I receive a lot of e-mail about how to become a YouTube Partner (where individuals can share in the advertising revenue that appears aside their videos). Some of you WillVideoForFood tribe members (Reubnick) have expressed frustration about how some are “chosen” and others aren’t (I’ve also edited this post thanks to your comments). The photos of me are for two reasons: Color a long, gray post. And because I like seeing photos of me when there was once a sun.
I’ve read many journalists and bloggers refer to the criteria as “vague.” Well of course it’s vague! Here’s why… YouTube’s stated criteria is as follows:
- You create original videos suitable for online streaming.
- You own the copyrights and distribution rights for all audio and video content that you upload — no exceptions.
- You regularly upload videos that are viewed by thousands of YouTube users.
George Strompolos, who leads the YouTube Partner Program, says “most users get turned down because they simply don’t have enough views or subscribers.” (Source: Alan Lastufa’s recently published “YouTube: An Insider’s Guide to Climbing the Charts”).
Now let’s put aside what YouTube “says” and what actually happens.
As evidenced by many of your comments below, Partnership approval almost feels random. When YouTube first began broadening the Partner program in 2007-2008, many smaller YouTube channels were approved while more popular ones weren’t. This could well be because channels had a higher frequency of copyright infringements (Alan also writes in his book that 9 out of 10 suspended channels resulted from copyright violations, even though many YouTubers claim they were suspended for other reasons).
YouTube’s published criteria MUST be that the partner owns the copyrights — no exceptions. They can’t very well say, “your content should mostly be your own.” They’re legally obliged to demonstrate that they will not tolerate copyright violators. Zero tolerance HAS to be their stated criteria.
Of course, it’s nearly impossible to enforce that, and if it was enforced rigidly many popular YouTubers would be suspended from the Partners programs for having brief excerpts of songs, or even singing cover songs. Some of the very first YouTube partners had videos that strayed into the copyright-infringement “gray area.” And occasionally a YouTube Partner makes a judgment call about what constitutes an infringement — that can result in the video being removed and the Partner’s status revoked.
Naturally, YouTube doesn’t yet have the manpower or technology to review the entire video portfolio of someone requesting partner status. So YouTube staff must use common sense, and that can’t very well translate to a completely consistent policy.
It’s a “no brainer” for YouTube to reject an aspiring Partner that has been uploading other people’s music videos and full episodes of television shows. However among my 700 plus videos, there are a few where I used a copyrighted song or shot my camera at a television screen (especially early ones when I was less aware of the implications, and wasn’t monetizing my content anyway). I’ve been careful to not “monetize” those videos, and your first step as a partner is to manually turn on “monetization” on each old video.
- Before applying, delete any videos that are blatant offenders of copyright. An occasional exception won’t likely be “deal breaker,” but this is an important factor.
- Create a fairly robust collection of videos, post frequently, garner some regular subscribers and views. If you don’t have a lot of views, you may not be accepted, and the partner program will not result in significant income for you anyway. It’s hard to fault YouTube for not wanting to incur the “set up” costs of accepting anyone with a brand new channel and inconsequential number of views — neither YouTube nor the partner will make money.
YouTube became annoyed that some aspiring partners were reapplying with great frequency, creating an administrative nightmare. So now there’s a period (I believe 90 days) before one can apply again. So don’t apply to become a partner until you’ve established a decent audience, and then keep applying within reasonable time frames. My free eBook (How to Become Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent) can give you some pointers on getting more views.
I do feel bad for those that are rejected who feel like they met the criteria, and it may be bad luck (the particular individual reviewing their application was in a stringent mood). Some want to be a partner simply for the perks (like the ability to “brand” the channel with customized banners, drive traffic to a non-YouTube site via clickable channel-page banners, and now select a thumbnail).
Good luck. Add any tips or insights you have below — especially if they aren’t consistent with YouTube’s policy or my layman review of it.