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State of the YouTube: An open letter from a small channel

by Sarah James

Dear YouTube,

About a month ago, on January 16th, myself and many other small channels received this email. I had to re-read this email a few times before I really understood what was happening. I won’t be monetized until I hit 1,000 subscribers. While that may not seem like a huge number to you, after all so many YouTubers have millions of subscribers, that number seems huge to me. Let me break this down for you. I am a college student with a YouTube channel. This channel is a hobby of mine, a place where I can be creative. Since I’m busy as a student, it’s difficult for me to put the time into my channel in order to make it something sustainable. But it’s still a fun place where I can showcase my work, gain a little following, and even make some money along the way. Well not anymore. YouTube, you have completely forgotten to incentivize small creators by screwing over tiny channels. As of my writing of this letter my channel has 159 subscribers, I have about 17,000 total channel views, and over the course of the three years that I’ve had this channel, I’ve made a little less than $11.00. I’m a small channel, okay? And I understand that I wasn’t going to see any of that money until I made at least $100. But now, I won’t see any of that money until I hit 1,000 subscribers, then make $100 with that new subscriber count. Maybe. Who knows if you’ll change the policy again? Who knows when I’ll see any of the money I’ve made through this platform? Listen, I don’t know if YouTube will be my full time job. I’ve made 10 videos over the course of three years since that’s all I can do while in school. I graduate soon and I’m in the midst of job searching, but I wouldn’t be able to to make the jump to full time social media personality until my YouTube channel hits a point where its sustainable. So until then, YouTube was going to be a place where I could express myself and maybe make a little money to help pay some student loans. But now, I have no incentive to keep going with my YouTube channel, because it seems so impossible to get to a point where I could monetize my content. People won’t want to go through that grind in order to get their channel up and running. People are going to stop creating YouTube channels. You’ve taken the “you” out of YouTube. Now it’s clear that all you care about is turning your platform into a commodity. By making this move that intentionally hurts small channels, you’ve made it clear that what you care about most is turning YouTube into TV. You want people who can make consistent content that fits within the time limits of an average TV show and turn out fresh videos on a specific schedule. YouTube is no longer the place of the everyday creator, the quirky kids with a camera and an idea. YouTube is now the place where if you have enough time and money, you too can have your own army of twelve-year-olds ready to defend your actions when you mess up. YouTube is the place where people pull “pranks” that intentionally hurt people, use language that’s spiteful, and stir up drama for views. YouTube isn’t a community anymore, and creators who have been there for years will agree with that. Comment sections are horribly toxic; people aren’t able to connect with each other like they used to. YouTube has become a corporate machine. I understand that you may not like me as a creator. I don’t upload regularly, my content may be “unsuitable for some advertisers” because I do SFX makeup, and I film in a small apartment, not a well-lit studio. I’m not the type of person that will make you a  ton of money, at least not yet. But now you’ve dissuaded me from trying to get to that point, taken the possibility of getting paid and throwing it further away from me. So, YouTube, if you care about who you are as a platform, if you want to be something different than the greedy machine of television, maybe take a step back and look out for the little guy. The quirky kids with cameras and an idea. Give us a chance to shine.