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2019 Year in Review: YouTube Studio, Policy Updates and Creator tools

2019 brought many changes for YouTube creators, from the new YouTube Studio and stricter policies, to the removal of direct messaging and the last lingering Google+-related features. YouTube truncated subscriber counts and tried (but mostly failed) to change how the verification badge was awarded. Plus lots more.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki shared three letters to creators this year, in FebruaryApril, and November. They are the best way to get a sense of YouTube's priorities: "supporting creator and artist success, improving communication and engagement, and living up to our responsibility."

These are the biggest changes in 2019:

If you are interested in trying new features, check out YouTube New for desktop experiments you can try. You can learn about current experiments by keeping an eye on this thread in the YouTube forum. If you have an iPhone, you can also sign up to be an iOS YouTube app beta tester.

The new YouTube Studio

This year the new YouTube Studio ( came out of beta and is now the default. There are new features for managing your videos, understanding your channel stats and much more. 

You may still need to return to classic Studio to manage your playlists or edit video endscreens and cards, but it is mostly complete. And there a number of features that are not available in classic at all.

Most creators still have the option to return to classic YouTube Analytics and Studio, but that will go away at some point in early 2020.  

Here are some of the features in YouTube Studio:
This is not at all a complete list of features added to YouTube Studio this year. For more updates see  the overview of features recently added to Studio and that are in the works in the YouTube Help Center, and subscribe to this thread of YouTube Studio Desktop Release Notes.

The new Live Control Room

The new YouTube Live Control Room in YouTube Studio lets you schedule, monitor and manage your live streams. It simplifies stream creation by letting you use a completed stream as a template for new stream. You can even get real-time data while you are streaming. 

It is no longer possible to access the old YouTube Live Events page, which now redirects to the Live Control Room. 

One of the casualties of the move to Live Control Room was Hangouts on Air. That used the old classic Hangouts video call interface to let you live stream with nothing more than a computer with a webcam and an internet connection. That doesn't sound too exciting today, but was a game changer when it launched in 2011.

It's not too surprising Hangouts on Air are no longer an option, as the platform hadn't been updated in years, and used now-gone Google+-based apps for some functionality. But still, YouTube's webcam live streaming isn't the same. 

Mobile live streaming also got a bit more difficult. YouTube has limited mobile live streaming to channels with at least 1000 subscribers and shut down the YouTube Gaming app.

But on the plus side, any YouTube Partners with Super Chat enabled can now also earn money with Super Stickers. Fans can purchase Super Stickers to post during live broadcast or Premier live chats.  

Demise of YouTube DMs 

It's unusual to report that Google has shut down one of their messaging platforms, but that's the case for YouTube. The YouTube Direct Messaging system was removed in September.

While YouTube has changed their private messaging several times over the years, replacing Inbox with Google+-based Messages in 2014, which were then replaced by the new DMs in 2018, there has always been some way to privately communicate.

Now YouTube doesn't offer any way to privately message a channel.

Why this change? YouTube is going to focus on "improving public communications".

YouTube Policy Updates

There is no way around the fact that sometimes YouTube can be an unpleasant place. Over the years channels have built viewership by posting mean pranks, hate speech, harassment and bullying other creators, and posting misinformation.

One of YouTube's goals for 2019 was to work on the "Four Rs of Responsibility": ; Rewarding trusted, eligible creators and artists; and 

There have been a number of updates towards those goals:
YouTube also increased enforcement of  their policy prohibiting"fake engagement" by removing links promoting services that artificially inflate subscriber count, views or other engagement metrics. That includes purchased views or comments, or "Sub4Sub" services. Videos that promote those services may be removed, and result in a Community Guidelines strike.

There has been some backlash against the changes, particularly the broader anti-harassment policy, as some channels have had multiple videos taken down.

On the flip side, YouTube has softened their policy against video game violence, treating it now like other scripted violence.

YouTube revised the Community Guidelines Strike system at the beginning of the year, with the first violation resulting in a warning, and progressively larger penalties with subsequent violations. Three strikes within 90 days, and you're out.

That means policy changes should not result in a channel being instantly penalized for content that was previously allowed (as long as it doesn't already have a warning).

Whether the policy updates make YouTube a nicer place to hang out remains to be seen.

Image: Best practices for creators
This year YouTube introduced several tools to make it easier for creators to deal with copyright claims.
While it's best to not use copyrighted content without permission, so you don't get a claim, these changes at least make claims easier to resolve.

New ways to earn money

For channels in the YouTube Partner Program, there are now new ways to earn money, in addition to ads:

Other new channel and creator features

There were also a number of other creator updates that don't fit neatly into other categories. The changes that caused the most commotion: rounding off publicly displayed subscriber counts, and new stricter verification check mark eligibility requirements (which were mostly reversed).

These are the top updates in roughly chronological order:

Limited features on videos aimed at kids

One of the big changes in 2020 will be the limited features on videos "made for kids", which YouTube is required to make to comply with COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act).

Videos that were "made for kids" will not have personal advertising (but it can have non-personalized ads), comments, a channel branding watermark, info cards or end screens, live chat or live chat donations, playback in the miniplayer, or a merch shelf.

If an entire channel is "made for kids" it will not have channel Memberships, Stories, a Community tab or Notification bell.

Understandably, channels that make content for kids are concerned. And other creators aren't sure whether their videos are "made for kids" or not.

Those changes will go into effect this coming week, and hopefully it won't be as disastrous as some fear.

But there have been a number of changes over the past year meant to protect kids on YouTube.
Image by Prawny from Pixabay



  1. There may be a loophole if you upload some "not made for kids" videos even though your channel is 90% "made for kids" then maybe you can keep some channel features. We'll see what happens.


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