CNET editor-in-chief Ian Sherr took aim at various YouTubers, including CleanPrinceGaming, Upper Echelon Gaming, and TheQuartering. Sherr’s goal? To demonetize them. He was partially successful, managing to get various advertisers to pull their content from Jeremy “TheQuartering” Hambly’s channel.
This all came to a head in an article published on June 6th, 2019 by Sherr, who attempted to frame certain YouTubers in a negative light by claiming that they fed on outrage bait and pumped negativity back into the content creation sphere. His main mission was to target the advertisers of these YouTubers, and he was partially successful, writing…
“[Jeremy] Hambly funds his videos in part through paid comments, known as super chats in livestreams, selling merchandise with his likeness, and offering a $4.99 per month “membership” facilitated by YouTube. He also receives payments for ads that YouTube serves in his videos.
“GameFly, a video game rental service, said it wasn’t aware its ad had appeared in one of Hambly’s Plagge videos until CNET asked for comment. The company has since decided not to run ads on TheQuartering for an unspecified amount of time. Honda said in an emailed statement that ads run on Hambly’s videos went against its “strict” guidelines on advertising placement.
“DeVry University, which also said it will no longer run ads on TheQuartering, says it relies on Google and YouTube to help ensure its ads appear in vetted “safe environments.””
TheQuartering did not take this kind of direct attempt to demonetize his account lightly, making a video about potential legal recourse he might pursue in the matter, since Sherr is directly targeting his revenue.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sherr published a lengthy Twitter thread explaining why he targeted the YouTubers he did, writing…
“Story time: About a year ago, I noticed a new crop of game commentators taking off on @Google’s @youtube. They included @UE_UpperEchelon @cleanprincegame @DownwardThrust @LegacyKillaHD and @TheQuartering.
Most of them focused on game criticism, and some like @cleanprincegame, did it with compelling scripts, slick editing and smart background music. I wasn’t surprised to start seeing each pull in millions of views a month. But as I watched more, it seemed the videos YouTube was showing me were angrier and angrier. So I started tracking as much as I could about them. Sentiment, moments where they had calls to action, moments where they seemed to be really pushing boundaries.
“The gaming commentary YouTubers each put out about 10-20 min videos, sometimes once a week, sometimes three times a day. I soon racked up hundreds of videos and easily more than three dozen hours of content. Keep in mind: The Star Wars movie saga so far is only 18 hours.
“In some cases, I watched every video these channels put out during this time. I watched at home. I watched on the bus. I watched in line at Costco. I watched on the beach during vacation.
“So why do it?
“I was curious about why this group seemed to be gaining traction, just as an “old guard” of YouTubers was complaining about subs and views leveling off. I began watching game commentary because I’d stumbled across @Boogie2988 , in character as the parody-angry gamer Francis, complaining about Diablo III in 2012. What I found was an interesting commentator who eventually amassed 4.5 million subs.
“Recently, he began complaining about losing subs and lower views. Oftentimes, he blamed it on something he said on Twitter or in a podcast. Sure, I thought, maybe that played a part. But then I saw other YouTubers complain too. Another, @JimSterling, complained in a video that his “shittiest game of the year awards” did double the number of views of his more positive Jimquisition awards.
“Another, @JimSterling, complained in a video that his “shittiest game of the year awards” did double the number of views of his more positive Jimquisition awards.
“What was driving this? Was the community changing? Were gamers suddenly all angrier? Were they hungry for these epic takedowns? (even if they were just repackaging reporting by people like @jasonschreier?)
“Even the YouTubers themselves seemed puzzled. @cleanprincegame literally talked on his videos about how he was aware he’s known as “the negative guy” and saying “I haven’t done enough to perpetuate positivity.”
“So, one day he started a new channel called “What’s So Great” — about what he loves in a game, even if it’s a game everyone hates. I bookmarked it and set a todo to check in later. Just a little more than a week after launch, @cleanprincegame rebranded his positivity channel — yeah, completely gave up on this whole thing. Now it was “Games vs Food,” where he criticizes games and compares them to stuff like $3 grocery store sushi.
“I guess his community didn’t like it? (I don’t know the answer, @cleanprincegame sadly wouldn’t get on the phone with me to discuss it.)
“Back to the well of negativity, this time with some silly jokes.
