Advertising in the 1970s was a bit bizarre.
On March 17, 2017 the Times of London ran an article claiming that Google was allowing ad buys on YouTube to run on channels and videos created by or featuring extreme right wing individuals and groups, such as American white supremacist David Duke. A number of large companies quickly pulled all of their ads from YouTube until they received assurances that their ads would not run on such channels/videos.
On March 20, 2017, YouTube responded by announcing new standards for which videos and channels ads would appear. They include,
- Tougher stance on hate speech: Both creators and advertisers are concerned about hate speech and so are we. To protect the livelihoods of our creators and to strengthen advertiser confidence, we will be implementing broader demonetization policies around videos that are perceived to be hateful or inflammatory. This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is harassing or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories.
- Strengthening advertiser controls for video and display ads: In the coming weeks, we will add new advertiser controls that make it easier for brands to exclude higher risk content and fine-tune where they want their ads to appear.
Those changes quickly led to a bizarre mix of videos being demonitized (no longer eligible for ad placement). For example, channels like Secular Talk, which features commentary on current events from a left-liberal perspective, found itself demonitized because of the topics it covered. Part of the problem is that it becomes difficult with the size of YouTube to distinguish, for example, videos promoting David Duke vs. videos that are straight news coverage or criticism of his 2016 run for the US Senate.
Eventually Secular Talk and other channels like it were allowed to monetize once again, but YouTube and Google have continued their infamous lack of transparency around these sorts of changes. Why a given channel or video is demonitized or monetized is not something that Google is ever going to discuss.
Which brings us to What Culture Pro Wrestling. What Culture Wrestling was a YouTube channel devoted to covering the world of professional wrestling. In between the coverage of actual wrestlers and wrestling promotions, the channel featured news and predictions about the fictional What Culture Pro Wrestling promotion. This attracted such a following, that What Culture launched the WCPW as a legitimate wrestling promotion.
WCPW has been offering regular free weekly matches as well as pay-per-view events since July 2016. It has quickly become a top notch promotion, bringing together regulars from the UK along with some of the best indie wrestlers from around the world.
But today WCPW announced it was canceling all of its future tapings for its weekly free shows. The reason? YouTube has been demonitizing wrestling videos and channels since mid-April.
Effective immediately, our June 9, June 16, June 23, June 30, July 14, July 28, August 4, August 11, and August 18 shows have been pulled from our events pages, and refunds will be issued automatically to anyone who has purchased tickets to these events.
. . .
Owing to a change in their monetisation policy, which has now classified wrestling as “non-advertiser friendly”, it is no longer financially viable for WCPW to produce a weekly free show of the quality our fans deserve.
Since the change the WCPW YouTube channel has seen its advertising income decimated, with our recent match between Alberto El Patron and Rey Mysterio Jr earning only $44 despite receiving over 1,100,000 views. This is a reduction of around 98% in what would have been Loaded’s main source of revenue.
Without that money, it is simply not possible to organise, set-up, manage, produce and edit a free-to-air show on the scale we had intended, and we’ve been left with no choice but to alter our business model. We’re not alone in this either, as other promotions, journalists, and fans have seen their ability to make a living from their content jeopardised entirely by this change.
While we support YouTube in their endeavours to make the site a safer and more tolerant place to visit, we reject entirely the classification of wrestling as a whole as “inappropriate content”. As such, in the coming weeks WCPW will be partnering with other like-minded individuals and organisations to start a campaign aimed at reversing this sweeping change.
I’m not sure which is crazier–that they got more than 1 million views for a match featuring Alberto El Patron, or that the video only earned $44 in ad revenue. Based on their “reduction of…98% claim” that would mean they were earning $4,000-$5,000 on videos like this in the past. To put that in perspective, El Patron and Mysterio’s appearance fees alone were almost certainly much higher than that.
WCPW’s campaign to get YouTube to remonitize wrestling videos may or may not work (and if it does work, it’s not like YouTube will ever be transparent about why).
I suspect it won’t reverse its decision there. A lot of wrestling content on YouTube is stuff that many advertisers would not be comfortable being associated with. The problem with YouTube for advertisers is that it is unpredictable in ways that traditional media aren’t.
