YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has this week provided an update to the YouTube creator community on her work to address their various concerns, and what the platform is doing to better meet their needs.
YouTube has become far more than a hobby for many creators, with some earning millions of dollars from their YouTube channels. And as such, every change on the platform can have a significant impact to their business, and as YouTube goes about refining its algorithms and improving safety measures, each tweak has some level of effect.
First off, Wojcicki explains the company's efforts on her first priority - "living up to our responsibility".
As explained by Wojcicki:
"My top priority is responsibility. We’re always balancing maintaining an open platform with managing our community guidelines. But to combat a number of concerning incidents we’ve seen in the last few months, we’ve had to take more aggressive action."
Those more aggressive actions have related to events like the Christchurch mosque shootings, in which users were uploading the shooters' video, and a report that demonstrated how YouTube has been exposing minors to concerning, even criminal, subcultures through video comments.
Responding to this, in February, YouTube announced the suspension of comments on most YouTube videos which feature minors.
"We know how vital comments are to creators. I hear from creators every day how meaningful comments are for engaging with fans, getting feedback, and helping guide future videos. I also know this change impacted so many creators who we know are innocent."
Similar impacts stemmed from the Christchurch bans (and later, the Sri Lankan terror attacks), with some innocent parties caught up in the process, but Wojcicki says this is a trade-off they need to make, in order to uphold this key element.
Few could argue with this, though for those creators that have been caught up, it must be frustrating, and YouTube says it will continue to examine best practices on this front.
Wojcicki's second key area of focus relates to platform policies for creators, and how YouTube is working to address their most significant concerns.
"A top issue was wanting more clarity around community guidelines and advertiser-friendly policies, so there’s more predictability on monetization and our recommendation system. They’re also looking for better representation of creators on trending. They’re frustrated with copyright claims that are less than 10 seconds or incidental. And they say the online harassment from fellow creators is growing and needs to be addressed."
These have been long-standing issues for YouTube creators, which have become more pressing over time as YouTube has sought to refine its tools and help advertisers avoid misplaced ads - and thus, unwanted brand association.
Addressing these, Wojcicki says that YouTube is:
- Working to increase the accuracy of its monetization classifiers to ensure non-violating videos are not penalized. Since January, Wojcicki says, it's already improved the precision of its classifier by 25%.
- Aiming to ensure that at least half the videos on its 'Trending' lists come from YouTubers, with the remainder coming from music and traditional media. YouTube says that it's already close to this.
- Looking to improve its copyright strike system to ensure it's not being used for small, incidental usages in videos, or by businesses improperly looking to stop creators making money from their trademarked properties
Wojcicki also notes that they will be updating their policies and processes to address reports of on-platform harassment and doxing.
And the last key point here is on the controversial Article 13 copyright directive in the EU - Wojcicki says the directive contains various "vague, untested requirements", and urges creators to lobby to have it struck down however possible.
The last key area of focus is on improving communication, which Wojcicki says they are doing through various means, including face-to-face meet-ups and improving social media communication.
Back in February, YouTube reported that it had increased its social media responses by 150%, and improved response times by 50%, highlighting its efforts on this front - but again, given the money at stake, YouTube needs to keep refining its processes on this front to ensure its meeting creator requirements.
Creators are the core of YouTube - they're what keep users coming back to the platform, and how the platform is able to build its ad business. Top YouTubers are generating millions of video views every day, and losing touch with them would see the platform lose ground overall, which it can't do, particularly with Facebook nipping at its heels. As such, these updates are crucial to the wider YouTube ecosystem, and it's important to note how YouTube is doing so, and whether its efforts are effective.
You can read Wojcicki's full creator update here.