top of page

Media Literacy and YouTube

The media and its rules haven’t changed. We have newer platforms like YouTube, YouNow and TikTok, but the old rules still apply. This is bad news for your average youtuber.

I go back and forth whether Google was good for YouTube. Some say Google buying them was the only alternative because the platform was at risk of getting sued by copyright owners out of existence.

The one thing that YouTube has given use is a place to upload archival footage, like old commercials and shows. It has also moved the public access TV crowd to the online streaming world. And picked up many more content producers due to its ease of use, coupled with the fact that in-home studios and shooting video with your phone are easy things these days.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Copyright law still exists. And to make money, you still have to get advertisers.

And don’t get me wrong here. YouTube is the greatest democratic video platform ever. But it ain’t so great for your average Joe who thinks that they can make money utilizing it.

Let’s admit it. The audience is cheap and lazy. I’m cheap and lazy when it comes to consuming content. We don’t want to pay for YouTube videos, so YouTube came up with a way to try to monetize for content producers–giving them a few pennies for tons of impressions. And because the YouTube audience has aged, and we’re lazy, we don’t want to seek out unique videos by scouring websites. All our lazy fingers can do is click that YouTube app button.


But you have to play by the rules, right? And what do the traditional rules dictate? Well, if you want to produce a show and make money off of it, you have to get a sponsor. Once you get a sponsor, you can pretty easily find a TV station, streaming service or network to put your product on the air. Can you do this on YouTube? Not in the traditional sense. You can’t have a commercial spot before or in the middle of your video–it’s literally against the terms of service. So, the way people have been monetizing their content when it comes to video for about 70 years is prohibited by YouTube. Why? Because they want a piece of the action. They want 45% of the revenue when you enable ads on your content. So most creators get 55% of almost nothing, and YouTube gets 45% of almost nothing. But 45% of almost nothing from millions of videos adds up to something.

What about the other traditional form of getting a program on a platform–the barter deal? You’ll give a platform or network your content for free and include your own sponsorship. The platform or network gets to insert their own commercials in your program where you leave some holes for them to fill. That way you make money and they make money. But this also can’t happen on YouTube.

So what are most people left with, besides paid product placements and endorsements? Using YouTube as a promotional tool. Actually, this isn’t a bad idea. YouTube actually lets you do that. YouTubes rules actually state that you can upload “an original video to YouTube, or maintain... an original channel on YouTube, to promote your business or artistic enterprise” in General Use of the Service—Permissions and Restrictions section “E.”

Unfortunately though, so many people got sucked into this YouTube creator world because of their lack of media literacy. If you know the ad sales business, you know that you have to serve up a ton of impressions to get sponsors to fork over a substantial amount of cash. Same thing with YouTube. A large viewership means more money. But most people can’t deliver this.

Another media literacy issue with content creators is their lack of knowledge when it comes to copyright law. You simply can’t use other entities’ copyrighted material without their permission. How many YouTube content producers are going to get permission from Epic Games to use a clip of Fortnite?

If the copyright and sponsorship issues weren’t enough, YouTube is the worst content network every conceived in terms of its relationships with content providers. Would the American Broadcasting Corporation deal with its show producers in the manner that YouTube communicates and deals with its content creators? ABC wouldn’t have any content if they pulled even 1% of the crap that YouTube pulls with its creators.

Besides abysmal network-producer relations, YouTube doesn’t vet any of its content. Would PBS let anyone upload anything to their app and let the masses download it for viewing? Hell no. God only knows what people would be uploading to their platform. But somehow this is okay for YouTube? When did lacking any type of accountability for content that you provide to the masses become a good business practice. Even public access content gets screened first.

YouTube and Google like to try to have it both ways. YouTube says that they are this neutral platform, yet they control everything and make money off of it. Google says they are a search engine, but operate like a portal that decides what content is best and then they too make money off of it.

So what’s a YouTube creator to do? Don’t be a youtuber, be a content producer. The days of playing games with copyright law and sponsorships are limited. Learn about what you can and cannot do when it comes to video production. Then, start seeking out a sponsor or someone to bankroll your project. Once you do that, you can start producing content and lock in a distribution channel. A process that will become much easier when you have a sponsor on board or someone to bankroll your endeavor.

About the author:

Christopher Michael McHugh’s Company, McQ Marketing Group, focuses on content marketing with an emphasis on video. Other services offered include social media, advertising, websites, analytics, CRM setup, live streaming and prerecorded video content, in addition to online presence analysis and consulting.

Before he started McQ Marketing Group, McHugh was a producer at Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network and did medical marketing for NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital and Westmed Medical Group.

If you are interested in learning more or would like to reach out to Mr. McHugh regarding consulting or public speaking, go to Call 203-689-3419, or email

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page