Youtube cutting off the long tail

On Feb. 20, the rules for participation in the YouTube Partner Program will change. Among the benefits of being a partner was the opportunity to earn revenue from the ads that run when a Youtube video is displayed. Before this date, a creator became eligible for ad revenue once he/she had accumulated 10,000 lifetime views. After this date, you must have 4000 hours of viewing time in the last running 12 month period and 1000 subscribers.

Google indicates that the change will:

“will allow us to significantly improve our ability to identify creators who contribute positively to the community and help drive more ad revenue to them (and away from bad actors).”

I am the type of creator that will be penalized by this change. I meet the 10,000 view metric, but fail both the 4000 hours and 1000 subscriber standard.

I am not a bad actor. I post instructional videos for educators wanting to use technology applications in their classrooms. I have a couple of textbooks devoted to this goal, but made the decision several years ago to create much smaller and less expensive textbooks (available via Amazon) in combination with free online resources (supplemental information and instructional videos). The price when my textbook was last published by Cengage was $140. The Amazon price is now $9 and the Kindle combination with the online resources offers more and more current content than the $140 version.

I originally offered the video content I created from the server I rent. As more and more content was added, I became concerned with the load serving the video required. Moving the content to YouTube was a way to avoid this issue, to offer content to those who had no interest in my other educational products, and to make a little money (a few dollars a month when my instructional videos are viewed). Just for the record, when my YouTube video is embedded within a web page I serve, viewing the embedded video generates no revenue.

Consider the reality of reaching the 1000 subscribers and 4000 hour thresholds. Nearly all of my videos are say 8-10 minutes in length. Several are recommended by YouTube and have been viewed in the 1.5K range. Still, my estimate is that my annual viewing time would be about 18,000 minutes (YouTube analytics are reported in minutes). This is a long way from 240,000. I also do not have a lot of subscribers. People come to my individual videos when searching for a particular need or perhaps when assigned by a college professor. I make no effort to continually create videos which is what tends to attract and hold subscribers. I create videos when the issue or product presented fits an instructional need related to my other content. I could continually create videos on the many similar products available to educators but the replication in this approach has little benefit.

The YouTube decision fits a disturbing trend I see with tech service providers. The initial promise that all could become creators (this was what Chris Anderson described as the long tail) has given way to only the big content generators will be supported. The few dollars YouTube might compensate me is of little actual consequence, but the cost to YouTube was also quite minimal. It is the principle here that is disturbing (see Rushkoff’s “Throwing rocks at the Google bus”).

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