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YouTube is telling advertisers it has a new plan to clean up the video site

It wants to create a new, super-safe tier for advertisers that would keep out the Logan Pauls of the world.

YouTube celebrity Logan Paul in mirrored sunglasses and carrying a backpack
YouTube star — and YouTube problem — Logan Paul
PG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
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 spent the last year telling advertisers it’s safe to run their ads on the world’s biggest video site. And then, when it turned out not to be exactly true, pledging to fix it.

Now YouTube is trying again, with a new pitch. Call it “Google Super-Duper-Preferred”: A selection of videos from publishers the site says are really, really, really trustworthy. They promise.

That’s what YouTube has been talking to advertisers and publishers about in recent weeks, including a push at the CES show this week. The idea is to calm advertisers who worry that the ads they run on the site might end up next to something inappropriate, or worse — and to justify an ad price hike YouTube would also like to implement this year.

Of course, YouTube already has a Google Preferred (actual name) program for advertisers. It instituted it years ago to deal with both the perception and the reality that the world’s biggest video site has a lot of ... stuff, and that advertisers might prefer a clean, well-lit place.

But over the last year, “brand safety” has been a recurring problem for YouTube, prompting a series of pledges and promises to fix things.

That problem was highlighted this month after YouTube star Logan Paul ran a video featuring what appeared to be a suicide victim. Last night, YouTube responded by, among other things, kicking Paul out of Google Preferred.

The new tier that YouTube is pitching seems to include a promise to vet videos with a combination of humans and robots, as well as a white-listed group of publishers who’ve proven themselves to be trustworthy, according to people who have met with YouTube reps recently. Bloomberg reported on those talks today.

Here’s a YouTube PR statement: “We built Google Preferred to help our customers easily reach YouTube’s most passionate audiences and we’ve seen strong traction in the last year with a record number of brands. As we said recently, we are discussing and seeking feedback from our brand partners on ways to offer them even more assurances for what they buy in the upfronts.”

One theme I’ve heard when I talk to those people: This ultra-premium version of YouTube is likely to favor big, established media companies instead of the home-grown YouTube stars like Logan Paul. “It will help bigger companies more, because they’ll seem more trustworthy,” said someone briefed on the conversations.

That would be a subtle but important change for YouTube, which has always pitched itself as an alternative to Conventional Media, even when it is trying to get the people who make content for Conventional Media and advertise with Conventional Media to pay attention.

A couple things to note: None of this would be obvious to YouTube users, who can still see anything they want on the site. And this also doesn’t mean that YouTube will stop people like Logan Paul, or most people who want to make money from YouTube ads, from making money from YouTube ads — it just creates a new, supposedly ultra-safe tier for advertisers, who will theoretically pay more for that than for the Logan Pauls of the world.

We’ll see. And, we’ll also talk to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki about this next month, when she comes to our Code Media event in Huntington Beach, Calif. You can join us there.

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