“I started to think maybe it’s not just the YouTubers, but also the algorithm and the audience too. Maybe I’d stumbled on one of those a-ha’s about human behavior: We thrive on drama and negativity. We just can’t look away.
“But these channels are funded by advertisers, right? After all, some of these guys do this full-time. I was curious if the advertisers even knew their ads were finding their way to this growing corner of the internet.
“So I asked a few advertisers some questions: How do you manage your YouTube advertising? Do you ask to have your ads put on “ad safe” lists?
“I also asked if they spot-check videos. This comes from when I worked at @Reuters. I knew that brands constantly send people to stores to check product placement, make sure their cardboard ads are where they paid to be and generally audit the system. It kept everyone honest.
“So, every day, I screen-shotted ads I saw on the channels, organized them, and sent out requests. Well, with one exception (@volvocars), none of the advertisers I spoke to said they checked YouTube. At all.
“They had no idea where their ads were showing up. I’m gonna say it again: They did not know what YouTube channels they were funding. They weren’t even paying outside auditors to check for them. All they did was maybe ask to be on “ad safe” (vetted) lists, and trust their ad buyer or YouTube were checking the channels they appeared on.
“Of the ones who would go on the record, @Honda, @devryuniv and @GameFly all said there were reevaluating their blacklists after my requests for comment. In some cases, they’re investigating w/YT why their ads showed up on ones they didn’t want to be “associated with.”
“Among those searching for answers to this negativity dilemma are @Microsoft ‘s @Xbox team, @EA and @Roblox. Each has different programs to encourage more healthy community dialog. In the case of Roblox, they also encourage meaningful parental involvement.
“As to what happens from all this? I don’t know. I still don’t have a clear answer to my original question: Why is YouTube rewarding negativity so much? YouTube declined to comment for the story.
“Update, YouTube statement: “We have strict policies that govern what kinds of videos we show ads on, and videos with hateful content violate those policies. If we find videos that are showing ads and shouldn’t be, we remove ads immediately.”
The short gist of it is that through Sherr’s discursive harangue, he admitted that it was his contacting the advertisers that prompted them to add certain people to their advertising blacklists.
Tyler J., from CleanPrinceGaming tweeted out that he went out of his way to avoid Sherr’s interview. Upper Echelon Gaming wasn’t quite as lucky, and fell into Sherr’s trap, acknowledging the fault in the Twitter thread with Tyler.
He tricked me. Said he wanted to explore why negative content on youtube gains popularity. I tried to give genuine feedback on that angle, outlining the rising discontent with monetization trends and advertising… wellllll.. learned my lesson there I guess.
— Upper Echelon Gaming (@UE_UpperEchelon) June 7, 2019
I got the sense he was actually annoyed with me from our conversation. I kept talking about consumer advocacy and industry trends because that’s what I thought it was about… he was obviously just fishing for hot lines to vilify me lol. It didn’t work very well imho
— Upper Echelon Gaming (@UE_UpperEchelon) June 7, 2019
Honestly that actually sounds like an interesting read, clearly not what he wrote, glad you didn’t feed him anything. No one with any common sense is going to judge anyone based on this article, partially because you didn’t feed him any hot quotes. Thank god lol
— Tyler J. (@cleanprincegame) June 7, 2019
I did reach out to ask CleanPrinceGaming and Upper Echelon Games if they were negatively impacted by having advertisers pull out, and if they respond the article will be updated with their response.
This is a clear reminder that it’s not always the YouTube’s adpocalypse that will bite into the pocketbook of content creators, many times it will be the journalists who see said YouTubers as rivals that they seek to deplatform in order to prevent the content creators from growing their market share and revenue.
Journalists are not only an enemy to the people but are also an enemy to the agents of freedom who wish to bring you content and information that you enjoy. They first came for PewDiePie, and now they’re coming for every other YouTuber out there worth a few thousand views.
[Update:] According to Upper Echelon Gaming, there’s no word yet on if they lost advertisers but he did note that more people began signing up for their Patreon, saying…
“What i do know is there was an influx of patreons even though I did not plug that site at all… all Ian did was cross polinate audiences that are far larger than his own so in reality, I see this as an absolute win. But as for advertisers im not sure, it appears he was mostly aimed at the quartering.”
(Thanks for the news tip Razgriz Reborn)