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Google tightens YouTube rules to clean things up for advertisers

Google tightens YouTube rules to clean things up for advertisers
Google will introduce a new vetting process for the top-shelf YouTube videos it describes to advertisers as "preferred." (Danny Moloshok / Associated Press)

Google is making the biggest changes to the advertising rules on YouTube since the video site's inception, another attempt to clean up its content and answer persistent complaints from advertisers.

YouTube will now impose stricter criteria for the types of videos that can earn money on the site and will introduce a new vetting process for the top-shelf videos it offers advertisers, the company said Tuesday. In the past year, YouTube has dealt with a series of firestorms, starting last March when ads were found next to violent and racist videos, leading several advertisers to pull their business.

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But problems persisted. Bloomberg reported last week that Alphabet Inc.'s Google had discussed some of the new changes with partners last week following alarming revelations about YouTube videos featuring children. Google doesn't publicly report YouTube revenue but frequently cites the world's largest video site as one of its fastest-growing businesses.

In April, after an ad boycott began, YouTube raised the cap for splitting revenue with video creators, requiring these sites to have at least 10,000 views. Now, Google will open advertising only to YouTube channels with more than 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 viewing hours racked up over a year. The restrictions are designed to filter out offensive videos, although YouTube's latest controversies have involved some of its most popular creators, such as PewDiePie and Logan Paul.

"While that threshold provided more information to determine whether a channel followed our community guidelines and policies, it's been clear over the last few months that we need a higher standard," Robert Kyncl, YouTube's chief business officer, and Neal Mohan, its product lead, said in a joint blog post.

As YouTube fielded complaints from advertisers, the company has defended itself by pointing to the number of creators that depend on the service for their livelihood. Some of those video creators reported as much as an 80% drop in sales after YouTube's tighter restrictions. In YouTube's blog post, the company said that 99% of the creators affected by the new changes earn less than $100 a year from YouTube ads.

In addition to the new restrictions, YouTube is pledging that its staff of content moderators will screen every single video in Google Preferred, the company's premium offering for marketers. Google said that the manual review process will be set up by the middle of February in the U.S. and by the end of March in other countries.

After the initial boycott, YouTube gave advertisers a slew of new controls to ensure their ads don't run next to offensive videos. However, similar issues occurred again, flaring up in the fall around videos aimed at children.

"It's different this time," Eric Reynolds, chief marketing officer for Clorox Co., said in a phone interview about YouTube's new policies. "It feels like a whole new level of commitment." Reynolds said he had placed some of his marketing on YouTube on hold last year, but has now returned with higher levels of spending.

Bergen and Shaw write for Bloomberg.

UPDATES:

12:25 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with additional information.

This article was originally published at 9:50 a.m.

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