March 06, 2011

The Truth About YouTube and Advertising

Greetings. This topic really deserves a longer piece to get into the details, but I wanted to quickly note the unexpected spate of "anti-YouTube advertising" comments I received in reaction to my sending out a link earlier today to: In YouTube, Google finds a nimble model to compete with Facebook.

Most of these complaints were of the "I hate the way Google puts ads on everybody's videos" variety.

The problem is, Google/YouTube don't actually do this, and the notes I received suggest considerable confusion on this score.

True, the most popular videos have ads and tend to be actively monetized. But while I don't have hard statistics right at my fingertips tonight, I'd wager that the overwhelmingly vast majority of YouTube videos carry no ads at all.

Now, I'm like most other people -- there are some forms of ads related to videos that I find more irritating than others. I consider long "pre-roll" ads to be particularly irksome.

But I also feel that advertising overall on YouTube is a good value proposition, considering the vast array of material that I can access for free, much of which provides me with considerable enjoyment, as I've related in past postings.

There are really only a few ways to end up with ads on your YouTube videos.

One is to ask YouTube to become a partner, specifically to enable monetization.

Another way is to accept the "Enable Revenue Sharing" offer that you may receive if your video is trending in significant ways.

Both of these are entirely voluntary. So at this stage of the game, if you don't want to be a partner and you don't accept the Revenue Sharing offer, there normally won't be ads on, beside, or under your video.

And if you see ads on a video, it usually means that the party uploading the video requested (or agreed to) revenue sharing monetization.

There is an exception to all this. There is a way to end up with ads on your video without your permission, and with you not sharing in any revenue. And that's if your video triggers a copyright owner "Content ID" hit, that is, a claim that your video in whole or part infringes on a copyright owner, as per the DMCA.

For now, I won't get into the complicated controversies about YouTube Content ID, such as whether or not it is sometimes too aggressive, how it relates to Fair Use and preauthorized use considerations, etc. Nor will I consider here the various dispute mechanisms that exist for YouTube video uploaders related to DMCA/Content ID claims.

Leaving that all aside for now, Content ID carries an enormously positive benefit, in that it provides copyright owners with the means to assert their ownership of materials without ordering a full takedown of the associated videos.

And that's how ads may appear in such cases. If your uploaded video triggers Content ID, you'll be notified of the claim and the action specified by the copyright owner. There are various possibilities, including but not limited to:

  • Ads being inserted on or around the video

  • Links to "where to purchase this music" sites under the video (common when popular music has been used as a backing track during some portion of the video)

  • Video playback restricted in certain countries

  • And so on
Usually, the notification you receive regarding the Content ID hit is quite detailed and provides the information needed for you to decide how you want to proceed.

In many cases, Content ID options have been key to keeping popular videos available at all.

A classic example is the famous "Hitler in the Bunker" scene that has been used for countless parodies (and c'mon, admit it, some of them are pretty funny). For quite a while, the company owning the rights to that footage was routinely pulling down those videos one by one from YouTube, as full DMCA takedowns. But as of late (at least the last time I checked) they had changed their strategy, and now are simply monetizing those parodies with ads, rather than forcing their removal entirely.

Legal purists may choose to argue the Fair Use issues involved in this, but from a practical standpoint this seems like a pretty good win-win. The parodies' creators get to keep showing their work, and the creator of the source footage gets some action as well.

This complicated balancing act is now threatened with disruption by the horrendous COICA legislation in the U.S. Senate, that apparently seeks to undermine the entire premise of the DMCA, potentially creating such high liabilities that services like YouTube could be severely threatened (please see my recent "Internet Freedoms" Interview for more on COICA risks and related matters).

YouTube is a quintessential example of the complex issues that surround user-submitted materials on publicly accessible Web sites. I am an enormous YouTube fan, and I would consider its hobbling to be a tremendous loss, not just for entertainment, but in a vast array of serious educational aspects as well.

In these contexts, I frankly find shrill complaints about YouTube ads to be of relatively little consequence -- perhaps more a reflection of how people have come to expect everything for free on the Net -- even free from advertising -- never mind the immense costs involved in providing these services in the first place.

That's human nature, I suppose. But in the overall scheme of things, is watching some ads really such an unreasonable price to "pay" -- given what we receive from YouTube?

I think it's a pretty fair exchange. And that's a damned good deal in this life, especially these days.


Posted by Lauren at March 6, 2011 08:18 PM | Permalink
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