In a blog post on Wednesday, YouTube announced plans to introduce new advertising-related tools for creators. Most crucially, YouTubers will now have the ability to link ads to specific moments in their videos via timestamp. (So, for example, causing an ad to pop up for a specific product during a moment in the video when that product is mentioned or featured on-screen.) Other soon-to-come updates include the ability to bulk tag affiliate products throughout their video libraries, providing a revenue boost even on archived content, and a new analytics tool that shows video makers which affiliate products are generating the most revenue.
There have been recent upgrades for live streamers, as well, on the ad front. YouTube recently introduced a 60-second countdown ahead of midstream YouTube ads, giving creators the option to skip them entirely if they’d prefer not to interrupt their stream. Creators also now have the option to delay mid-roll YouTube ads for up to 10 minutes while broadcasting. And “in the coming months,” YouTube said it will add the ability to include both automated and manual mid-stream ad breaks, rather than just picking one or the other.
All of these constantly changing rules and fine-tuning options can be a little confusing, even chaotic, for YouTubers who rely on their channels to earn a living. But the platform’s relentless efforts at empowering users to squeeze the most revenue possible from their videos without entirely sacrificing their own voice, speaks to the growing competitiveness in the new media space. While revenue sharing was once seen as a nice bonus and a way to keep a platform’s most frequent users hooked, it’s now a central feature of every user-generated content platform.
Bells and Whistles For YouTube Ads
All of this news comes just weeks after the site revealed that it will be removing a different suite of creator ad controls. Back in early September, the streamer announced that creators will no longer have control over whether specifically pre-roll, post-roll, skippable, and non-skippable YouTube ads are added to their content. Instead, YouTubers will now select whether or not to place ads before and/or after their videos, while the platform will decide which kinds of sponsorships to include (if any).
In the blog post announcing those changes, the platform explained that most creators likely won’t even notice them. More than 90% of YouTube videos are pre-approved by their creators for pre-roll, post-roll, skippable, and non-skippable ads regardless.
YouTube’s Partner program, which gives creators 55% of ad revenue on long-form videos (45% on YouTube Shorts), in many ways, set the precedent for revenue sharing with creators. The platform finds itself in a bit of a transitional state, introducing tools and features to maintain its reputation as the #1 destination for posting video content while de-emphasizing criticisms about creators being demonetized and the overall health of the YouTube ad ecosystem.
And YouTube, of course, is not the only one trying to please creators with revenue-sharing opportunities.
The Sitch at Twitch
Back in August, Amazon’s Twitch announced that it would stop paying out a 70-30 revenue share with some of its top streamers, moving them to the platform’s standard 50-50 split with partnered streamers. The announcement not only led to the expected rounds of outrage and criticism from users but helped to fuel interest in the rival platform Kick, which launched by offering streamers a far more lucrative 95-5 split. (Another chief rival, YouTube Gaming, offers a 70-30 split.)
Even X/Twitter, which never previously offered users any kind of taste of their feed’s earnings, has started exploring revenue-sharing options, though in a kind of roundabout way. X offers a revenue share exclusively for subscribed members paying $8 per month. It also requires that these users have a minimum of 500 followers and “at least 5M organic impressions on [their] cumulative posts within the last 3 months” (which can be difficult to monitor and impact, even for frequent and committed users). Important to bear in mind here, as well, that revenue is only earned when ads are shown to other verified, subscriber users. So even if your tweets (sorry, X’s) are wildly popular among the unwashed masses, you’ll only start earning money if paying users check it out as well.
The launch of the program over the summer was met with a lot of cynicism. It coincided with a major drop in the company’s ad revenue, leading to questions about how X planned to actually pay for the scheme. Also, in the program’s earliest days, many of the best-compensated users seemed to either have personal connections to Musk or were from the far right of the political spectrum. Nonetheless, the scheme appears to be here to stay, and the company has been routinely sending out revenue-sharing payments to many users in the months since the announcement.
X may not be the kind of reliable, repeated revenue stream that will encourage a mass of new creators to jump into the ecosystem. A thread from X engineer Eric Ferraro, highlighted by the Verge this week, showcases some of the ongoing headaches that users are experiencing with the system. Many users who had widely shared posts that had proved popular on the site didn’t receive significant payouts because advertisers hadn’t spent a lot to reach their demographic, or because the posts failed to attract enough written replies, or simply because their content was deemed unsuitable for ads.
All of this is to say that Twitter has failed in winning the court of creator public opinion largely because of a lack of transparency over how its program works and a lack of creator control over specific ad tools and placement. TikTok, too, has suffered from public backlash over a lack of transparency of what percentage of revenue its creator funds and monetization programs actually pay out to top creators.
When monthly earnings on a platform are entirely unpredictable — because of a finicky audience, or ever-shifting rules and metrics — it’s simply not possible for professional full-time creators to devote a significant amount of their time to pursuing that audience. Perhaps that’s why YouTube, always known for trying to keep in creators’ good graces over monetization, is being so diligent in providing additional ad-control tools.
Hollywood Enters the Chat
But freelance self-employed creators aren’t alone anymore in needing to maximize profitability on their content. Cash-strapped streaming platforms, which once relied on VC investment or floods of new users to fund their programming, are also desperate to boost ad revenue earnings.
Disney+ has started adding boldface “SHOP” shoutouts to its landing pages for the most popular series and films, encouraging users to buy merch based on their favorite shows without ever leaving the platform. The “Star Wars” spinoff “Ahsoka” launched with a special promo for Disney+ users, giving them early access to clothing, toys, collectibles, and other products based on the limited series. Finding shopping links is as easy as scanning a QR code from the TV screen to your phone.
Even the most-subscribed streaming platform in the world, Netflix, is looking to squeeze more profits from hits like “Wednesday,” “Squid Game,” and “Bridgerton.” In addition to dolling out ads for the Netflix Shop merch store, which launched in 2021, the streamer just announced plans to open brick-and-mortar storefronts in 2025.
Just like YouTube and Twitch, these streaming platforms are having their own revenue-sharing debates. But instead of figuring out the perfect payout to drive more members of the public to post new content on their platform, they’re negotiating with writers and actors about how much they need to recoup when shows and films are particular successes.
Whether trying to appeal to top Hollywood showrunners or breakout influencers who grab millions of views for each post, the underlying reality is the same. If you don’t make people a deal that’s not just lucrative but reliable and consistent, they’ll take their talents and audiences elsewhere.
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