Infrastructure costs -- The concept of free user services and scaling to eventually make them pay depends on the negligible price of adding additional consumers. But video is demanding of bandwidth and storage. Even if those are cheap in general, once you're handling as much material as the service does, it means big expenses for infrastructure. Although those costs won't scale linearly with the increased number of users, they do grow.
For other YouTube creators, ad dollars only go so far, and a significant portion of revenue comes from sponsorships and “affiliate marketing” (when brands offer a commission on any sales or traffic that the creator’s content drives). Affiliates function pretty seamlessly through YouTube; anyone can include links to featured products in their video’s caption, and when audience members click through and buy them, that YouTube channel gets a small kickback. Many YouTubers prefer Amazon’s affiliate program, “Amazon associates,” although there are plenty more to choose from.
All eye-rolling at YouTube’s attempts to encourage community aside: When viewed in the context of PewDiePie’s extremely high level of influence over followers who are in turn deeply committed to waging meme war in his name, his alt-right ties become even more concerning. In essence, YouTube’s most influential personality is using his platform in ways that carry the potential to push millions of his already devoted followers toward online extremism. They’re already deploying the same tools of memeified, joking harassment and brigading that the alt-right is known to deploy — tactics rooted in the kinds of online trollishness that can seem purely jovial and harmless right up until it becomes something more.
Add all these factors up, and a surprising thing is revealed: Through the sustained efforts of children’s-TV reformers, something good happened. “Basic scientific research on how children attend to and comprehend television has evolved into sophisticated studies of how children can learn from electronic media,” a literature review by the Kaiser Family Foundation concluded. “This, in turn, has led to the design and production of a number of effective educational television programs, starting with Sesame Street, which many experts regard as one of the most important educational innovations of recent decades.”
YouTube has focused on developing online personalities such as video game player PewDiePie, music video specialist Smosh and style guru Michelle Phan. Driving much of the traffic to YouTube, analysts say, are multichannel networks such as Fullscreen, Maker Studios, SonyBMG and Whistle Sports. Google has bought stakes in multichannel networks such as Vevo and Machinima, analysts say, to ensure their content stays on its website.
YouTube has a set of community guidelines aimed to reduce abuse of the site's features. Generally prohibited material includes sexually explicit content, videos of animal abuse, shock videos, content uploaded without the copyright holder's consent, hate speech, spam, and predatory behavior. Despite the guidelines, YouTube has faced criticism from news sources for content in violation of these guidelines.
For people who dream of making money on YouTube, there are lots of online celebrities and channels to aspire to imitate. There's makeup superstar James Charles, who became the first male CoverGirl model. Liza Koshy's fame on Vine and then YouTube has led to traditional film and TV gigs, including a role in a Tyler Perry film. Even pop star Justin Bieber got his start on YouTube. According to YouTube, the number of channels that earned five figures or more grew by more than 50 percent from July 2017 to July 2018. Channels earning six figures per year increased by 40 percent.
Congress held hearings on television’s possible deleterious effects on children (and adults) in 1952, 1954, and 1955. But not much happened, and the government and TV networks generally settled into a cycle that has been described by the media scholar Keisha Hoerrner. “First,” she has written, “the government castigated the industry for its deplorable programming, then the industry took its verbal punishment and promised to do better, followed by the government staying out of the industry’s business.”