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YouTubers struggling to make money from Call of Duty: WWII

Depictions of real-war are seeing videos demonetised

YouTubers risk demonetisation by talking about Call of Duty: WWII.

The video network has recently made changes to its website that means advertisers can remove ads from videos that contain footage of natural disasters, tragedies, violence, promotion of drugs, sexually suggestive content, political conflicts, war-related subject matter and profanity.

It all followed a controversy around ads appearing alongside racist videos on the site, which resulted in some advertisers pulling support from YouTube (including AT&T and Coca Cola). The firm introduced 'brand safety controls' as a result, which allows advertisers to avoid higher risk content if they so choose. YouTubers can appeal if they feel their video is being unfairly targeted, nevertheless, major YouTubers have commented on how they are making significantly reduced revenue year-on-year. PewDiePie says almost a third of his videos have been demonetised.

This change appears to have significantly impacted the network of popular Call of Duty YouTubers. Call of Duty: WWII - being based on a real war - ticks several of the 'brand safety controls'. YouTuber PrestigeIsKey (who has over 1.1m subscribers) says his videos have been demonetised due to 'depictions of war'. He said in a video: "Are games really look that good these days that they think it's a real war I am depicting?"

He then tweeted an image showing that on a video where he talked about milk for two minutes, he achieved 29,000 views and $40.99 revenue for the day. He then did a video on the movement mechanics in Call of Duty: WWII, achieved 95,000 video views and received estimated revenue of just $10.85.

He says he is going to give the firm six weeks, and afterwards he will be forced to getting a "full time job".

There are other YouTubers hit, too, many of which were covered by a recent report by Kotaku. TmarTN (3.2m subscribers) did a similar video, where he said that the measures YouTube put in place to protect advertisers was "a good thing" but that although things have gone back to normal for most YouTube videos, that's simply not the case for Call of Duty content.

"It's not every single video," he told his viewers, "but some videos that were fine before - there was nothing edgy about them aside from the fact it is an M-rated game, are now considered 'not advertiser friendly'. That's not right, it is definitely a mistake. But the biggest issue is about Call of Duty 2017."

He avoids calling the game Call of Duty: WWII for possibly obvious reasons. He highlighted his reaction video to the reveal of the game, which attracted 250,000 views. He said usually that would allow him to pay a few bills and get some groceries, but in this instance, that video generated just $27. He compared the changes to suffering a "90% pay cut" and that the changes will "shatter careers, shatter hobbies and shatter dreams of literally thousands of people."

Indeed, a YouTuber called Chaos compared the drop in revenue to Best Buy managers having their pay cut in half, without even being told by their boss. He suggested that perhaps YouTube's automated system sees the term WWII in the headline and believes its can't separate the difference between the game and the real life conflict.

Another YouTuber, Thunder402, says his video views were up 53% last month but revenue fell 49%. He observes that a number of YouTubers are now pushing their viewers to Patreon and trialling channels on Twitch. "The party is over," he said in a video.

YouTube points critics to a blog post it has put up following the advertising controversy. The firm suggests that YouTubers review their video's thumbnails, titles and descriptions to ensure they accurately reflect the video. And if YouTubers believe their content is being demonetised in error, they can appeal it by clicking the yellow $ symbol in their video manager.

"We know this has been a frustrating time and we'll continue to update you as quickly as we can as things evolve," the firm wrote.

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Christopher Dring avatar
Christopher Dring: Chris is a 17-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who
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