Carving out a niche for yourself as a streamer on YouTube or Twitch might sound like a great way to make a living: dictate your own hours, grow an adoring fan base, and, best of all, play your favorite video games and call it a job. It’s a perplexing proposition, though, to a lot of people living outside of these site’s spheres of influence, as, to many, simply watching someone play a video game doesn’t really sound like entertainment. Yet, since the medium was introduced back in 2007, it has become an extremely popular form of content production, and some suspect that, in the coming years, streaming may become the prefered method for content delivery.
That said, those in the know are aware of how difficult streaming has become. YouTube, in the wake of last year’s so-called “adpocalypse,” has put many creators on thin ice when it comes to streaming, and lots of once carefree content providers are now constantly looking over their shoulders and double-checking to make sure they haven’t done anything to upset the site’s administrators. Once a relatively lawless land where anything within reason was permitted to exist, streaming has become a fairly regulated activity, and persons hoping to make it big on the platform need to be excruciatingly familiar with the site’s terms and conditions. Let it be known that, if you still dream of pursuing a career as a YouTube streamer, make sure that you know all of the site’s rules and regulations.
20 Announce All Paid Promotions
Back in 2016, two beloved YouTube personalities well-known for their roles in the Call of Duty community were the subjects of a huge amount of backlash, when it came to light that they were actually the owners of a site which they had been advertising. Trevor Martin and Tom Cassell, better known as Tmartn and Syndicate respectively, found themselves in some extremely hot water when it was revealed that CSGOLotto, a site which enabled users to essentially gamble with Counter Strike: Global Offensive weapon skins and had been advertised relentlessly by the pair on their channels, was actually owned and operated by this same pair of YouTubers. Purposely deceiving their audiences into pouring money into a site that they secretly owned, these two quickly found themselves in some significant legal trouble.
Though nothing really came of it in terms of legal action, Valve eventually stepped in and eliminated the ability to wager these weapon skins on third party websites, which essentially brought an end to the shady online casinos of which the game’s developers had once off-handedly approved. The situation did leave a lasting impact on the YouTube community, streamers and content creators in 2018 must make absolutely sure that they obviously disclose all partnerships and paid promotions, lest they risk legal trouble.
19 Keep People Watching
YouTube was awash with controversy when the site, in January of this year, announced that in order to maintain the ability to monetize videos, content creators must maintain more than 4,000 hours of of total watch time per year. Ultimately, this meant that smaller streamers and content producers who weren’t widely watched could no longer generate any revenue from their online efforts. Granted, channels that small likely wouldn’t have been making much money in the first place, but the move was ill received, regardless.
Make sure you gain enough subscribers, and keep them, so you streams can be monetized.
Some considered the move to be a legitimate attempt by the site’s administrators to cut down on the droves of sketchy people whose creepy, potentially offensive online personas were allegedly scaring away the site’s advertisers. Yet, the true impact of the ruling was a decline in creator interest, as many small channels jumped ship once the goal line had seemingly been moved much further down the field. Regardless of what you may think of these terms and conditions, be aware that the benchmark for earning money as a streamer on Google’s platform has been drastically raised as of the beginning of this year. If you really want to make money doing this kind of thing, you’ll really have to work at it.
18 Calm, Cool, And Collected
One of the major effects of the apocalypse came in the form of content policing. While YouTube stated that a small subset of extremist creators were chasing advertisers from the site, its policies to curtail such unwanted activity were thought to be a drastic overreach. It has gotten to the point where certain topics are flat out banned from discussion, and so much has been deemed to be harmful or offensive that many Streamers and creators have simply gotten used to the fact that anything even remotely controversial will result in their content getting flagged or demonetized.
As a result, streamers must be very careful concerning how they act, what they say, and what they do on stream. In some instances, something as simple as playing a slightly risque game has lead to issues, and it has made the world of streaming a much more delicate, difficult place. While advertisers certainly don’t want to slap their ads in front of some hateful, awful teenager’s Minecraft stream, they tend to paint everyone with the same brush. Even the most wholesome creators often need to be wary. For those considering the streamer lifestyle, best to put on your Sunday best and act accordingly, or you will almost certainly suffer the consequences.
