Amid social media bans, creators fear loss of earning

Updated 12 Oct 2020

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Uncertainty looms for the content creator industry, following the recent ban on TikTok and warnings to YouTube by the PTA to ensure blocking of objectionable content on its platform. — AFP
Uncertainty looms for the content creator industry, following the recent ban on TikTok and warnings to YouTube by the PTA to ensure blocking of objectionable content on its platform. — AFP

AARHUS (Denmark): When Raza Samo found in July his YouTube channels had been hacked, he not only lost access to a subscriber base of over a million followers but also lost his only source of income.

Samo, who hails from Larkana, runs two YouTube channels — ‘KhujLee Family’ for comic takes on culture and society, with 1.4m subscribers, and ‘Raza Samo’ for social commentary, with 527,000 followers.

“YouTube completely changed my life. After my account was hacked, Google disabled monetisation on my channels, so I was very stressed out,” he told Dawn.

For Samo, running his YouTube channels is a full-time job. “I am running my house and managing all expenses thro­ugh earnings from my channels,” he said.

YouTube has set eligibility criteria for content creators to be able to monetise on it. Its monetisation policy requires a creator to have more than 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 valid public watch hours in the last 12 months.

It also requires a channel to stay active. “We may disable monetisation on channels that haven’t uploaded a video or posted to the Community tab for 6 months or more,” the policy states.

Uncertainty looms for the content creators following the ban on TikTok and warning to YouTube to ensure blocking of ‘objectionable’ content

“The biggest challenge is to stay relevant and stay consistent. YouTube money is based on how actively and frequently you push content,” Ramish Safa told Dawn.

Safa, who runs the channel ‘YarRamish’, is tapping into the sneaker market in Karachi. His videos such as ‘Rs20,000 shoe for Rs1,500’ and ‘Lighthouse Karachi cheap sneaker heaven’ have been viewed 227,000 and 580,000 times respectively on YouTube.

“In the beginning it takes a lot. You have to purchase cameras, gear, invest in setup, etc. Slowly, those costs spread out and you can then start making money and getting back a return on your investment,” he said.

On an average, YouTube pays $0.3 to $1 per 1,000 views in Pakistan.

“The start is very slow. It can take up to 2-3 years for brands to start partnerships. If I upload five videos a day, only one is likely to be sponsored,” Bilal Munir, a tech vlogger, said.

Munir has shared over 1,300 technology review videos on his YouTube channel called ‘VideoWaliSarkar’. “With 1.36m subscribers, I get 200,000 average number of views on my videos that I upload on a daily basis,” said Munir, who earns between Rs300,000 and Rs500,000 a month.

The keys to a content creator’s success, according to him, are sponsorships and brand endorsements. “It also depends on the niche you choose. Tech channels generally get more ads and partnerships. Brands usually pay Re1 per view,” he added.

For the content monetisation industry on Facebook platforms, there are more challenges.

Amber Javed, an Instagram blogger, believes platforms should recognise Pakistan as a growing market and enable monetisation features.

According to Facebook’s policy, pages with admins in Pakistan and content in Urdu language are not yet eligible for monetisation.

Javed runs the Instagram account ‘awardrobeaffair’, which has a following of 146,000 people. “Following and engagement are high in Pakistan as compared to some global Instagram bloggers. Despite the large usage of Instagram, we are not being paid by the platform,” she pointed out.

Fear looming

Uncertainty looms for the content creator industry, following the recent ban on TikTok and warnings to YouTube by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to ensure blocking of objectionable content on its platform.

“The government’s posture over social media platforms is very unreliable right now. If social media does not exist, then online businesses cannot survive as there will be no place to advertise,” said Munir.

Despite their success on social media, the creators are now diversifying to other projects to secure their sources of income.

“In the current environment, it is best to diversify portfolio and not draw income from one page/platform only,” said Javed, who has recently started a product-based business with the help of her following on Instagram.

With increasing fear of history repeating itself, the digital creators are still reaping the impact of the previous ban on YouTube in 2012.

“It was a very huge setback for the digital industry of Pakistan. It was and is very harmful for us. Our YouTube is way behind India, US and other countries,” said Amtul Baweja, a travel and lifestyle blogger on Instagram under the name ‘Patangeer’.

Instagram, she said, was her major source of income that amounted to 80pc of her earnings. The platform was already very regulated with strict guidelines for users, she pointed out.

“A ban on platforms is not the solution. But due to the fear we are trying to stay active on all platforms so we don’t lose out completely if one is banned,” added Baweja.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2020