YouTube creators are already making changes to their channels out of fear that they’ll be unable to make money once the platform begins enforcing new limits around kid-friendly content.
Some of these changes include fully renaming stage names to make them feel less kid-oriented, cutting out popular series dedicated to toys or games, taking up vlogging, and specifically shifting videos to target teens. Essentially, these changes retarget kids content to a slightly older demographic that isn’t covered by the $170 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over alleged children’s privacy law violations.
Due to the settlement, YouTube will have to stop collecting data on videos that are targeted toward kids under the age of 12, and creators who make videos for children — such as unboxing toys or art lessons — will also have to clearly label their content as being intended for kids. For creators, this means any videos they make for kids won’t be eligible to run targeted ads, which they fear could dramatically reduce their revenue.
Several prominent full-time personalities are already making changes to avoid the potential fallout. Toya from MyFroggyStuff (2.1 million subscribers), Kelli Maple (1.2 million subscribers), and Rob of Art for Kids (1.9 million subscribers), among others, have all published announcement videos updating their fans about changes they should expect to see, including adjustments to both titles and content. Their goal is to avoid losing revenue by being swept up in YouTube’s broad new category of kids content, which will go into effect on January 1st, 2020, while still keeping their fans happy.
“I feel very strongly that we need to make changes here on our channel,” Rob says in the video above. “We will only post art lessons that are meant for kids that are 13-years-old and up. For the time being, I will leave all of our past lessons on our channel, but eventually these may go away. We’ll still continue to post lessons (for younger kids) over on our app and on our website.”
The biggest and most worrying change for creators is no longer being able to run targeted ads. These ads make up a significant portion of what’s run on YouTube channels, Melissa Hunter, executive director of a Family Video Network, a group that works with family vloggers, previously told The Verge. Other changes include not being able to send new video notifications — which can limit a video’s popularity and overall revenue — and comments being turned off.
Rob says he supports YouTube’s decision, but he also has a separate website and app, which include subscription offerings to help supplement his income. That’s not necessarily true for other creators. Toya, who operates MyFroggyStuff, is changing her stage name from Froggy to Toya, updating the style of her thumbnails (to feature miniatures targeted at adults), and adjusting even how she describes things (going from “toys” to “miniatures” in order to ensure the content is deemed by YouTube as appropriate for all advertisements). Maple, who learned about the changes from Toya’s video, uploaded her own statement on YouTube declaring similar changes were going to be instituted.
“We will be adding more lifestyle stuff,” Toya told her fans during a live stream. “We’re going to be vlogging a little bit more, we’re going to be talking about hair ... so yeah, vlogging and everything is on the table.”
It’s a shift for some of her fans who skew younger, although Toya said a large portion of her audience is made up of adults, based on information she sees on her internal dashboard. Toys may be labeled by YouTube as something that targets kids, but thanks to mainstream adoption of things like comic book culture and interests in figure collecting, the interest spans beyond them, she added.
Many creators who specifically make child-friendly videos left other jobs to work on their YouTube channels full time. In recent years, advertisers worried about controversial content felt safer with family-friendly videos, making these channels some of the most lucrative on YouTube. Now, in wake of the FTC settlement and ongoing restrictions placed on videos that include or target children, that’s changing.
It’s not just family vloggers and creators who are worried, however. Gaming creators have also been concerned that YouTube’s announcement means that videos involving kid-friendly games — like Minecraft or Roblox — could also have their ads limited. It’s a possible dent in a massive market. In 2018, more than 311,000 Minecraft videos were uploaded, bringing in more than 45 billion views, according to analytics firm Tubular Insights.
YouTube is still figuring it out, but it sounds like gaming creators shouldn’t worry just yet. Dan “DanTDM” Middleton, one of YouTube’s most popular gaming creators, says he was told by YouTube that “videos will not be judged on what game you’re playing (e.g Minecraft, Roblox, Fortnite),” adding that a “video that is family friendly is not the same as ‘for kids.’” YouTube will judge on a video-by-video basis to see whether the content is targeting kids, but it won’t be based on any specific game title.
YouTube still hasn't outlined exactly what types of videos will be affected or which creators will have to start planning ahead. CEO Susan Wojcicki addressed the rocky road ahead in a blog post to creators, noting these changes “will have a significant business impact on family and kids creators.” She added that “this won’t be easy for some creators and are committed to working with them through this transition.”
Toya and Rob are two of those creators who are preparing for a significant impact on their business, and the only thing left to do is pivot.
“For us who have YouTube as a career, that is kind of detrimental,” Toya said.
Correction September 11th, 5:04PM ET: Toya is changing her stage name, not her channel name, as this article initially stated. She will now go by Toya on her channel instead of “Froggy,” to ensure that new videos are seen as targeting teens and adults, not children, according to manager Chris Broyles.