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YouTube Aims to Match Advertisers with 'Edgier' Content

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Photo: Reed Saxon (AP)

YouTube’s experimenting with matching subject-appropriate advertising with YouTubers whose videos may not fit the bill of “family friendly content” according to the platform’s moderation policies.

While YouTube’s (largely ineffective) rules are designed to weed out depictions of violence, hate speech, and extremist content, some creators argue these policies are too broad since they also flag, among other examples, videos of YouTubers playing violent video games, performing dangerous stunts, or covering sensitive news topics.


Such content is marked with a yellow dollar sign indicating which videos are “not suitable for all advertisers” and thus have a limited ability to earn ad revenue (you might have heard it more infamously referred to as the “demonetized” icon). Now, YouTube hopes to match these “edgier” videos with advertisers whose content might share a similar audience, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki wrote in a company post Thursday.

“We’re working to identify advertisers who are interested in edgier content, like a marketer looking to promote an R-rated movie, so we can match them with creators whose content fits their ads. In its first month, this program resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads on yellow icon videos,” Wojcicki wrote.


She also included a shout-out specifically to gaming content creators, who have been some of the platforms most vocal dissidents when it comes to depicting violence. Currently, YouTube’s rules lump all violence—real and fake—under the same moderation standards, so playing anything “edgier” than, say, Minecraft or The Sims runs the risk of earning that yellow icon or becoming demonetized completely.

According to Wojcicki’s post, a much-demanded policy revision is currently in the works that should ease up restrictions for YouTubers who post footage of violent video games:

“For gaming creators, we’ve heard loud and clear that our policies need to differentiate between real-world violence and gaming violence. We have a policy update coming soon that will do just that. The new policy will have fewer restrictions for violence in gaming, but maintain our high bar to protect audiences from real-world violence.”

While such a distinction has been a long time coming, the timing is such that I can’t help but suspect this all might be a press grab after YouTube’s recent bungling with its new verification process. And you know, there was also the whole scandal about its nightmare algorithm directing viewers to extremist content and encouraging pedophiles to watch videos of kids. It honestly seems like YouTube could use a win right now, and promising disgruntled content creators that they might soon be able to earn more ad bucks seems like a pretty safe PR bet.


You can read the letter in full on YouTube’s Creator Blog here.