17 Avoid Misleading Titles
This may sound ridiculous given the absolute scourge of clickbait running rampant these days on the video sharking platform, but YouTube’s guidelines clearly state that creators should refrain from using misleading titles or resorting to clickbait for views. This is, of course, a rule that hardly anyone follows. It seems utterly hypocritical of the site to issue such a warning, when most of their top creators all resort to these actions. A quick scan of some of YouTube’s trending gaming content will be met with an incredible amount of deceptive material and alleged ways to earn free V-Bucks in Fortnite.
Some have complained about the site’s algorithms favoring lengthy, vapid content over short, well-thought-out videos, and this is a sentiment that carries over to streaming, as well. We have all seen streams pop up in our notifications with ludicrous titles like “I Ride the Meteor in Fortnite,” or “*New* Superman and Batman Skins in Fortnight REVEALED - Gone Wrong.” These miserable titles are usually in all caps and make claims so insane as to garner attention via their sheer inanity. It’s a tactic employed by some of the most money-grubbing streamers out there, and, though seemingly everyone does it, it’s a tool which should go unused by a budding streamer.
16 Keeping Things PC
Aside from a few outright awful personalities out there, few content creators really want to injure, insult, or upset anyone. Though the internet does seem to have a mystical ability to strip us of our humanity, streamers who have put their names and faces out there are often pretty careful when it comes to controversial materials. There have been more than a few slip ups by major creators—look no further than PewDiePie’s PUBG fiasco—but, on the whole, few streamers put themselves out there with the express purpose of hurting someone.
Political correctness is key, if you want to stay in YouTube's good graces.
Yet, YouTube is very, very stringent when it comes to political correctness. New streamers would be wise to not test the limits of what they can say in that regard. Politics on YouTube is often a migraine-inducing thing to discuss no matter what side of the isle you sit, but things can become particularly hairy if you do this sort of thing for a living. One slip-of-the-tongue, one off-handed comment, or one ill-tempered remark could land you in some really hot water with the site. For someone committed to the medium long term, it could have devastating effects. If you want to stream your favorite games under the guise of legitimate employment, then it would be best to consider everything you say very carefully.
15 They Can't Use The Music They Want
One of the longest-running gripes among veteran Twitch and YouTube steamers would be the inability to play copyrighted music on… well, anywhere. YouTube videos have long been barred from including music held by major record labels, and users who have been around since the the days of the site’s clunky, ugly old user interface will remember when offending videos would be dubbed over with the same spacey, early 2000’s techno song each time.
Times may have changed. Though the site certainly looks much different than it used to, copyright claims have not been relaxed. YouTubers and streamers have actually seen an uptake in copyright notices and takedowns on their channels. YouTube, despite their content creator-friendly claims, have done little to curtail this issue. Copyright holders, and even non-holders, can usually take down any video they choose without much fuss. Sure, that helps YouTube avoid perilous lawsuits in the long run, but for streamers in 2018, it’s a major issue. Even background or ancillary noise can result in demonetization or worse. Streamers often have to vet their stream’s subject matter or risk running into some major issues. All in all, stuff like this is a major headache for most YouTube personalities.
14 Nintendo’s Creators Program
Nintendo is a beloved gaming institution. Without this fun little company from Japan, the gaming industry likely wouldn’t be what it is today. Delivering unto the masses the likes of Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby, and a whole myriad of other classic titles, just about everyone grew up with a Nintendo console, and the gaming populace at large is fascinated with their output.
That said, they’ve fallen from grace a little bit in regards to their handling of YouTube. Nintendo have proven themselves to be a little backward when it comes to cutting edge technology. They were very slow to adapt to the concept on online services, when the seventh console generation made internet connectivity an essential gaming feature. They seem to constantly come up short in terms of delivering an adequate quantity of some of their products in the modern era. Worst of all, however, is their handling of the integration of their content on streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch. While streaming does admittedly lie in a strange gray area legally, most companies tend to view it as a form of free publicity. Nintendo, however, wants a cut of the YouTube pie. A few years ago, it instituted the Nintendo Partners Program, which essentially allowed their partners to stream their material for a small fee. Not the most community friendly move by a long shot.
13 Keep A Secret
This should seem like common knowledge, but streamers should not, under any circumstances, disseminate the personal information of themselves or anyone else. YouTube and Twitch have gotten into some serious hot water for these reasons in the past. You can be sure that these platforms are eager to avoid such mishaps in the future.
