Lydia Sweatt is a writer who loves balancing her article/blog time indoors with a healthy dose of nature. She bikes, hikes, and identifies edible plants along the way.
YouTube Monetization: Which Videos Count Toward 4,000 Hours of Watch Time?
Earning 4,000 hours of Watch Time is the dream for most creators, but it isn’t easy. Gaining 100 hours, sure. But thousands? That’ll test your determination to keep going on YouTube. Essentially, you have to post multiple videos and hope people watch them for long enough.
But once you have 4,000 hours, everything gets easier. You’ll be one step closer to applying to the YouTube Partner Program, which lets you monetize your channel with advertisements. Having those valuable hours allows you to focus on other things, too, like getting 1,000 subscribers. That’s the second milestone required for the YPP.
When you’re collecting Watch Time hours, it’s easy to overlook certain parts of the process. The biggest, most understated thing, is that not all watch hours count toward the YPP threshold.
These 5 Videos Aren’t Eligible for YPP Watch Time
Before you start earning Watch Time, know which videos are in your best interest to create. There are five videos that make it hard – in most cases, impossible – to reach 4,000 hours.
1. Videos Set to Private or Unlisted
Years ago, private and unlisted videos counted toward YPP Watch Time. That changed in 2019 when YouTube decided that public videos, not partially viewable content, could accumulate watch hours.
This means you need to prioritize public videos over private or unlisted ones. Unlisted videos can only be watched if certain people have the link. This privacy option benefits creators with specific content plans. They may want to send videos to friends and family or create a webinar for a limited audience.
If you’re trying to monetize your channel, unlisted and private videos aren’t very helpful. Make sure videos that need to be public are, in fact, set to public. That’ll help you reach 4,000 hours and apply to the YPP.
How to set private or unlisted videos to public on YouTube
- Log in to YouTube on desktop. Click your profile icon and select YouTube Studio from the drop-down menu.
- Click Content on the left navigation menu.
- You’ll see a list of all the videos on your channel. Find the videos you want to make public, then go to the Visibility column. Click the eyeball symbol to reveal a menu of options: private, unlisted, members only, and public. Choose Public and click Publish.
2. Videos You’ve Deleted
When you delete content, YouTube deducts the Watch Time from your monetizable total. For example, imagine your channel has 2,000 watch hours. If you delete a video that contributed 500 of those hours, you’ll be left with 1,500. Before you delete anything, check to see how many watch hours your content has earned.
Sometimes deleting a video is inevitable. Maybe you’ve grown as a person since it was first published and want to clean up your image. Or perhaps someone appeared in your video without prior consent, and they want you to take it down. Whatever the reason, make sure it’s worth deleting a video and losing precious watch hours.
3. Advertising Campaigns
Have you created video ads for YouTube? If you were hoping these would help you apply to the YPP, unfortunately, they won’t. Watch hours from advertising campaigns don’t count toward YouTube monetization. Even if you’ve earned 10,000 hours, none of it will go toward the 4,000 hours you need.
This seems fair because ads can get millions of views. If YouTube counts them for YPP acceptance, that’ll create a shortcut to monetization.
4. YouTube Shorts
Short, vertical videos and how they relate to the YPP is a complicated subject. We know that YouTube Shorts aren’t monetized; YouTube made that clear a few months ago. The platform also announced that Watch Time from Shorts doesn’t contribute to a creator’s 4,000-hour goal. But will this change in the future? Is there a monetization program just for Shorts in the works?
Only time will tell. For now, know that Shorts won’t help you monetize your channel – not quickly, at least.
There’s a small caveat to this statement, though. If a Short is viewed on the Shorts shelf, a display area for brief, vertical videos, it won’t earn YPP watch hours. But if the same video is viewed on a regular watch page with YouTube ads and a comment section, you can earn eligible Watch Time.
So while Shorts are mostly viewed on the Shorts shelf, they do get played in monetizable areas. If you need all the watch hours you can get, take advantage of this loophole. Those seconds, however small, add up.
5. Unconverted Live Streams
Live streams are a great way to increase your Watch Time. These videos are usually lengthy, and if people stick around until the end, you can add several hours to your analytics.
According to YouTube, live streams that aren’t converted to video-on-demand content won’t earn YPP watch hours. The information around this is pretty vague, so we'd suggest making sure your live streams are public when they've ended. Don't archive a live stream by setting it to unlisted or private.
Just to be sure, we asked YouTube if this advice made sense for creators.
We didn't get a straightforward answer, but creators chimed in with their personal experience. A few of them said they earn Watch Time both during and after a live stream, which includes video-on-demand viewing.
Whether these hours were recorded for YPP Watch Time is another story. That's why, as soon as possible, we'd recommend checking to see if your live stream is public after it ends. If it's unlisted or private, switch it to public.
How to Get 4,000 Hours of YouTube Watch Time
To reach 4,000 hours of Watch Time, create a diverse set of content. That means in addition to regular videos, posting lengthy live streams and experimenting with Shorts. The latter isn’t going to bring you quick success. The Watch Time you earn, if you earn any at all, will depend on where people watch the video. Shorts should complement your regular videos and live streams because all the Watch Time accumulates.
Beyond that, be intentional with the videos you upload. It’s easier to earn watch hours when you post videos that are relevant all year. Anything about making more money, product reviews, and video games with lasting popularity are good examples. People continue to search for these evergreen topics on YouTube.
Lastly, go for quality over quantity. Instead of posting 30 videos in 30 days, aim to create videos that are entertaining, informative, and completely cover a topic. That could be 15 videos that answer every question about a topic, complete with video chapters and detailed instructions. Provide as much value as you can to make people watch longer.
To sum it up:
- Create a diverse set of content (regular videos, live streams, Shorts).
- Post evergreen content that’s always relevant.
- Give your video so much value that people can’t click away.
Earning 4,000 hours of YouTube Watch Time is a major undertaking. If you need more clarification on how to do it, watch our explainer video below:
Put these suggestions to action, and you’ll eventually reach 4,000 hours of Watch Time. But don’t stop there. Your next goal should be applying to the YPP, which you can learn how to do right here.