How To Win at YouTube Monetization

Not all content on YouTube will help you quickly monetize your channel, YouTube Shorts especially. To win at monetization, here's what you need to know about Watch Time hours and how they're recorded.

Since the roll-out, many creators have earned massive views and subscribers from YouTube Shorts. But of course, there’s a catch. For the millions of views and hundreds of subscribers earned, revenue for YouTube Shorts, in most cases, seems to hover around just a few dollars. Zero dollars, even.

Take Super London Cars, for example. In nearly 60 days of posting YouTube Shorts, this channel with 25K subscribers told us they'd gained:

  • Nearly 30M video views
  • 170K hours of Watch Time

Super London Cars achieved this feat by posting Shorts of expensive supercars, such as this Ferrari LaFerrari parking too close to a Porsche GT2 RS. The 32-second video has more than a million views.

Despite this success, Super London Cars haven't reached the 4,000 Watch Time hours needed to monetize their channel. Instead, their YouTube analytics show a mere 918 public Watch hours - and those are the only hours that count toward monetization. That’s about 0.54% of the total Watch Time hours (170K) Super London Cars has earned.

Does that signal the end for this creator? More specifically, will this channel ever reach the requirements to join the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) and monetize its content? We can’t say for sure, but we can definitely help you avoid this monetization pitfall.

Regular Watch Time on YouTube vs. Shorts Watch Time

Before we dig into the data, we’d like to applaud Super London Cars for seizing the growth opportunities YouTube Shorts can bring. This creator exponentially grew their channel in a short amount of time, which isn’t easy.

In the old days of YouTube, that would be enough to qualify for channel monetization. But here’s the modern-day catch: Videos played from the Stories and Short videos shelf don't count toward YouTube’s monetization requirements.

For a visual explanation of what this means, watch our latest video, "How to Fail at YouTube Monetization."

As we’ve shared in previous blogs about YouTube Shorts, where you watch a video determines how its Watch Time is calculated. For example, if you watch a video through the standard YouTube player in the mobile app, that video earns 1 regular YouTube view. The Watch Time you earn there will count toward monetization.

However, if you watch that same video through the Stories and Short video shelf, the video earns 1 Shorts view. When content is viewed this way, its Watch Time doesn't count toward channel monetization.

How to Check Your Analytics For YouTube Shorts Watch Time

Want to analyze the Watch Time you’re earning with both YouTube Shorts and regular content? Log in to your account on desktop and follow these steps:

  1. Go to the YouTube Studio and click Analytics in the left navigation menu.
  2. You should automatically end up on the Overview tab, where a large graph of your views, Watch Time, subscribers, and estimated revenue are displayed. Navigate directly below this graph and click See More.
  3. Next, you’ll see some advanced analytics. At the top of the page, click Traffic Source.

This will show you, at the channel level, how many YouTube Shorts views you’re getting. The Watch Time is also displayed for each traffic source.

Here’s what our graph looks like for the vidIQ YouTube Shorts channel over the past two months:

Immediately, you can disregard the Watch Time from Shorts because we know those don't count toward monetization.

You will, however, count the Watch Time from every other traffic source that counts toward monetization. Change the date range on your graph to capture your entire video history, then add up the number of Watch Time hours from the sources pictured below.

The number you get should almost match YouTube’s number of public Watch hours for your channel.

When we expand our graph, the vidIQ Shorts channel has 241 public Watch hours and those count toward monetization. It’ll take a while, but we should eventually reach the 4,000 hours of Watch Time needed to apply to the YPP.

The Strange Watch Time Analytics of Super London Cars

Now that you’ve seen our Shorts analytics, it's time to compare these numbers to the Super London Cars channel. It has way more subscribers, millions of more views, and a massive amount of Watch Time. But somehow, Super London Car is only 700 hours closer to monetization than we are. Clearly, the numbers don't add up.

When you look at the traffic sources for Super London Cars, things get even more confusing. The channel is earning almost all of its Watch Time from YouTube Shorts, but there are still thousands of hours coming from suggested videos and browse features.

These hours alone should be more than enough to take Super London Cars over YouTube’s monetization threshold. So what’s happening here?

Well, we have three possible explanations, none of them good ones:

  1. There’s a glitch in the YouTube analytics, and the Super London Cars creator needs to contact YouTube to get it fixed and apply for monetization.
  2. YouTube changed its policies so that Watch Time from any video under 60 seconds won’t count toward monetization. But there are no public updates to support that.
  3. Traffic source analytics aren't accurate enough to tell us when views are coming from YouTube Shorts or the regular YouTube player.

How To Win at YouTube Monetization

YouTube Shorts are new and probably weren’t created for widespread monetization. If you want to make more money on YouTube, creating short videos under 60 seconds isn’t the answer - at least not today.

Instead, put that energy into the long-form content on your main channel. Make sure you’ve fully optimized your channel to include featured playlists, a channel banner, banner links, a profile icon, and irresistible thumbnails. You’ll earn more Watch Time when people watch videos through the regular YouTube player, so cover your bases there first.

Once you’ve done that, invest in a separate YouTube Shorts channel. Make sure there’s cross-promotion between your main channel and the channel you use for short, punchy videos. When you create a Short that gets featured on the Stories and Short videos shelf, there’s a chance viewers will visit your Shorts channel. If you've set up a featured channels section beforehand, your main channel will be advertised there.

For now, that’s all you can do. Use your main channel for primary monetization, then harness the exposure from YouTube Shorts to grow both channels organically.