YouTube wants to make sure that advertisers are reaching the audiences they want, through content they are proud to be associated with.

It’s with this goal in mind that the streaming video giant, owned by Google Inc., announced on Wednesday that it would be changing the platform’s advertising standards in three ways:

  • By requiring content creation channels to have 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months to be eligible for ads;
  • By manually reviewing the site’s Google Preferred content; and
  • By implementing a three-tier suitability system that will allow advertisers to ensure their brands are associated with content appropriate for their audience.

The new criteria will come into effect on Feb. 20th, Paul Muret, Google’s vice president of display, video, and analytics wrote in a Jan. 17 blog post, while the company expects to complete its first manual review of Google Preferred channels outside the U.S., including Canada’s, by the end of March.

The new standards are a response to an exodus of advertisers from the site last year, including Johnson & Johnson, Pepsi, and McDonald’s, over concerns that their ads were appearing in front of extremist content.

In March 2017, New York City-based brokerage firm Nomura Instinet estimated that Google lost $750 million in revenue as a result – and that was before another controversy erupted in November over YouTube’s algorithm posting inappropriate parody videos starring children’s characters on its YouTube Kids channel.

“There’s no denying 2017 was a difficult year, with several issues affecting our community and our advertising partners,” Muret wrote. “While we took several steps last year to protect advertisers from inappropriate content, we know we need to do more to ensure that their ads run alongside content that reflects their values.”

How it works

According to Muret, the changes were the result of “careful consideration and extended conversations” with both advertisers and creators of content, with the channels enrolled in the site’s updated YouTube Partner Program representing 95 per cent of YouTube’s viewed content.

As of Feb. 20, channels in the YPP will be required to have 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months to be eligible for ads.

Previously, channels enrolled in the program had to reach 10,000 total views to be eligible.

“It’s been clear over the last few months that we need the right requirements and better signals to identify the channels that have earned the right to run ads,” Muret wrote. “Instead of basing acceptance purely on views, we want to take channel size, audience engagement, and creator behavior into consideration to determine eligibility for ads.”

Noting that “size alone is not enough to determine whether a channel is suitable for advertising,” Muret said that YouTube will also closely monitor signals such as spam to ensure they comply with the site’s policies.

“Both new and existing YPP channels will be automatically evaluated under this strict criteria and if we find a channel repeatedly or egregiously violates our community guidelines, we will remove that channel from YPP,” he wrote – and should any account be issued three warnings, or “strikes,” regarding guideline breaches, both the account and its channels will be removed from YouTube.

“This combination of hard-to-game user signals and improved abuse indicators will help us reward the creators who make engaging content while preventing bad actors and spammers from gaming the system in order to monetize unsuitable content,” Muret added, acknowledging that the new approach would also affect a “significant number” of channels eligible to run ads.

As for the new controls that will allow advertisers to specify the type of content they want their ads to be associated with, Muret was light on details, but said a three-tier suitability system “that allows advertisers to reflect their view of appropriate placements for their brand, while understanding potential reach trade offs,” will be released “in the coming months.”

The company is also collaborating with New York City-based analytics firms Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify, and exploring partnerships with data measurement firms OpenSlate, comScore, and Oracle subsidiary Moat, to provide third-party brand safety reporting services, which it expects to release over the course of 2018.

“The challenges we faced in 2017 have helped us make tough but necessary changes in 2018,” Muret wrote. “These changes will help us better fulfill the promise YouTube holds for advertisers: the chance to reach over 1.5 billion people around the world who are truly engaged with content they love.”

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