Wednesday April 19, 2017

Youtube's Shifting Algorithms Hurt Independent Media

Ad revenue generated for videos on the Youtube service has shrunk by 99.5% for many channels when major brands pulled their advertising earlier this year. This was due to the ads being run on a few videos promoting terrorism and extremism. Youtube was told to tighten the reins on the type of content that ads from major brand's are run, and the new algorithm in place is ever shifting and changing. This has led to a precipitous drop in revenue for independent media to the point where channels are having to ask for donations. Channels that tackle sensitive subjects such as depression, suicide, anxiety, rape, and child abuse in a way to help people are being blocked from generating revenue as these are now flagged as offensive topics. Video game rants are now scanned for offensive language and blocked from ad revenue. Comedians that use any colorful language during their routine are also blocked. Military weapon channels only generate 25% of the revenue that they previous did before due to being "hidden" from being shown in a prominent manner on the website. Videos showing war and natural disasters are blocked from generating ad revenue.

Political channels that have radio station affiliates and adhere to FCC content rules are being shunned. Google contractors were listing the Infowars website as low to medium for search results as far as trustworthiness of factual data goes which is blatant censorship. They have since reversed that decision, but other political shows still suffer on the service. One popular political show called the "David Pakman Show" costs $20,000+ a month to run as the owner has hired full time employees. It now only generates as little as six cents per day in advertising revenue due to the new shifting algorithm. This is now known as the "adpocalypse".

Mr. Pakman explains in detail how his show doesn't have to seek advertisers because Youtube automatically assigned them to his videos due to their popularity. This meant that he doesn't have to adhere to rules precluding him from tackling certain subjects during his show. And since his show is broadcast on radio stations, it adheres to FCC rules like a corporate entity such as CNN would. His show is now in danger of shutting down due to the loss in ad revenue because of the political nature of his show. And the corporate media isn't talking about it because those advertising dollars that were earmarked for Youtube broadcasters will be shifted to mainstream media. The machine learning algorithms are literally choking the life out of his channel as they indiscriminately flag key spoken words as hate speech or too controversial without understanding the context in which the words were used.

What do you think? Are you ready for the "Disneyification" of Youtube where the only content will have happy smiling people saying nice things about pretty flowers? I've always had the mentality that it's Youtube's problem and they should hire more employees to handle content strikes and ad revenue blocks. Youtube has embraced the algorithm and the automated system instead. I think the automated system is great for instantly flagging content for a human to review. The catch is that Youtube is determined to skip the human interaction part and make their machine learning facilities smarter and faster. Thus the algorithm may end up chasing their jaded content creators away for greener pastures. Why can't Twitch with it's Amazon backbone provide the same service as Youtube? We already have a smorgasbord of video archival websites like Vimeo also. Big today doesn't mean relevant tomorrow. Just look at the previously successful brick and mortar stores struggling to survive in the face of eCommerce.

Jamie Byrne, director of creators and enterprise at YouTube, said that concerned companies had requested tougher controls to keep their ad dollars flowing. "For creators to flourish on our platform, we need an incredibly strong advertising community engaged on YouTube as well," he said. He hopes that as the ad systems learn to decipher context, and advertisers relax, creators will see greater returns. All of that means that new media creators hoping to make a living online need to play by YouTube’s rules, and steer clear of anything "potentially objectionable" آ— not to real people, who might actually be offended, but to robots. If YouTube wants to fulfill its promise of an online environment where independent creators can make interesting work, it will find a way to scrub ads from truly vile content without penalizing the merely controversial.