Wednesday Workshop: Demonetization

I wrote this two years ago when all this started. Some of it is a bit dated, and some of it is eerily coming true...and some of it is standard practice these days. I suppose I should not have been surprised...

This is a big issue, but one writers of mature content should be aware of in today's climate. A search on Youtube brings up a wealth of pro- and anti- opinions on the subject:

What is demonetization? Youtube is removing monetization (i.e. getting paid for ads shown on your videos) from videos that are not 'advertiser friendly.' Again, to be fair, Youtube has a right to say yes or no to show anything on their site, and advertisers have a right to say 'I want my ads to be shown on this type of content.'

But the policy bothers me greatly, and you see this mainstreaming "de-platforming" force happening everywhere and not just Youtube. Content that is independently produced about any sort of controversial topic, such as depression, political opinions, sexual humor, violence, profanity, speaking about drugs or war, videos of natural disasters, or even head-scratcher subjects like acme treatment  all get hit.

We see this same type of force working against books confined to 'adult dungeons' in online bookstores - where they don't appear in search or categories and their ability to earn money is greatly reduced. Mind you, a book in an 'adult dungeon' still pays creators if it is sold, so the comparison is not entirely fair, but the reduction in revenue is a force similar to a demonetization policy.

Again, to be clear, book publishers are in a better position - at least we get paid. Bookstores can't give our book away for free or give the money to someone else.

We can't be found, but we get paid.

Now, with videos, this is happening to everyone else who produces content which can offend someone is subject to having their monetization removed, and thus, censored because you cannot make money for producing content and it is not worth your time. Even though this content may have an audience.

To be fair, you can still post videos about controversial subjects - but they won't be monetized. They have supposedly pulled back on this policy a little and put forth an appeals process, but to have anything like this seems heavy-handed and draconian. It scares people away and stifles speech.

There isn't any money in making these types of videos.

Supposedly no advertiser wants to touch them.

Well, the video is still up there, and keeping people on the platform - so I don't buy the argument that because no advertiser will touch the video it doesn't have any value. It has a value in retention, and thus I feel there is a bit of a shell game going on here.

If it were me? Pull the video the second it got demonitized and put it up somewhere I would be getting paid. That is how a book author and publisher would act to the same treatment.

Seriously - if it isn't earning ME money I consider the contract has been broken and I am not leaving that up there to attract viewers to YOUR platform so I can't get paid.

No free lunch, platform. Fuck off this is going somewhere else, even if I get paid like shit or not at all. And don't tell me this will attract viewers to my channel, because there is an incentive for the platform to demonitize more and more of my stuff.

And why is the first part of that word say...demon?

But...back on subject, Youtube is a channel, an everything network, people get that and so should advertisers who sign on there. This isn't the public airwaves or even a cable channel. This is us, or it was supposed to be.

Now it is 'don't upset anyone.'

Sound familiar? Every book I write. Every social media account I manage. Sorry, you have been flagged 'adult products and services' you cannot advertise. Sorry, your books are erotica, they really aren't shown or found that easily. Everyday I log into Facebook I wonder if my erotic fiction discussion groups will be closed (today were a lot closer to that day than two years ago when I wrote this - Sylvie). If your website is even somehow adult-related you can't be found that easily in web searches.

Controversial content!


And now, it is happening to content creators who don't even write adult novels. I know, we were the canaries in the coal mine here it feels like. Anything remotely controversial feels like it is being shoved into an 'adult dungeon' where it cannot be monetized or found. This is not just happening to people who create 'sexually explicit' content anymore, it is happening to everybody who does sexual humor, violence, vulgar language, speaking about drugs (even dealing with the side-effects of prescribed ones), and discussion of events relating to war, political conflicts, extremism, natural disasters or tragedies (even if graphic imagery is not shown).

Demonitized and demonized.

So by these rules, you can't speak about a hurricane or the damage it caused and be monetized. You can't react to a political speech. You can't drop an f-bomb in a review of a game or movie. You may upset someone.




What is the takeaway here? Are we screwed? As book writers, we are a little better off than those who make videos, and that is a shocking thing to be saying. They can't create sexually-explicit content and be monetized, and we can. They can't create controversial content and be monetized, and we can. Our books can still be bought and sold, even if they can't be found. We still get paid for our hard work, even though it may be hard work to find it.

It's not all so great for us, however. Their videos still appear in search, though one wonders when that shoe will drop since it did on us a long time ago. No one wants controversial subjects to appear in search by default, right?

Again, what is the takeaway? How can we not walk away from this and not feel screwed?

Direct customers to shops and platforms which support free speech.

Do not allow yourself to get sucked into supporting a platform with a monopoly on distribution. If you support a monopolistic platform and they screw you, you have a right to complain. You also have an obligation to walk away and bring customers with you to a platform where you and your fans will be treated fairly. With today's monopolies these places may not exist, and your model for supporting yourself will not work with the smaller audience there.

You may be stuck working within the new guidelines if you choose to stay, because it is next to impossible to fight these Goliaths in technology. You never know, there may be a program to make the entire site's content more friendly to a 'world audience' and therefore this content sterilization and 'dumbing down' happens because there are bigger fish to please than a lone producer such as yourself.

If we don't support alternative distribution channels today they might not be there tomorrow. I admit, I am not the best example here due to time and my own actions, but I am thinking seriously about this.

I am changing my purchasing habits accordingly.

I am not so sold on the platforms which silence us, and the technologies and services which go hand-in-hand with these policies. A new phone or tablet? Being so attached to these services and systems? Maybe not. Not until things change, at least, because I have to be fair and give them a chance to correct this mess.

I can't support you if you don't support content creators and free speech.

I know you have to be accountable to your advertisers and make things better for them, but hey, you are probably the largest and most powerful corporation in the world - and you can do better than this.

I am sure there are advertisers who would love to be seen on those videos.

I would if I could.

Do those of us who produce 'controversial content' not want to advertise?

Figure it out "tech giants", seriously.

But until then, as content creators, develop a distribution strategy that supports alternative channels that support free speech and paying creators for their hard work - and not judging them based on what that work contains. If there is an underlying principle here, one that guides my thoughts, network usage, directing customers, publishing, and purchasing habits - it is this:

"I can not support platforms which do not pay content creators for their hard work."


 "Do not judge me as a content creator or my contributions to society."

Because seriously and honestly, if what I do is utter crap, no one will read or watch it, and the free market shall speak. No one will buy the book, the reviews will tank, and the general crappiness shall be known. If I made silly controversial content videos and no one watched them, seriously, then whatever few sub-fractional pennies that were made with 100 views isn't going to hurt anyone. And also, people are smart enough to separate the ads from the video - we get it, these are Youtube's ads for the service not the content creator's.

We get it.

Do not judge the content creator. Do not judge the customer. This is all we ask.

We chose to watch this. We subscribed to the channel. We want to pay this person for what they have to say, and reimburse them for their time and creativity - no matter what the message is. It is our choice and our right to support people who create things we cherish and love. I will watch the ad knowing part of it goes back to the person who put this video up (and a part to the service hosting the video, I get that), and I know that ad doesn't necessarily speak for or support 100% of the content of the programming just like it doesn't on normal television.

We aren't stupid.

Please stop treating us as if we were.