YouTube has clarified its policy around Watch Time and what it takes to get to the magic 4000 hours so you can monetize your content. If you've seen a recent drop in Watch Time hours on your channel, we know why.
So you've been diligently working away on your YouTube channel, trying to get to 4,000 hours of Watch Time to monetize your content, and checking YouTube to see how your progress is getting on. Then all of a sudden, you've lost a huge amount of those Watch Time hours. What on Earth just happened?
Now if you have been a regular visitor to vidIQ, you will know that I love to keep you up to date with all things monetization on YouTube. But this little news story came out of nowhere, and caught me completely by surprise.
What Just Happened to your Watch Time on YouTube?
If you are a video creator working towards 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of Watch Time, you'll be very familiar with the monetization eligibility screen which tells you exactly how close you are to meeting those requirements. That screen is very much part of the classic YouTube Creator Studio, and if you are a video creator, you should know by now that there is a new Creator Studio with lots of new analytics and features. For more information about that, check out this post.
But this screen is old and it needs updating, and YouTube has done just that. Creators working towards their monetization goal have a new much cleaner and simpler screen to reference. But what they also seem to have is new and much-reduced Watch Time hours than they saw before. I'm sorry if this has raised any alarm bells for you, but you might want to go check your monetization page right now.
The problem is unless you have a real eagle eye and have been checking these statistics every single day, you might now be sure whether or not your numbers have changed. Over the last few days, I've been seeing several Tweets complaining that creators have lost hours from their channels just as they thought they were going to hit the new monetization threshold. This is what YouTube are saying:
They fixed this technical issue in the new Studio sign-up page to clarify whether you're eligible to monetize. So that means one of two things, both of which are a little worrying to be honest. Either YouTube have been showing you the wrong numbers for eligibility for years, in which case, shame on you YouTube. Or YouTube have changed their policy a little bit and haven't clearly communicated that.
The reason I say that is because I asked YouTube over 12 months ago whether private and unlisted videos count towards your Watch Time hours for monetization. And at the time, they said private doesn't, but unlisted hours do. Now it could've been a miscommunication in the conversation I was having, but have YouTube quietly removed unlisted hours from videos?
If that second theory is complete baloney, then let's go back to the first one because it might explain why so many channels have been in review without ever being accepted because they don't technically have the required number of public hours even though they thought they did because that's what YouTube was showing to the creator. This all gets very confusing very quickly, doesn't it?
YouTube Watch Hours: What Creators Need to Know
Let's put these theories to one side however and concentrate on the cold hard facts as shown in this YouTube support page. They now talk about valid public Watch hours which is definitely a new term when it comes to monetization, and definitely suggests to me that YouTube wants to clarify this requirement. On the support page it now confirms that "not all watch hours count towards the YouTube Partner Program threshold," and states what does actually count as a valid public watch hour, which is:
Watch hours gained from videos you’ve set public
Watch hours gained through the following types of video do not count towards the YPP threshold:
The Trueview confirmation is interesting - it basically means you can't buy your way to monetization.
And all of this led to a question in my head that I wanted to pose YouTube. What if you have a video that was public? Let's say you do a livestream and then you want to set that livestream to unlisted. If the video is set to unlisted or private, do the views that you gained whilst it was public still count towards the Watch Time hours? And YouTube's answer was yes.
I don't know, I don't sound confident, do I? I'm not sure I'm confident on the answer they gave me either, but that's what they told me. I guess what you could do is set some videos to unlisted for a couple of days and see if that does affect your monetization number. But you don't really want to risk that so I'm not going to suggest you do it.
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Rob started out on YouTube in 2012, building up a tech channel before joining the vidIQ team. He now educates over 450,000 subscribers on the vidIQ channel which has over 25,000,000 video views. Today he is hard at work sharing everything he has learned on the YouTube platform; educating video creators on how to grow their own channels and turn hobbies into careers - just like Rob did in 2017.