YouTube's Uncertain Future

To say YouTube had a rough 2017 would be an understatement. 

The video hosting website limped from crisis to crisis, desperately trying to retain the trust of its advertisers after some violent and graphic videos displayed advertising beside them. Once the dust settled on the 'adpocalypse', Pewdiepie, the site's biggest creator, made headlines. First through allegations of anti-semitism and then through saying the 'N' word in a livestream.

This is obviously a radical simplification of the past year, but if last year was bad, 2018 is set to get worse for the platform.

Their headaches began when Logan Paul ventured into the Japanese suicide forest and filmed a suicide victim hanging from a tree, gross close-ups and all. After a half-assed apology on Twitter amid waves of criticism, he has since formally apologised and begun a self-styled redemption tour.

Off the back of this new crisis, YouTube has decided to raise the bar for its Partner Program, their platform that allows ads to be displayed on videos. Its new criteria is 1,000 subscribers and 240,000 watch minutes in the last 12 months, along with previous criteria of 10,000 views. All this is well and good - these numbers are quite small for many content creators - and it's not the first time they have raised the bar on their partner program. But this time it's different - nobody is grandfathered in. Every small and emerging creator will have their Partnerships terminated on February 20 if they don't meet this criteria.

This includes my channel, DigitalNinja.

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I have made videos on YouTube for almost a decade now. I posted my first video all the way back in 2008 and have maintained a presence on the site with varying regularity in the years since. In 2011 I was granted an Advertising Partnership. At that stage anyone could get a partnership and I doubt there were more than a dozen people watching my videos.

As far as numbers go, little has changed since then. I have just over 1,000 subscribers and about 55,000 views across a couple hundred videos. For a platform filled with creators who pull millions of views every single day, these numbers are insignificant, a rounding error.

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Even so, I love making YouTube videos, it's a part of who I am. In my Twitter bio I call myself a " Youtuber & Journalist," both titles I am proud to wear. As mentioned above, the reputation of Youtubers have taken a beating recently, but I feel it's overstated and at its core, YouTube remains the hotbed of creativity and innovation it was since I began all those years ago.

I shot the video above the night I got the news. You can see how devastating this decision is - they're ripping away a huge part of my self-identity in doing this.

It's clear now the relationship between YouTube and Youtuber doesn't work both ways. YouTube exists to make money, something which small creators are failing at. The lack of revenue creation means YouTube has no qualms with terminating hundreds of thousands of Advertising Partnerships with no warning, no call, no explanation.

Never mind we're the future of their site.

Since the decision I have reached out to YouTube for comment. Tweeting, calling and emailing any connection I know. Nobody has said anything, nobody has taken my calls. The closest I have come to an official comment from YouTube has been a tweet from somebody who claims to work on video playback at YouTube, who said this:

"What we've found is that even for channels that have been longstanding partners, those channels have sometimes been overtaken by bad actors to attack the ecosystem. It's unfortunate that these bad actors ruin it for us all."

Like the teacher who punishes the whole class for one person's indiscretion, YouTube is punishing every single small and emerging creator by terminating their partnerships.

I respect YouTube's strategy to try and stamp out bad actors on the site, just not in this scorched earth approach where they burn all their emerging talent. What will this mean for the site's future? Will this discourage and shun a whole wave of new talent on the site, causing it to stagnate? Only time will tell.

Even with this massive blow, I'll probably still make videos on YouTube until a viable alternative comes along. Amazon is hinting at a competitor and VidMe is gaining traction, but they are a long way from breaking the dominance YouTube has established since beginning in 2005.

Don't forget, I have until February 20 to meet YouTube's new demands. Of the 240,000 minutes of watch time, I had accrued about 100,000 of it in the past year, leaving me with a massive shortfall. I have developed a new, albeit cynical, approach to gaining those minutes YouTube want: by making a 10-hour video with nothing in it.

That's right - there is absolutely nothing in this video. It's just dashcam footage I shot in 2015 on repeat for 10 hours. If we do some quick maths, 240,000 minutes divided by 10 hours is 400. That means if 400 people watch this video from start to finish, I will meet the new criteria.

Yes, this is a cynical ploy. It's received mixed reactions from people, ranging from total support to disdain and anger. But when YouTube pulls the rug out from under you, what can you do?

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So far, it's working. In just over a week, we've got almost 50,000 minutes - more than a third needed to survive. This is largely driven by fans playing the 10-hour video on repeat. When you add this on to the year's total, the numbers look pretty promising:

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Less than 100,000 minutes to go - that's all we need in three weeks. This is an achievable goal, especially since the surge of the past week.

Rather than develop some great video concepts I've had planned for some time, I've had to launch this horrible strategy to save my channel, perpetuating the attention-grabbing misery that so many creators give into on the site.

My only hope is that once this cynical numbers game is over on February 20, I can resume normal programming.

For now, keep watching. Towards the end of the campaign I will furnish you with an update to this story, hopefully good news will abound.

Thanks for reading. If you'd like to support this campaign, you can play the 10-hour long video on your computer in the background while you're working, sleeping or chimneystack sweeping. Here's the link, thanks for your support :)