It’s Not YouTube’s Fault: Blame the ‘Magazine Format’ for the State of Video Advertising

It’s Not YouTube’s Fault: Blame the ‘Magazine Format’ for the State of Video Advertising

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Longtime readers know by now that I don’t report the news. Instead, I try to focus on delivering strategic insights, critical data, tactical advice, and trends in the digital video marketing business. But, the news often sets the agenda for which particular insights, data, advice, and trends get delivered on any given week. And as I read this post on the YouTube Creator Blog “introducing expanded YouTube Partner program safeguards to protect creators,” my first reaction was – deciding to stop serving ads on YouTube Partner program videos until a channel reaches 10,000 lifetime views doesn’t protect creators. It protects advertisers! Such is the state of video advertising in 2017.

Now, I understand that this new threshold gives YouTube enough information to determine “the validity of a channel” using algorithms, instead of people. It also allows YouTube to confirm if a channel is following the video platform’s community guidelines and advertiser policies using algorithms, instead of people – especially the expanded safeguards for advertisers that Philipp Schindler, Google’s Chief Business Officer, recently promised. And I also understand why YouTube is using algorithms, instead of people, to clean up the Augean stables by “removing ads more effectively from content that is attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories.” Heck, if there were only a small number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values, then they could hire someone like me to fix that in a couple of hours.

Publishers Want Ads on Trending Content Too

But, here’s the critical data from Tubular Labs: There are 4.5 million creators on YouTube with 15.8 trillion (with a “t”) total all-time views. If YouTube hired me tomorrow to review them all – and I spent just a minute giving them a quick once-over – then I’d be busy 24/7 for more than the next 8.5 years. However, if I only needed to check out YouTube channels with 10,000 lifetime views, then I’d finish up much sooner. Heck, there’s only 1.3 million creators on YouTube who meet that criteria. They’ve got 13.6 trillion total views, which is 86% of the total all-time views. So, I’d be done with my cursory inspection in under 2.5 years!

Oh, but wait. Reviewing YouTube channels to ensure that they are brand safe is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. As soon as I finished, I’d need to start over again. Why? Because advertisers don’t want to limit themselves to serving ads on old content that’s gone through even 2.5 years of “extreme vetting.” And, they want their ads to be seen on new trending videos, too.

But, according to Tubular, 26.7 million accounts uploaded 212 million videos to YouTube in the last 90 days. And they got 479 billion views and 10.6 billion engagements. So, there’s no way that I’m going to even try to vet the brand safety of 26.7 million accounts. However, only 697,000 accounts uploaded 4.3 million YouTube videos that got more than 10,000 views in the last 90 days. These videos got 435 billion views and 9.0 billion engagements, which is almost 91% of the total views and close to 85% of the engagements. So, I should be able to check these out in a jiffy. If I take only a minute per account – and work 24/7 – then I’ll be done in just 1.3 years. Piece of cake!

Why 10K Lifetime Views Makes Sense for YouTube

So, when you look at the size, scale, and scope of the Herculean problem facing YouTube, it’s totally understandable why they came up with the threshold of 10k views. Nevertheless, this has still got to have a negative impact on aspiring creators, right? So, I started wondering, “Who is to blame for getting us into another fine mess?” Well, back in April 2012, YouTube had more than 30,000 partners in 27 countries around the world. And hundreds of those partners were making six figures a year. Then, the YouTube team updated its partner eligibility requirements and content creators could quickly become YouTube Partners simply by enabling their YouTube accounts, and monetizing at least one of their videos.

Within three months, YouTube had more than a million partners in more than 30 countries around the world earning money from their YouTube videos. And thousands of channels were making six figures a year. So, a few aspiring creators may feel like blaming YouTube for getting us into another fine mess. But, these are the same folks in San Bruno, CA, who made it possible for YouTube Partners to make six figures a year in the first place. Do you really blame them for lifting the lid on the number of content creators who could become a YouTube Partner?

State of Video Advertising: The Magazine Format

I don’t. That’s why I start looking for a different culprit to blame for the fine mess that we’ve gotten ourselves into. And I found one. His name is Sylvester Laflin “Pat” Weaver, Jr. And he was an American radio advertising executive, who became president of NBC between 1953 and 1955. Younger generations may be interested to know that Pat Weaver is the father of Sigourney Weaver. But, here’s what he did back in the early days of TV that put us in the pickle that we find ourselves in today. Back in radio’s Golden Age – the 1930s – the world of content creation was ruled by a system of advertiser-sponsored and agency-produced programming, which typified by that ever-popular program format, the soap opera. This system continued through most of the 1950s, typified by shows such as “The Hallmark Hall of Fame,” “The Colgate Comedy Hour”, and “Kraft Television Theater.”

Then, according to Ad Age, Pat Weaver became “the first proponent of using a ‘magazine format’ for TV, selling 60-second commercials in NBC-produced shows instead of 30-minute blocks of time that the advertiser controlled. When the quiz show scandals made news in the late 1950s, and consumers discovered that sponsors were dictating the winners and losers on shows such as ‘The $64,000 Question’ and ‘Twenty-One,’ the demise of advertiser-sponsored programming was sealed.”

So, the Herculean problem of matching ads from hundreds of big brands with content created by millions of YouTube Partners is not YouTube’s fault. You can blame Pat Weaver for opening the floodgates. YouTube is just trying to use his “magazine format” for selling ads in the early days of TV and make it work in the digital video marketing business.

So, that’s the backstory. And I’m sticking to it. But, it opens the door to a parallel universe – where the world of content creation is still ruled by a system of advertiser-sponsored and agency-produced programming. However, instead of a 30-minute long soap opera, the popular program format might look something like “Flip Edition | Dude Perfect,” which is Sponsored Advertising by Hasbro Gaming! Published on Nov. 21, 2016, this 5:17-long video now has 41.9 million views and 744,000 engagements.

That’s right! We’ve already crossed the threshold into this parallel universe. In my previous post, I shared some new research on sponsored video and examine who is – and who isn’t – adopting it. After exploring this relatively new, but also relatively old world, I plan to circle back to re-examine the world we live in today – where the YouTube channels that will make six figures this year will be determined by programmatic advertising, not media buyers.

At least, that’s the plan. Who knows, maybe the news between now and then will reset the agenda for which particular insights, data, advice, and trends get delivered on any given week. Stay tuned.


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