Bad news for YouTube creators who depend on Patreon

YouTube’s sometimes uneven crackdown on ads placed on offensive content has driven some video creators to the crowd-funding site Patreon for a more reliable source of income.

But that alternative may become a bit more difficult after an update the Google-owned site rolled out this week.

Google no longer lets creators who aren’t part of its partnership program embed links to external sites like Patreon within their videos. 

The change is supposed to “curb abuse” by encouraging channel owners to partner with the site so it can “evaluate the validity of the channel” and determine whether the videos are appropriate, a Google spokesperson said.

YouTube creators do not necessarily have to run ads on their videos to qualify for the linking privilege, but their content does have to fall within the site’s conduct rules. Non-partner users are also still allowed to link to outside sites in the video description, though that placement is much less prominent to viewers.

Google says it rolled out the update because its automated system detected that some of these link screens were being used in ways it considered harmful to users.

The company has taken a much stricter stance on policing videos since advertisers revolted en masse over placements on videos from Nazi groups, terrorists, and other hate-mongers earlier this year.

But some creators claim the measures—most of which are handled through algorithms and automated systems—have been applied arbitrarily and that YouTube hasn’t exactly been transparent or responsive about why some videos are demonetized but others are not.

A YouTube user who goes by the pseudonym Russell said ads for his 4.8-million-subscriber channel, “Ownage Pranks,” have become more unreliable in recent months. When he tries to contact YouTube about the issue, administrators aren’t often forthcoming with the reasoning behind the demonetization.

“I huge loyalty to YouTube—it’s why my channel flourished,” Russell said. “But Patreon and other ways to supplement income are crucial, especially when there’s just no guarantees with what YouTube is going to do. They could just flip the switch on you at any time.”

Russell said he expects to depend more on his own Patreon and other diversified income streams like mobile apps going forward.

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