(Header image by Stephan Dann)
We all love content creators. Some more than most, of course. But we can all agree, that they are generally pretty cool people. They make the videos we watch, draw the comics we read, colour the art we enjoy, sing the songs we chorus, and write the stories we like. Often times, they do so with little to no request of monetary compensation. I consider myself one of them.
“Support me if you like.” That’s one of our catchphrases. “If you like what we do, share and support.”
We don’t ask for much. We don’t even ask to be paid, unless you feel like it. But we almost all ask for 1 thing. Don’t block our advertisements. Because we all want to make stuff for you to enjoy. But to do that, we need income. And, unless you decide to contribute direct money to the content creators, ad revenues are still where most of our income will come from.
That video you ‘liked’. The comic you ‘shared’. The art that took your breath away. The story that you cried over. The music you danced to. You just told all of us that they are worth less than shit.
So, know that I love all of my readers. I would write forever if it made them happy. But please, don’t block our ads. You know I’m serious, because I’m writing this article in Times New Roman. And I’m going to give you the most comprehensive reasons why, you heartless pieces of shits.
But, are ad blockers good? No, and yes. They are amoral at best. They are lock picks.
(Before further reading, please watch this and this video made by ProfessorPuppet. They are simplified versions of what I’m saying here, and they make a similar case as to why we should not use ad blockers extensively. There’s also another well written article here.)
Now this. I started writing on this stupid topic about 2 months ago. I started this with the knowledge that ad blockers basically cut-off revenues from content creators such as Youtubers and bloggers, like myself.
For the purpose of simplicity, from now on, I will be using YouTube as the main point of referral, because that’s where most of my research has lead to and it’s a household name. Unless I specifically mention otherwise, of course.
My knowledge back then was direct. Advertisers pays Google to put advertisements on YouTube. In turn, YouTube lets content creators who generates high enough views on their channels to monetise the ads through their Partner Program, which in turn pays the content creators 55% of the ad revenue. Adblockers blocks these ads, and content creators earns less. So to me, ad blockers are bad because they steal someone’s income.
The thing is, before writing most of my articles on more sensitive topics, I tend to put it out there within my circle of known associates, friends, and family. I almost did not run this one by them, because of how inconspicuous it seemed. But when I did, the reactions were fast and furious.
I’ve debated on social media. I’ve debated in real life. I’ve even ironically debated on YouTube. Everyone knew something about this. Everyone thinks they are right. The problem is, everybody’s stories were different.
Their knowledge were different. Their understand of how the way ad revenues and monetisation works were different. Even their morality on the issues were different. The confusing part is, upon researching further, I found out almost all of them were right.
(Almost, because of a small few. I’ll get to that much later.)
This is troubling, because most of their talking points were on opposite sides of one another. They should not be able to coexist. But they do. They do, because the topic itself is complex.
And overall, the content creators gets the shortest end of the stick of this jig-saw system.
Now, here comes the tricky part. YouTube have strict regulations against anyone involved divulging on how the ad revenue on YouTube works exactly. This makes legal sense, because they are protecting the secrets of their software, AdSense, search engine et al. This would be something I could be bound by if I was under AdSense. Though since this blog doesn’t qualify yet, screw it!
I’ll tackle the arguments I’ve come across, one-by-one.
But this actually makes things very troublesome, for me at least. Because I have tried to find real sources of people to speak out, but none of them will go on the record, because there is a chance of legal reaction. Basically, I’m not sure if I’m providing unbiased source. And the people that I do know who are also partners, well, same thing. Not on record.
So, everything I say here might not stick. And I cannot guarantee you that it will stick, just from the basis of integrity. I’ll still try to link to all the source articles I can. But I’m writing about this either way because I want to talk about it for the sake of my fellow content creators. But, well, there’s a lot of buts here. It’s weird. I’ll try.
Let’s start with the technicalities.
1. Views, Clicks, and Payments
The biggest point of argument on this topic is that YouTubers are paid by views of their videos, and not by advertisements. There were mainly 3 different understandings on this.
1. YouTube pays by an average of 1,000 views per videos (by people for ad blockers).
2. YouTube pays by advertisements engagement, either views or clicks on advertisements (by people against ad blockers).
3. YouTube used to pay content creators even when there were no pre-roll advertisements. So it should not matter now.
You may notice all 3 of those stances argues on completely different grounds. Yet, and I still cannot believe this, they are all correct. How is that possible? Well, let’s tackle number 3 first. Cause it’s the least connected of them.
