How Sponsorships Have Changed the YouTube Creator Space
By Ben Spaeth
Photo: Wired – Source
YouTube’s monetization policies have changed a lot over the past five years. Numerous creators from Logan Paul to Pewdiepie have been involved in controversies that have caused advertisers to pull out of ad campaigns with YouTube. This led YouTube to crack down on videos they viewed as “non-advertiser friendly” which were mainly videos that featured more adult language and content. While admittedly, these changes were needed to keep hateful content off of the platform, smaller creators felt the biggest impact from the changes. The biggest change being in 2018 when YouTube changed its threshold to join the YouTube Partner Program. Previously, a channel only needed 10,000 views to join the program. Now they need 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours.
Content creators were forced to either adapt their content to fit YouTube’s policy or risk losing monetization on their videos. However, some channels refused to adapt and sought other means to generate revenue from their videos. Some creators did merchandise drops or established Patreon accounts so that followers could donate money to the channel in lieu of direct monetization. YouTube also launched Channel Members in 2020, which allows viewers to donate $4.99 a month to their favorite creators. The most common monetization trend though was sponsorships. A YouTuber would create an advertisement and place it usually at the beginning or end of one of their videos in exchange for money. The content creator and sponsor agree upon the length of the ad, when in the video the ad will be placed, along with how many videos will feature an ad. Some sponsors will seek creators to integrate the product into their video. While this is more lucrative than featuring a single ad, it requires more commitment and effort on the creators behalf.
Of all the methods of generating revenue from videos online, sponsorships are by far the most consistent. The sponsored segments are often easy to produce and can be edited into any video. However, there are some downsides to sponsored content. If a video is taken down either as a terms of service violation or from a copyright claim, a sponsor might not payout because the video didn’t remain published. Creators should also be careful when taking on sponsorships. Many businesses that contact content creators are scams, so it's important to thoroughly research a company before taking on a sponsorship with them. Another con of sponsorships is that they are generally reserved for larger creators (+100,000 subscribers). Making gaining sponsorships a daunting task for small creators. Although there are alternatives for smaller creators. The Amazon Affiliate Program is a great option for some creators. If you use particular Amazon products in a video and then post an affiliate link to those products in the video description, you can earn commission on every sale generated from that link.
While sponsored content has been a staple of mainstream media for a long time, its presence on YouTube is still fairly new and rapidly evolving. Creators have been looking for more ways to keep viewers engaged with branded content, as they often receive money for viewers using the links and promo codes in their sponsored segments. This has led to some creators turning their sponsored segments into comedy sketches or informative bits.
Sponsored content has offered YouTube channels that don’t typically feature family friendly content new life on the platform. Popular YouTubers use a variety of methods to generate money from their content. Sponsorships mainly are used as a source of stable income because monetization is no longer guaranteed on each video. Especially considering the state of YouTube’s content ID system. Bogus copyright claims are more prevalent than ever on the platform and can prevent creators from earning any money from AdSense. Typically a copyright claimed video is allowed to stay up on the site, but any ad revenue goes to whoever copyright claimed the video. Luckily, creators can still make money from sponsored content in a copyright claimed video. However, there are occasions in which a copyright holder can choose to have a particular video taken down or geolocked. In these instances a sponsor may not payout or request a refund because the video didn’t reach an audience.
Overall though, sponsorships are great for creators. While sponsors might want some input on the videos their branded content is being spliced into, most brands are already familiar with a creator's videos before sponsoring them, so most requested changes are minimal. A YouTuber can also choose to upload a video not approved by a sponsor without the additional advertisement, so a disagreement might just lead to an unsponsored video. This may sound bad, but often creators are contractually obligated to post a sponsored video within a certain time frame. If a YouTuber can create an additional video before the deadline, it's a nonissue. The freedom that comes with not having to rely upon YouTube monetization is one many creators strive for. While monetization for large creators is often a fair amount of money, especially for those who make long format videos, sponsorships can also be used as a means of generating additional income on top of monetization.
If you’re looking to make a career out of YouTube, definitely aim to have all your videos monetized. Monetized videos tend to spread better across the platform and are more likely to be picked up by the algorithm because they generate more money for YouTube. The point I’m making is that the growth of sponsored content on YouTube has allowed content to flourish that otherwise wouldn’t have been profitable on the platform because of YouTube’s monetization policies.