In the perhaps not-too-distant future, YouTube will let creators sell ad space on their own videos.
“We’re experimenting with a new way for creators to sell advertising to brands with whom they already have a relationship,” Tom Leung, YouTube’s director of product management, said in a recent Creator Insider video (below). He added that YouTube is aware this is something a lot of creators are interested in, and said the feature is being tested right now in “a very small pilot.”
Leung didn’t offer any information about the nuts and bolts of creator ad sales. Tubefilter reached out to YouTube with a number of questions, but the platform declined to comment.
From the little we know, it seems like YouTube is testing a creator version of partner-sold ads. Partner-sold ads were introduced in 2010, and they let some organizations–from major media companies like NBC to digital content studios like SoulPancake–control their own YouTube ad inventories. To qualify for partner-sold ads, orgs must be reputable, distribute their own content across multiple platforms, and have the company infrastructure to support ad sales.
One key perk of qualifying for partner-sold ads is the ability to sell advertising on videos that normally would be demonetized. Organizations can place ads on these videos because “they bear the risk of putting ads on content advertisers might not think is brand suitable,” according to YouTube.
If this perk carries over, then qualifying creators whose videos have been demonetized for things like swearing, frank discussion of NSFW topics, or skits that contain simulated violence will be able to earn ad revenue on them once more (provided YouTube is cool with giving those channels the ability to sell their own ads and marketers are cool with their ads running on that content).
Even though partner-sold ads have been around for a decade, YouTube has released little information about how they work. We know YouTube takes a percentage of the sale price when a partner places an ad, but it’s not clear how much. We don’t know if YouTube takes less or more AdSense revenue from the ads partners sell than it does from the other ads shown against channels and their videos. (The usual split, when it’s YouTube selling the ads, is 45% of revenue to YouTube, 55% to creators.) We also don’t know if YouTube sets a minimum amount of ad space partners must sell–or, on the other end of the spectrum, if it limits how much ad inventory partners control.
Another unknown is what Leung meant when he specified creators can sell ads to brands “with whom they already have a relationship.” It’s not clear what counts as a “relationship,” but that could mean YouTube doesn’t want creators approaching new or unfamiliar brands to offer them ad space. Instead, it might want them restricted to approaching companies that have already paid them for sponcon or partnered with them on branded merch.
Additionally, we don’t know if creators will have to disclose it if/when they sell an ad. YouTube is seemingly driving creators toward selling to brands they’re already materially involved with, which could result in a not-yet-encountered disclosure situation. For example: If a beauty creator collaborates with a makeup brand on a palette, then posts a YouTube video about that palette, current guidelines state the creator needs to clearly disclose they have a material relationship with that brand. But what happens if the creator also sells ad space to the company on their video? Would that require any additional disclosures? Or will partner-sold ads fall under a different set of regulations?
Commenters on Creator Insider’s video have posed more queries, like whether creators will be able to sell both pre-roll and mid-roll ads. Creator Insider hasn’t directly responded to any of the questions just yet.