Swatting is a dangerous prank, make sure you keep your personal information private.
For the uninitiated, a trend surrounding online streamers known as “swatting” rose to popularity a few years ago. It hinges entirely on a streamers personal information getting leaked somewhere online. With that info in hand, some unhinged person who finds causing personally catastrophic incidents to be a bit of a laugh, will dial an emergency number and claim for there to be evidence of some crime happening in the house. They then give authorities the streamer’s address, and, low and behold, a fully-armed S.W.A.T. team will eventually show up and cause some major chaos. While some find this to be a great way to pull a prank, such practices have actually resulted in the loss of life in the past, and lengthy prison sentences can now be doled out to those inciting such crimes. Suffice to say, you do not want to be a part of that fiasco, and, should you choose to be a streamer, it would be smart to keep certain bits of information secret.
12 Be Active Or Be Deleted
It’s a little known fact that YouTube actually reserves the right to terminate your account for any reason they see fit. Now, though they haven’t yet resorted to literally deleting accounts for know given reason (as far as we know), they do make it clear in their terms of service. Should you show a proclivity for long-winded spouts of inactivity, they have the right to wrench your presence from the site.
Now, to some, that may seem a bit barbaric, but, while it is true that you may one day arrive at the YouTube homepage to find your account missing. Users will really need to be dedicated to not logging in to run into the wrong side of this ruling; users must be totally inactive for a period of six months to get the boot. YouTube does this to cleanse the site of unused accounts, should you so much as comment on a video once in the sixth month period, you should be in the clear. Yet, if you plan on taking any half-year long trips, it may be a good idea to inform a friend and have them make sure your account doesn’t go dark for too long if you’ve grown a bit of a following. But, if you have uploaded content in the past, they may not pull the plug on you at all.
11 Ways To Avoid Demonetization
I’ve spoken about the impact the so-called apocalypse has had on the YouTube community. Through the site seems to slowly be recovering, the crash, nearly analogous to the 2008 economic disaster, yet on a much smaller and on a digital scale. YouTube is far from out of the wood’s when it comes to advertiser perception.
Years ago, nobody seemed to care about what type of content was played after an ad ran, as, so long as a user saw the advertisement, all was good. That changed when, in the wake of the “fake news” craze, Facebook and other cities announced that they would do more to police extremist, false, or otherwise harmful content on their sites. The result was advertisers leaving these sites in droves for fear of accidentally associating themselves with some undesirable uploaders. Though it seems a bit hypocritical, given that they were happy to do so in months and years past.
A content crackdown ensued and anything deemed unfriendly to advertisers on YouTube was swiftly demonetized. This is a major nuisance to streamers, as recorded streams deemed to have broken YouTube’s fragile rules and often won’t earn anything. As a result, streamers must do everything in their power to remain advertiser friendly, which is no fun for anyone.
10 Live And Let Live
The internet can be a hostile, virulent place at times. With nothing more than a username, by which to identify themselves, rugged personalities often flair to extremes with little provocation, which can mean bad news for some streamers. Fortunately, streamers have the option—provided they’ve got enough viewers—to make some of their more loyal fans chat moderators. This means that those users can police and remove other viewers who may be getting a little out of hand. This is a vital tool for just about every let’s player and speedrunner out there, though it shouldn’t be treated as a catch-all.
Don't poke the troll, just leave them be.
Awful people will get their opinions out there one way or another. It’s ultimately up to the streamer to either confront the heckler or ban them themselves. Confrontation is almost never a good idea in this case, as more often than not. The internet troll will get his or her way and have the streamer flagged for offensive language or some other unfair terms of service breach. New streamers need to be weary of this kind of thing as their channel grows. As the saying goes, the best course of action is to not feed the trolls—they’ll eventually get tired of it and leave the stream.
9 Understand What ‘Fair Use’ Really Means
Fair Use is often tossed around as some kind of legal loophole that will allow streamers and YouTubers to use and abuse whatever sort of copyright content they desire. While it can be used in case of wrongful copyright strikes leveled at those who expressly intended to parody, critique, or explain; Fair Use won’t get a streamer out of everything. Copyright exists for a reason, simply playing your Spotify playlist in the background as you stream is not grounds for education or parody.
