The Adpocalypse

Title: How Youtube’s Shifting Algorithms Hurt Independent Media


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Comments: Anyone who spends time in certain corners of YouTube, perhaps, like me, watching more videos than television – will recognize the term “adpocalypse.” Probably, they will have heard their favorite viewers either complaining that their videos have lost revenue from advertisements (a crucial source of income for many content creators, that makes much of their work possible) or weighing in on what will likely be discussed as an example of the power of algorithms.

As a platform, YouTube must carefully address the needs of its content creators and the demands of advertisers, and this can be a delicate balancing act when trying to make responsible and economic decisions that begin to drift into the realms of censorship and free-speech. To accomplish some of these tasks, YouTube has developed the (in)famous algorithm, known to content creators simply as “the algorithm” which help determines whether a youtube video can be monetized or featured, for example.

“The algorithm” seems to have the function of predicting which videos advertisers will approve of being represented by and which videos users will most want to view. This sounds like a lovely and efficient idea, but many content creators have recently seen their videos lose the ability to make money due to the algorithm labeling their content as “controversial,” even in instances when a human being would almost undoubtedly disagree.

What are the factors this algorithm takes into account when making such decisions? We don’t know, because YouTube will not release the details of its algorithm or machine learning strategies. What we do know is that it appears that sometimes, these strategies get it wrong. For many youtubers, this lack of transparency presents a frustrating challenge to supplying viewers with honest, thoughtful content that they can earn money from.