YouTube Tests Selling Ads for ‘Edgy’ Content to Marketers Like Studios Pitching R-Rated Movies

YouTube wants to help creators who use profanity — or otherwise produce videos that are deemed “advertiser unfriendly” — to make more money: The video giant has launched a test program to identify marketers who are “interested in edgier content,” according to CEO Susan Wojcicki.

One of the first categories of advertisers YouTube has zeroed in on: studios promoting R-rated movies.

YouTube has been “running experiments to help match content that could be considered edgy with advertising that fits their brand,” Wojcicki said in her quarterly letter to the creator community.

Creators can see which of their videos have run afoul of YouTube’s advertiser-friendly content guidelines in the Video Manager application: A green dollar-sign icon means the video is cleared for ads, while a yellow dollar-sign icon indicates that a video will have limited or no ads.

Now, YouTube wants to help turn on the ad spigot for those yellow-icon videos. In the first month of the program, according to Wojcicki, the program resulted in “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in ad revenue on videos in the “limited or no ads” category.

Creators can help their cause by telling YouTube about the nature of their content. Next year, YouTube plans to expand its Self Certification pilot to hundreds of thousands of YouTube Partner Program creators. That lets creators “self-report how their video complies with ad policies,” Wojcicki wrote in her letter. “Not only does Self Certification give creators more control, it also provides specific feedback on why a video might have monetization issues.”

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YouTube has a laundry list of criteria that it factors in in determining which videos are inelgible for monetization. Those include inappropriate language; violence; adult content; harmful or dangerous acts; hateful content; drug- and tobacco-related content; firearms-related content; and “controversial issues and sensitive events.”

Some creators have expressed frustration about YouTube’s demonetization decisions (which they are able to appeal). In particular, many felt the guidelines around “inappropriate language” were not specific.

To address that question, YouTube earlier this year clarified that some swear words are OK when it comes to monetization. In the “totally safe” category is light or mild profanity, including “shit,” “hell” and “damn,” as well as the occasional use of strong profanity (like the f-bomb) if it’s bleeped out, according to YouTube.

YouTube said it will demonetize videos that include “medium or strong” profanity in the title or thumbnail image; or if a video features “strong profanity used repeatedly in a hateful or derogatory way.” In addition, videos with racial slurs, including the n-word, are entirely excluded from the ad-monetization program, according to YouTube.

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