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YouTube wants to sell more video ads — by pulling ads off of some of its videos

The world’s biggest video site explains why “demonetizing” videos is a good thing. Video makers freak out.

Roberto Machado Noa / Getty Contributor
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

YouTube has a plan to generate more advertising revenue for its videos — by pulling ads off of some of its videos.

The world’s biggest video site wants to make its inventory more attractive to advertisers, by preemptively flagging some videos that have “non-advertising-friendly content.”

Or, in YouTube’s words, “demonetizing” them.

YouTube says it has been doing this for some time. But this week the practice became controversial, chiefly because longtime YouTube star Philip DeFranco noticed that several of his videos weren’t running with ads.

His response: “YouTube Is Shutting Down My Channel,” a clip where he worries that “it looks like they’re trying to push some of us off the site.”

A YouTube rep says the only thing that’s new here is that YouTube is doing a better job of telling YouTube creators that their videos aren’t running with ads — in part so they can appeal the move and try to get them reinstalled:

“While our policy of demonetizing videos due to advertiser-friendly concerns hasn’t changed, we’ve recently improved the notification and appeal process to ensure better communication to our creators.”

YouTube also says that only 1 percent of “partner videos” that it sells ads for, like DeFranco’s, have been “demonetized.” (Yup, they really say that.)

YouTube’s perspective here is a reasonable one, particularly since advertisers have long worried that they didn’t know what they were buying when they bought YouTube ads. For a slightly longer version of this argument check out this post by Defy Media president Keith Richman, whose company delivers the Smosh dudes and lots of other content to YouTube.

The counter is that, like lots of tech companies, YouTube is opaque about how its flagging process works, and what kind of stuff really qualifies as “non-advertising-friendly content.”

It’s possible to read this stay-away list, which includes everything from “sexual humor” to “controversial or sensitive subjects,” and conclude that YouTube really doesn’t want to sell ads on anything at all. Since YouTube is very much interested in selling ads, it might want to figure out a better way of communicating this to the people who generate lots of content.

It’s also worth noting that this comes as YouTube faces increasing competition for video views and the people who make videos.

Twitter just announced it is going to start sharing ad dollars with content makers, but will offer them a better revenue split than YouTube does. Facebook has yet to create a YouTube-like revenue sharing program for the Phil DeFrancos of the world, but is certainly thinking about it. Snapchat, too.

And if you’re not in the ad business at all, like IAC’s Vimeo, now’s a good time to remind people that there are other ways to make money from video. Which they have done here.

This article originally appeared on

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