The YouTube monetization requirements have always been a little controversial. On the one hand, it may be cumbersome for YouTube to extend the partner program to the hundreds of millions of people who upload videos. On the other, the monetization requirements are pretty steep for channels just getting started, and that can be really discouraging for content creators.
Well, after years of complaints, the YouTube monetization requirements are getting an update — with a major caveat.
The Old YouTube Monetization Requirements
In order for somebody to make money directly from YouTube on their videos, they need to join the "YouTube Partner Program." But in order to join the YouTube Partner Program, well, you need to be invited.
And for a long time, the invitation required hitting some fairly steep metrics. Channels needed to reach 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time over a 365-day period. If you wanted to monetize the Shorts feed, you needed to hit a staggering 10 million views over a 90-day period.
For channels just getting started, those can be pretty discouraging milestones when you're just trying to get your first videos over 100 views. The truth is, no matter how good your content is, you need to create consistently on YouTube to really start hitting the algorithms and creating meaningful, sustainable growth. And in the early days, many subscribers tend to come from one or two videos, but you need to create dozens to find out which ones.
One study found it takes an average of 254 days and 36 videos on YouTube to reach 1,000 subscribers on a channel. That's more than 8 months on average. And if your videos are worth their weight, you're probably spending anywhere from 5 to 10 hours just on filming and editing them. That means the average creator needs to put in hundreds of hours of good quality work on average just to even reach one qualification necessary to start monetizing their videos on YouTube.
In the past, you used to be able to join an MCN or "multi-channel network" to bypass these requirements. However, there were plenty of drawbacks for those, too.
Types Of Money You Can Make Directly From YouTube
Once you hit those requirements and sign the YouTube Partner Program agreement, you unlock several different ways to make money. The most passive is by partaking in YouTube's ad revenue. While this money tends to become a smaller piece of the pie as your channel gets larger and larger, it's often the first significant way a channel makes money from YouTube. Plus, it turns your content catalog into an asset that earns money for you in your sleep.
Other monetization options available to channels in the YouTube Partner Program include ad revenue from the Shorts feed, the ability to create paid memberships to your channel, Super Chat, Super Stickers, Super Thanks, and the ability to link your own merch (via things like Shopify) to your YouTube Channel.
All of these revenue streams have their perks and their drawbacks. While we're not going to get into them in this article, just know that each one requires its own level of effort and finesse. By far the most passive form of money is the YouTube ads.
These revenue streams, of course, only account for what you make directly from YouTube. As your channel grows, you also have the opportunity to make your own revenue via sponsored videos, brand deals, affiliate links, and other creative ways to leverage your platform. You don't have to sign any sort of agreement with YouTube to begin doing that — you can do it from day one and subscriber 0, if you want.
The New YouTube Monetization Requirements And That One Big Caveat
Now, YouTube is making it way easier for smaller channels to start monetizing directly from YouTube. The new YouTube monetization requirements reduce the number of subscribers needed from 1,000 to 500 and only require at least 3 video uploads in the past 90 days. In addition, the watch time requirement has been reduced from 4,000 hours in the past year to 3,000 hours.
And perhaps the most drastic: the YouTube Shorts views requirement has been slashed from 10 million views in the past 90 days to only 3 millions views. Plus, the watch time and Shorts views requirement is now and either/or scenario, meaning if you specialize in super short content that gets lots of views, hitting 3 million in 90 days will unlock YouTube Partner Program perks even if you haven't hit 3,000 hours of watch time.
But here's the big caveat: these new requirements don't unlock all forms of on-platform monetization. And the one they leave out is arguably the biggest — ad revenue.
Hitting these new lower requirements only unlocks certain monetization features, like paid memberships and the different "Super" features. Also, these requirements only apply to content creators in a few countries right now (though YouTube says it will be rolling them out to more countries soon).
So Is This The Change Creators Have Been Clamoring For?
Well, yes and no. Earning money from YouTube ads is a big deal for growing channels. It incentivizes you to create the type of content that people want to stick around for and it turns your channel into an asset more than any other type of YouTube monetization.
Because let's face it — a lot of other platforms beat YouTube to the punch when it came to things like paid memberships. Unless YouTube is your only real source of content creator revenue, you've probably already looked into paid memberships elsewhere on platforms like Patreon or Twitch. Often times creators just don't want to confuse their fans with too many options. Which is why the YouTube ad revenue is such a great, passive way to earn revenue.
But it does make the potential for channel monetization feel at least somewhat more within reach. The reality is, it's exponentially harder to get to 1,000 subscribers than 2,000. The more you create and the bigger your channel gets, the faster it grows. Which is why those early days can feel like such a grind with relatively little to show for it. Helping creators at least feel a sense of accomplishment by slashing these requirements is a step in the right direction.
However, we don't think you should wait around to grow your audience on YouTube in order to monetize it. You can do things like set up affiliate links and promote your own merch without ever worrying about YouTube monetization requirements. Oh, and even if you feel like your channel is way too small to get sponsorship for, you'd be surprised. Plenty of companies love to get in early with eager and professional creators, even if they only have a few hundred or a few thousands subscribers.