The fact is, there is no reliable way to circumvent copyright. Those who are serious about their futures in the industry would do well to never even think of doing so. While few have really been taken to court since the Napster days, copyright infringement can be a serious issue. The FCC is rarely interested in small time pirates downloading something for personal use, but streamers could be flagged for the dissemination of copyrighted materials in some cases, which is a major no-no. There are plenty of artists on Spotify who actually aren’t signed to a label, and their music can be used, in most cases, without repercussion. That’s a tactic tons of streamers these days are using, and it may even give the artist a boost.
8 The Vicious Cycle Of YouTube Drama
YouTube drama was—and still is, to a certain extent—big business. Channels and streamers like DramaAlert, LeafyIsHere, and RiceGum have all experienced the tremendous ebb and flow inherent with the coverage of such content. Though it may seem like lucrative material, for every one drama channel that pops up, it seems that two or more are cannibalized.
This can be a major issue for streamers, as covering other YouTubers or spreading gossip can land you in incredibly hot water. Even popular, well-liked creators like Ethan and Hila Klein of H3H3 found themselves caught up in an expensive, headache-inducing lawsuit as a result of a video they posted criticizing another YouTuber. While it may all seem like fun and games and you may seem fairly removed from the subject behind your keyboard, the reality is that speaking ill of or spreading gossip about other prominent members of the site can have costly effects. While some have boldly made it the backbone of their business, to those who haven’t devoted themselves to such drama, it doesn’t seem like a hill worth mining at this point. If you’re playing games for a living via YouTube streaming, there is no reason to jeopardize that by throwing your hat into this ridiculous ring.
7 Be Careful Of Endorsements
People often question whether Twitch and YouTube personalities should be considered celebrities. Though they may be famous in their own right, they are only really recognized by their direct audience, or a certain small subset of the YouTube population. Even mega-famous internet celebrities like PewDiePie or Markiplier aren’t likely to be spotted in public all that often. You’ll almost never see them endorse a product on TV or appear in anything other than a cameo in a movie.
Make sure you don't make false claims about products and that you disclose the endorsement.
That doesn’t mean they are exempt from the typical rules surrounding celebrities. For instance, should you receive a paid promotion for some product, if you make a false claim about a celebrity—for example, “I’ve heard that PewDiePie loves this product”—and it isn’t actually true, then you could be in some legal trouble. It sounds like a ridiculous notion, but some people can get antsy when it comes to promotional material and selling something based on a false idea or quote is a good way to lose your sponsorships at the very least. Streaming may feel like a lot of fun and games at times, but there can be very significant legal penalties if certain rules are broken. Your best bet is to simply not mention other YouTubers when doing promotions.
6 Know The Rules
People often joke about agreeing to a product’s terms and conditions without actually reading them. In this case, it may be a streamer’s job to know what they are signing up for. It seems that some YouTubers sometimes forget that they do not own the platform on which they stream and are therefore subject to the whims of those that actually do. The fact of the matter is that, though you may feel free to do whatever you want from the safety of your own house, you are, in a way, in a work environment. It really may not feel like that, but streamers caught repeatedly violating YouTube’s terms and conditions could find themselves demonetized, or, in more extreme cases, they may have their streaming privileges revoked or their channels eliminated completely.
A good example of this comes from a YouTuber known as Sernandoe, who is a notorious clickbaiter. He has made dozens of videos claiming to have a pre-release copy of the yet-to-be-announced Grand Theft Auto 6. His repeated offenses actually got him kicked from the site. While ridiculous claims like those may seem simple enough to avoid, it’s best to fully know what you are getting into before you decide to become a professional streamer on YouTube or a similar platform.
5 Sensitive Subject Exclusion
This is an issue primarily focused on streamers hoping to earn a little extra revenue by posting recordings of their streams to YouTube, but it is a practice adhered to by a significant portion of streamers already. Advertisers now have the ability to opt out of videos YouTube has deemed to be too extreme for some viewers. SShould an advertiser choose to exempt themselves from these materials, their ads won’t show up on any of those apparently racy videos.
This has led to the infamous “yellow dollar sign”, which so many content creators have complained about. The sign, which shows up alongside the analytics of a particular video, indicates that YouTube has deemed the video to be inappropriate and unsuitable for a majority of advertisers. Put simply, it means that the video will hardly be generating any revenue for the uploader and it has become a huge issue within the YouTube community. To avoid the site’s sensitive subject exclusion, streamers need to be very aware of the type of content YouTube won’t allow. It’s gotten to the point that some games can’t even be streamed due to their over-the-top content. This may sound like a significant issue, but, so long as a streamer keeps his or her head down, it shouldn’t become too much of a problem.
