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YouTube Launches Shorts Revenue, Rethinks Demonetizing For ‘Bad Words’

January 17, 2023

YouTube just began the first steps to allowing more creators access to YouTube Shorts revenue. The platform is also having a major rethink after a major stink about an upcoming policy change it announced last December. 

While these may seem like two seemingly different stories, the timing is pretty pertinent. Let's start with YouTube's new Shorts revenue opportunity for creators. 

How To Sign Up For YouTube Shorts Revenue

YouTube announced a new approach to revenue sharing on its short-form vertical video component, YouTube Shorts, late last year. A director competitor to TikTok and Instagram Reels, YouTube shorts serve as a sort of "introductory" component to larger YouTube channels. 

While any creator can use YouTube Shorts (and they really should), they seem to work well in tandem with channels that also regularly upload traditional YouTube content. While YouTube Shorts lack a ton of the features that make TikToks and Reels so popular, early reports show they could be a big component of channel discovery on YouTube. Oh, and YouTube is paying qualifying creators who upload them, too. 

The first critical component is to accept the new YouTube Partner Program terms. If you're already in the Partner Program and you've logged into your YouTube account in the past week, you've probably already seen the big red prompt about reading and accepting these new terms. (Head's up: there have been reported issues with accepting the new terms on mobile devices, so it's probably best to do this from a desktop). 

While the new Shorts revenue model kicks in on February 1, 2023, creators have until July 10, 2023 to accept the new terms. This is critical, though — you need to accept the terms to stay in the Partner Program whether you plan on uploading Shorts or not. There are actually different "modules" for the Partner Program. You don't have to click to accept the Shorts module, but if you want to keep making money from your longer videos, you need to accept those new terms. 

What To Expect From Shorts Revenue

YouTube's initial stab at monetizing YouTube Shorts came in the form of a "creator fund." This functioned similarly to TikTok's model, where the users with the most views shared from a pool of pre-allocated money. It was $100 million. And while that sounds like a lot, it's peanuts compared to what YouTube typically does in ad revenue.

Now, any user who meets the Partner Program qualifications will make money from YouTube shorts. As of now, YouTube plans to run advertisements between Shorts (not every single one, of course — just after a set period of time, though we're sure YouTube will experiment on the most effective ways to advertise on the Shorts feed).

The ad qualifications are pretty steep for Shorts revenue right now. While you only need 1,000 subscribers, you need at least 10 million Shorts views over the past 90 days. At a glance, those numbers seem pretty unbalanced, though it's worth noting that YouTube is reportedly pushing the Shorts feed hard and views come much easier for the sub-60 second clips. 

As for the actual breakdown of making money, TechCrunch did a nice summary, but basically it works like this. Creators get 45 percent of the ad revenue YouTube earns for Shorts ads. However, the content must be completely original to qualify. If it contains licensed music in it, that's ok, but that video will earn less due to the need to cover the music licensing cost (which we love! Hooray paying musicians!). 

All of your money from traditional YouTube ads and Shorts feed ads will come from the same place. Meaning you won't get paid separately for the money you make from normal ads and Shorts ads. It's all one payment.

Now About Those Naughty Words...

Ok, so here is where YouTube's sneaky attempt to demonetize videos with profanity comes into play. Last November, YouTube announced a slew of policy updates. Some of them seemed to take a direct swipe at creator wallets.

The one that really, well, pissed people off, pertains to vague language about profanity. Per the update, if a creator uses certain profanity within the first 15 seconds, that video may be demonetized. And if they use it in the first seven seconds, it may be demonetized even further. There's also vague language about "swearing throughout" and all sorts of other head scratchers. 

Oh, and some words like "hell" and "damn" are seemingly ok, but other words are all treated equally bad. There's no clear definition or list of words, nor is there a clarification on words that may be considered offensive or swear words in one region but not in another. This, of course, also severely affects things like music videos and other content that is still YouTube's biggest traffic driver. 

Oh, and here's the real kicker: YouTube says the new policy will apply to old videos created before anybody was aware of it. Which is, you know, bullshit. 

But after an online uproar from creators, YouTube now says it's looking to "fix" the policy. Again, vague language, but good to know? 

YouTube says they want to keep content "friendly" for advertisers, but that seems like a stretch. A lot of advertisers on YouTube don't care if their ad appears before an a video with swearing in it. And if they do, they can choose to not have that happen by limiting inventory. There's a difference between Twitter's advertising issue, which relates to content that is genuinely harmful, and the idea that a "bad word" early in a video somehow leads to such terrible brand association that YouTube can demonetize the video entirely.

Part of the reason this matters so much is that YouTube Shorts are, well, short. And many popular videos contain some degree of edgy comedy or profanity that — you guessed it — happens in the first 15 seconds. So as YouTube both announces new monetization opportunities and crackdowns on content, we'll keep a careful eye on how this affects creators and the best steps to take moving forward. 

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