YouTube did pay content creators when advertising were limited and next to non-existent on YouTube, back in 2007. This was shortly after YouTube was bought in November 2006 by Google. But pre-roll ads did not start until 2008. In fact, at the start, you could only earn through YouTube if you sign with a third party multi-channel network (M.C.N), like Machinima and Smosh.
But back then, YouTube was using AdSense, Google’s next-to automated program that allows basically everyone and them to run advertisements using Google’s advance analytics. So there were still ads on YouTube, but they were all banner ads like the ones that should be below this article (which I do not get a cent for at the time of this writing), or the in-video banners like those under YouTube videos now.
But that was not profitable. Because pre-roll ads charged for 2-5 times more than a banner ad, and have higher interactions. Without it, YouTube was haemorrhaging dollars in 2007. Even nine years after that, with all the new fancy ads, they are still barely breaking even in terms of a major company.
Contrary to some of the debates I have, I have found no evidence anywhere else that YouTube paid content creators before 2007. So if you only considered pre-rolls as the only ads, than 3 is true. But there were other ads, just not noticeable ones. (If anyone can find contrary evidence, please, let me know.)
Number 1 and 2 are mixed together. And they are very specific in how they work. The only thing we really know is that they count by CPM (Cost per thousand, M being the Roman numeral for thousand) for the ads. MS Tech said it best in this comment.
Basically, it means, views determines the money content creators EARN. But advertisements determines how much they are PAID. You can watch 1,000,000 videos and they will “technically” earn that amount worth of ad revenue. But they are only paid if the ads are “interacted” with. Those are called ‘monetised’ views.
Interaction is also tricky. The actual metric is not publicly available. But general consensus goes somewhere along this line. Banner ads and overlay ads, the least intrusive ones, are considered “interacted” when clicked on, or by simply being there. These are the bugger you either ignore at the side or just click the X to get away from.
In-stream unskippables are when the video is played completely and/or on click, and is the most constant of the revenue. There’s a limit between 15-30 seconds as of this writing, very Hail Mary in terms of time. Finally, the pre-rolled ones you can skip after 5 seconds? They are considered “interacted” when you’ve watched about 30 seconds of it and/or on click.
This means that there are actually 3 possible view counters we are dealing with.
The video views: The ones you see at the bottom of the videos.
The monetised views: The ones seen by advertisers, partners, and Google about how many views had ads that were “interacted” with.
And the third view: Something I will cover in the next segment.
At this point, you should realise a few things.
1. Advertisements are not counted if you don’t lock them in as “monetised views”.
2. Companies don’t lose money because their paid ads have not been monetised yet, so the amount of ads stays the same.
3. Google actually earns more per ad when you use ad blockers, because they can simply play those ads on videos that are not partners, as the ‘view’ count has not actually reached the point of payment for the companies, and YouTube need not pay people who aren’t partners. Though they do earn less overall because there are less ads playing.
4. The moment you use ad blocker on YouTube, you are depriving content creators of income.
Now, simply with the information at hand here, I can take down one of the more common arguments for ad blockers. “I want to stick it to ‘the man’!” or anything along that line.
Because I have shown that not only do content creators take the brunt of the profit damage, the host company (Google) and advertisers lose little to none of anything. You’re not so much as “sticking it to the man”, but rather, sticking it up our asses.
Host companies are still free to try even more intrusive methods, and as long as you continue to use the website, advertisers will keep flocking to it. However, content creators will still get shat on by all parties involved.
Basically, YouTube just went, “Nope. Not my fault. Here’s your cocaine!”
There are now 3 things you can do. You can either get everyone in the world to start using ad blockers, which would not only be impossible, but also ruin revenue stream to the point where no new videos can be made and the platform must shut down entirely. Or, you can stop using ad blockers, which I have a feeling, if you’re in the above category, is not something you will do.
Let’s meet halfway. Why not take some effort to whitelist all of you favourite content creators so that they get a fair shake?
Of course, maybe you are not one of these people. Maybe you simply think that it has nothing to do with you. That it is not your fault that content creators are losing money, because your ad blocker is the one that can’t tell the difference. You just click on shit. You are not affecting the process.
Well, that’s where you are wrong.
Be warned. The next two parts are ambiguous.