September 4th, 2019. On this day, YouTube announced several changes that will be impacting kid-friendly content creators on the platform. Like many of their announcements in the past, it was awarded with a ton of backlash and confusion. We want to break down what this means for you, and what you can do about it.
In this announcement thread, it was the 3rd tweet that the Team YouTube account made that sunk the hearts of many and caused a Twitter uproar:
The first two changes don't mean very much to your average creator besides maybe impacting some revenue and CPM slightly, but nowhere close to the awful performance September already causes. (The Back to School season really isn't a favorite for many.)
What does this really mean, though? To fully understand the impact this has, we first need to cover the controversy of the subscriber feed and notifications that have plagued YouTube for years now.
In the early days of YouTube, the subscription system was simple. If you liked a channel, you'd click "Subscribe", and then you'd see their new videos in your Subscriber Feed (at the time, this was the YouTube homepage while you were logged in). You could enable email notifications when your subscriptions uploaded - but that was really the extent of it. In fact, it didn't really start using notifications heavily until 2015.
A bit before then, the tides changed for the subscriber buttons. YouTube experienced tons of growth as kids, teens, and young adults turned to it as a major source of their content. With this major use came constant new subscriptions. A new channel here, a like there, an interaction there - this gave YouTube a lot of data to play with, but it also gave them a major issue they had to address: Content Overload.
As much as you'd like to believe it: You don't know what you want. Giving users true access to everything they subscribe to immediately is extremely overwhelming. Why? Because too much choice is a bad thing. YouTube made a choice to move focus away from the subscriber feed to ensure they could keep watch time across their site up. The homepage was adjusted to be more of a personal content curator (thanks to all the data they collect from you), and subscriptions were taken out of the spotlight. The subscriber feed was also modified to only show content from channels you actually interact with frequently. Creators didn't like this change because as far as they're concerned: They'd upload a video and it wouldn't reach their subscribers all the time. (A strange behavior for anyone that has been on the site for such a long time)
While it's clear that YouTube needed to change this behavior, the lack of transparency they had about this change can be discussed in a blog post of it's own. Either way, the point is clear: Creators lost trust in the Subscribe button.
Ring that Bell
Shortly after, YouTube added the now infamous "bell icon" that lives right next to the Subscribe button once you have an active subscription to the channel.
This bell would push notiifcations to subscriber's devices every time the channel uploaded if they opted in by clicking on it. Users officially needed to subscribe twice because the old subscription-only system was so diluted.
"Finally! A way to guarantee viewers are notified about my content!"
Within just days of this new feature being added, "hit that bell" was all too familiar of a phrase that viewers got used to hearing. (Whether or not this is a good solution to the problem is another blog post, as well.)
Notifications became the primary way that creators were assured that viewers were getting their content (at least as far as first-party solutions go.)
YouTube giveth, YouTube taketh away.
And this is what leaves kid-friendly content channels at risk. So many viewers; kids especially; rely on notification delivery to stay in the loop about your new content. If this just randomly stops, this audience will have no idea about the change, and unless they find your channel frequently via Recommended, the Subscriber Feed (when it works), or social media, then your channel may be as good as gone for them.
YouTube really hasn't stated how they directly classify a channel as "kid friendly" yet besides saying they use mysterious machine learning algorithms and a self opt-in:
Hopefully further clarification is made in the future to settle some concerns, but right now this is a significant issue for kid-content channels.
For all of us at Melon Development, this just confirms the pattern that many have already seen.
You need alternative revenue streams.
If you, or someone you know, treats YouTube as their full time job, business, or otherwise: any sort of major funding for their livelihood: alternative revenue streams are not optional.
Like a light switch, YouTube can decide that your videos are no longer recommended to viewers, ads no longer run on your videos, or any other number of things. If you rely on YouTube and YouTube only, you're risking everything you've built.
At Melon Development, we assist clients every day with growing and developing these revenue streams. Our consultations are free, and we'd love to help you like we do so many other influencers. Ensure your brand doesn't ride the waves of YouTube trends, and support yourself with more revenue then just a YouTube paycheck.
We're excited to chat.