YouTube personality Philip DeFranco created a firestorm when he announced that the platform was shutting down his channel because of controversial content.
The online star, who has more than 4.6 million subscribers on the service, said that he was notified that YouTube was removing ads on some of his videos because it was not "advertiser-friendly," and contained "graphic content or excessive strong language." In total, DeFranco noticed 12 of his videos did not have ads.
"I love YouTube," he said. "Obviously it looks like they're well within their rights to do this. It's their d--- website. It is also very f------ concerning."
YouTube has said there have been no changes to its policy or the enforcement of the policy. In the past, videos have had ads removed when there are "advertiser-friendly concerns."
However, it recently implemented a notification process to let contributors know if ads have been removed from one of their videos and why it happened. Users have been able to — and still can — appeal any ad-removal decisions.
"While our policy of demonetizing videos due to advertiser-friendly concerns hasn't changed, we've recently improved the notification and appeal process to ensure better communication to our creators," a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement. "Only 1 percent of partner videos have ever been demonetized by our advertiser-friendly content guidelines. And now, any creator can appeal."
While in essence nothing has really changed, it's highlighting a potentially escalating problem between the Google-owned video platform and online influencers. Eric Schiffer, CEO of private equity firm The Patriarch Organization and chairman of online marketing media agency DigitalMarketing.com, said creators want the same money and respect traditional actors and actresses are getting because of the size of their online followings. Any loss of revenue is being seen as a "bite at the ankle," he said.
"YouTubers are barking mad at what they see is a loss of control on their creative vision, and I think they're seeing a CPM earthquake in terms of remuneration," Schiffer said.
On the other hand, Schiffer said Google is trying to maximize profits, and that includes keeping advertisers happy. Some brands don't want to support non-family-friendly content. It's led to programs like Google Preferred, which allows marketers to advertise on top YouTube videos based on content, number of followers and views.
Holly Pavlika, senior vice president of marketing and content for influencer marketing company Collective Bias, said out of her network's 8,000 social media influencers, none of them have raised concerns about the "changes" regarding monetization.
What she believes is happening is a select few people who have created a following by creating controversy are starting to get pinged. Pavlika said it's just one small step toward stricter regulations being brought down by Google and government organizations, who are trying to regulate the highly unregulated online video space.
"We're starting to see a crackdown on the industry," she said. "YouTube and the FTC are taking a closer look at how much money these influencers are making, and they want to make sure they get their piece of the pie, and it meets their standards."
The problem is, as of now, there's nowhere for people angry with YouTube to go. Facebook is building up its video platform and some creators are going there to build a following, but it doesn't offer advertising yet. Platforms like Amazon-owned Twitch are known for livestreaming, but they tend to have a large millennial gamer viewership and may not fit some creators' fanbases. For now, YouTubers are going to have to stay put.
"On the weekends, many [video creators] are praying someone like Amazon or some other platform is going to disrupt the video niche," Schiffer said. "They can port their audience. These audiences follow them on Twitter. They follow them on Instagram. If they wanted to move, they could."