If a company is advertising during RAW, for example, it can predict exactly the sort of content that is going to appear and how far WWE is willing to push the envelope (i.e., not very far anymore). Advertise on YouTube and target wrestling channels, and you’re looking at everything from PG-style WWE matches all the way up to matches that feature liberal uses of expletives and even sexual situations (such as matches featuring Joey Ryan who, in the past, has had a sponsorship deal with YouPorn).
The big lesson here is simple: don’t build a business in 2017 that relies on advertising.
Many of the bigger YouTube channels were smart to diversify their income using tools like Patreon and merchandising to get away from being excessively dependent on YouTube ad revenue. Part of the story of the Internet is the complete destruction of industries that relied on advertising revenue. There is no reason to think that this won’t continue.
μTorrent recently added a $4.95 annual subscription to make the popular BitTorrent client ad-free.
The ad-free option had been part of ?Torrent Pro, but that subscription costs $19.95/year and includes a lot of (at least to me) superfluous features like virus filtering and multimedia conversion.
But $4.95 just to remove ads is more in-line with the mobile model where an app comes in a free, ad-supported version and a pro version that costs from $2.99 to $4.95.
Subscribing was a no-brainer to me given how much I use μTorrent.
The Guardian interviewed AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, and while his view on ad blockers is a lot more forward thinking than others in similar positions, he seems to have drunk the kool aid when it comes to advertising itself (emphasis added),
“Adblocking is the clearest signal for consumers that the advertising innovation cycle, that I think the entire industry got lazy on, needs to improve dramatically,” he says. “At our company, the adblocking rates have spurred a level of thinking that should have been around a couple of years ago.
“We have accepted the fact emotionally that adblocking is a signal from consumers that as great as we think all internet advertising is, it can be a lot greater. The consumer blocking of advertising is a very significant opportunity, and it is a significant risk if you choose to ignore it.”
Does anyone–other than the companies dependent upon it–think that the problem with online advertising is that it is merely great, and could be so much greater?
In the best case scenarios, advertising in all of its forms is at best a necessary evil that is tolerated and rarely celebrated. I am willing to tolerate ads during live TV broadcasts of NFL games, for example, though most of the time I switch to other activities when the ads play.
But there is never going to be a time when I am on my mobile phone or laptop thinking, “man, that was a great ad. I’m glad that site interrupted my workflow to show me such a great ad.”
HeadsetHotties.com is a blog devoted to the absurd usage of female models wearing headsets in print and online advertising. Typical is this ridiculous example from Mozy,
As HeadsetHotties.com website puts it,
The popularity of “Headset Hotties” is fascinating to view them from both the perspective of someone who is familiar with their widespread use and as an internet viewer with fresh eyes. While they can be a comforting face in a confusing online world, they are just as often a default design component. This website celebrates the former and challenges the latter.
Chris Pirillo has posted an e-mail he received from a newspaper after he posted an article about Bug Me Not which is a site/tool to get around those annoying newspaper splash pages that either want you to sign up for an account to access the newspaper or (and worse IMO), simply ask you for demographic information like your age and zip code when you visit the site.
Ed Leighton-Dick of Gazette Communications wrote to Pirillo to complain that,
Advertisers go where they can get the most “bang” for their buck, and if we can provide a little aggregate information for them through registration to allow them to target their advertising, they will advertise with us. Many advertisers will not advertise with a newspaper site without that information anymore, and without the advertising, the only option is to erect subscription gates. (And for the record, I know of no newspaper companies who still sell e-mail lists to third parties nor any who send e-mails without permissions. That undermines the credibility we’re trying to maintain.)
Leighton-Dick doesn’t come out and say it, but he seems to think that the aggregated demographic data his newspaper has from such registrations is accurate. But does anybody really fill out this stuff truthfully? I usually register as an 80 year old woman from New York.
I can’t believe that a potential advertiser would accept this data as accurate. The newspapers I’ve dealt with for online advertising usually have much better sources of demographics — the best have hired outside firms to do formal random surveys to determine how widely read the web site is in the surround area and then report on specific demographics of those who are, say, frequent vs. infrequent visitors.