4 Stick To A Schedule
One of the joys of working from home is the ability to work at any time. You’ll never have to be in at eight in the morning and you won’t have to trudge out the door at five in the evening. In fact, most freelancers have the ability to literally roll out of bed and get to work. This is obviously a major perk for streamers, but there are some limits to this freedom.
Stick to a schedule so your audience knows when to tune into your streams.
Most established streamers tend to stick to a schedule. While this isn’t exactly a hard-and-fast law which must be abided, it is sort of one of the unspoken rules on sites like YouTube and Twitch. Schedules allow a regular audience to form and it may reduce a streamer’s reliance on advertisements and shoutouts. This has been a longstanding trend among those who upload videos to these sites for a living, as their audiences will know when to look out for the next video should YouTube fail to notify them. New streamers will find it much easier to break into the scene once they stick to a schedule that works for them, though they also need to be mindful of the timezones in which their primary audience lives. If you live on the East Coast of the U.S., but your audience is mostly English, streaming at eight in the evening won’t be very helpful.
3 Restrictions On Live Streaming
This isn’t always the case, but some streamers may find themselves in a tremendously bad situation should they receive one or more content strikes. These strikes indicate that someone has found you to be in violation of some part of YouTube’s terms and conditions, and the site may revoke your ability to broadcast yourself live. Obviously, this would be a catastrophic scenario for any burgeoning channel, and it is the sort of thing which must be avoided at all costs.
Worse still is the fact that YouTube is very lenient when it comes to who can make a claim that might result in a strike. In rare cases, those issuing copyright or content strikes may have no basis for doing so. To that end, YouTube is not creator friendly and they often seem to operate with a “guilty until proven innocent” mindset. Given the ludicrous punitive measures exacted by the site in these cases, it is best for streamers to act as if they were walking on very thing ice, even if they are absent of a history of ToS-breaching behavior. This may make streaming seem like a less-than-luxurious career choice, for some, this is very much the reality of the service in 2018.
2 YouTube Preferred Partner
Many YouTubers have voiced their concerns regarding the algorithm the site uses to decipher which videos are suitable for advertisers and which aren’t, as the thought process behind the computers tasked with these decisions seem to be making them completely at random. Some uploaders have been demonetized for seemingly no reason at all, while other, often more lucrative channels like those of infamous Vine bozos Jake and Logan Paul have been free to upload literally whatever they want.
Of course, that famously changed when Logan Paul uploaded footage of a deceased human being early this year, which resulted in him being removed from YouTube’s preferred partner program and having his YouTube Red series canceled. While many believe that Paul got what he deserved, the program, which essentially allows a YouTuber to stay in the good graces of most advertisers, is far from perfect. Streamers looking to make it big should aim to be added to this program and do everything in their power to stay there. As far as we know, that is the best way to make money on YouTube these days. Jake and Logan Paul may still be kicking around, but that little snafu was the impetus for their continued decline and it could theoretically happen to anyone bounced from the program.
1 Vulgar Display Of Profanity
In the wake of YouTube’s self-imposed ad-pocalypse, controversial language has been all but silenced among those still hoping to make a buck or two from their efforts on the site. Years ago, even the most profane of speech was acceptable and worthy of monetization, but today the only YouTubers you will hear swearing are those who have totally given up on the idea of making money online. Though things may have relaxed ever so slightly since the ad-related epidemic first broke out, things still haven’t gotten too much better.
Keep it PG, if you don't want to risk demonetization.
It seems that, in most cases, one or two poor word choices will result in a little yellow dollar sign popping up next to a video or recorded stream and absolutely nobody wants that. The sad truth is that, if you want to make sure the cash keeps flowing forth from YouTube, you are really going to have to watch your mouth. YouTube has gotten extremely sensitive over the past year. Even some political or social topics aren’t fit for discussion on the site anymore. Creators have cried out for the introduction of a new platform exempt from all of these inane rulesets, but we’ve actually seen a reduction in video-based platforms over the years. Streaming can still be done by those who are truly dedicated to it, but, more and more, it’s often the sort of thing that should be treated as a hobby.