to the YouTube policy. That means that hundreds of channels -- Seeker Daily included -- have seen much of their newsworthy content demonetized, meaning they can't be used with YouTube's internal advertising program.
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While the policy does not prohibit content creators from posting videos, it effectively discourages them from doing so since the videos are ultimately funded, at least in part, by advertising revenue. Critics like popular YouTuber (and Seeker partner) Phil DeFranco argue that the new "advertiser friendly" policy is a de facto form of control and censorship.
The dilemma speaks to fundamental issues of how a free press should function in a capitalist democracy. Historically, most media has been supported by one of three methods -- advertising, state sponsorship or subscription models. Some function through a combination of sources, like newspapers and cable TV, which are funded both by advertisers and subscriptions. The Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio, meanwhile, rely in part on public funds.
It's an imperfect system, and each method of funding has its risks. But in regard to freedom of the press, news organizations should not care about what consumers or advertisers find distasteful -- journalists have a responsibility to report on it all the same. The developments at YouTube represent a new twist on a very old problem. Television, radio, newspapers and other forms of mass media have all historically struggled with the inherent complications of the advertising model.
The good news is that YouTube has started remonetizing some news videos after implementing a better appeal process. But some serious questions still remain. Check out Jules' report for more details.
-- Glenn McDonald
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