Skip to main content

2020 Review: AdSense, YouTube Partner Program, and Monetization

In 2020 many YouTube Partners and AdSense publishers saw declining ad revenue as businesses spent less money on advertising. Of course that meant Google's ad revenue also dropped.

Both AdSense and YouTube implemented changes were designed to help creators earn more revenue.

YouTube Partner Updates in 2020
  • Self-certification that video content is advertiser-friendly
  • More restrictive content policies
  • New reports in YouTube Analytics
  • Insertion of mid-roll ads in shorter videos
  • Memberships for Partners with at least 1000 subscribers
  • Opening the Fundo event platform to all creators
AdSense Publisher Updates in 2020
  • Redesigned Reports page, without older data and YouTube stats
  • Vignette ads on wider screens
  • Redesigned anchor ads
  • Easier to run Experiments
Read on for more details about all these changes.

One of the updates I was expecting in 2020 was monetization of podcasts, as Google has been investing in its Podcast Manager platform. Maybe that will happen in 2021.

YouTube Partner Updates: Self certification, new reports and monetization options

Automated Reviews, Self-Certification and Stricter Content Policies

With much of YouTube’s workforce working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a shift towards more automated reviews. This not only affected removal of policy-violating content, but also caused delays in the review of channels for the YouTube Partner Program.

While YouTube’s algorithms have checked Partner videos for advertiser-friendliness for years, in 2020 YouTube added self-certification for all Partners. During the video upload process, Partners use a checklist to declare whether the video content is advertiser-friendly. It’s not possible to say you aren’t aware of the rules, and YouTube has expanded guidance to help you decide what the status of your video’s monetization should be.

Once the video is uploaded, YouTube automated systems review the video, with a new “checking” icon to help you see when the process is complete. If YouTube’s review consistently matches your self-certification, YouTube will trust your judgement and your videos are less likely to require additional review.

Beyond advertiser-friendliness, Partners are also required to follow the Community Guidelines. Content policies were tightened, in part due to the events of 2020, with prohibitions against spreading medical misinformation and harmful conspiracy theories.

Changes to videos “made for kids” also went into effect this year, with some channels aimed at children seeing a drop in revenue as their videos lost comments, personalized ads, memberships, live chat and other social features.

New reports in Analytics

With the transition to the new YouTube Studio complete, there were updates to reports in Analytics.

Some of the most useful new reports include:

More ads

As a YouTube Partner, I sometimes find it difficult to know how to strike a balance between the amount of advertising and my content.  

YouTube’s philosophy seems to be “more ads”.

In July, YouTube started automatically inserting mid-roll ads in all monetized videos at least 8 minutes long. This was a significant change, as videos previously had to be at least ten minutes long to use mid-roll ads. 

YouTube also inserted the mid-rolls into all eligible monetized videos, even old ones, unless the Partner disabled it. At least YouTube’s “smart” systems insert the ads where they should least interrupt the flow of the video, which YouTube claims is less intrusive than manually placed mid-roll ads.

YouTube does comply with the ad industry's Coalition for Better Ads guidelines, which, for example, say mid-roll ads should not be inserted into videos that are less than eight minutes long.

There will likely be even more ads on videos in 2021. As one of the first updates of the new year, YouTube is now adding post-roll ads on all monetized videos at least 10 minutes long by default. 

More ways to earn money

With ad revenue declining, it's important for Partners to consider alternative monetization methods.

YouTube opened up Memberships to more Partnered channels, dropping the minimum subscriber requirement from 30,000 in October to 1,000 in December. That was a nice end-of-the-year gift to creators.

Members pay monthly to access special perks, like special badges and members-only content, including live streams, which launched this year.

The Fundo virtual events platform also opened up to all creators, making it easy to set up monetized meet & greets, fan chats and workshops. While it does not require a YouTube channel, the platform was designed by Google’s Area 120 with YouTubers in mind.

YouTube Partner Updates in 2021

We’re barely into 2021 and there are already significant changes on the horizon. These will largely affect Partners who are outside the United States.
  • The old AdSense reports will be retired. The new reports do not include any YouTube data. You can download your YouTube AdSense data for a limited time - the original deadline was the end of 2020, so if you have not exported that data, and you want a copy, do it now!
  • The updated YouTube Terms of Service will go into effect, with some Partners outside the US having to provide tax information and a new “right to monetize” videos that are not in the YouTube Partner Program.
  • Western Union will no longer be available as a payment method. Partners who are currently being paid through Western Union will have to link a bank account to their AdSense account to be paid.
  • Under the new Terms of Service, AdSense may start showing ads on “brand safe” videos that are not in the YouTube Partner Program. The only way to be sure to get a cut of that ad revenue is to monetize your channel yourself, so there may be more creators to join the Partner Program. It’s not clear how that may affect overall revenue for Partners.

Related News and Tutorials

Policy updates
Monetization updates

AdSense updates: Improved Auto Ads, experiments, and new reports

Auto Ads

In 2020 AdSense continued their push for Publishers to implement Auto Ads. Publishers only need to add a single bit of ad code, and that allows AdSense to insert ads automatically on the page.

AdSense launched new and improved Auto Ads in 2019, with the ability for Auto Ads to be displayed on any page with AdSense ad code. AdSense Publishers can control ad formats and how many ads load on a page.

There have been several updates to Auto Ad formats this year.

AdSense started displaying “vignette ads” on wider screens. Vignette ads are full screen interstitial ads that site visitors see when they leave a page. So users may see these ads as they navigate through your site or when they navigate to a different site.

Originally vignette ads were only displayed on mobile devices. In November, AdSense began showing vignette ads on desktop as well. Vignette ads can be managed in your AdSense account settings.

They also improved the design of “anchor ads”. Anchor ads are primarily mobile ads that stick to the top or bottom of the screen. AdSense says the new design boosts revenue 6% on average.

AdSense for Search

AdSense made it easier to add a monetized search engine to your site with a new creation flow.


With all the different possible ad configurations, it can be difficult to know what the best settings are for your site. AdSense launched new controls that let you run experiments to see what works best.

If you want to try to improve your revenue, you can now run Auto Ads experiments to try different formats and settings.

More daring publishers might want to allow Google to “auto optimize” ad settings. That lets Google run experiments on your ad format settings, and if there is an improvement in revenue, apply changes to your account.

New Account Settings and Reports

Finally, AdSense made several account improvements that help Publishers manage their ads and understand their revenue.

To help Publishers with dropping revenue, AdSense launched a new earnings troubleshooter. This walks you through your AdSense reports to help you understand why your earnings decreased, and provide suggested changes for improvement..

For easier ad management, there is now a “global settings tab to the Ads settings page to manage your account-level ad settings.

And this fall AdSense launched a redesigned Reports page in beta. This has a more user-friendly design and makes viewing data easier. URL channels and custom channels (which are NOT YouTube channels) are also part of the new reports.

It also introduces an important change: AdSense will no longer show you data more than 3 years old, and no longer includes any data from YouTube.

Note: if you have not done so already, export your AdSense legacy reports with your full reporting history. This will include older AdSense data, as well as YouTube and AdMob data. This was originally only going to be available through the end of 2020, but it appears they can still be downloaded.

AdSense Changes in 2021

In addition to legacy and YouTube data no longer being available in reports, there several changes happening in the near future:

AdSense News and Tutorials