YouTube starts limiting ad targeting and data collection on kids content

YouTube now officially limits the amount of data it and creators can collect on content intended for children, following promises made in November and a costly $170 million FTC fine in September. Considering how lucrative kids’ content is for the company, this could have serious financial ramifications for both it and its biggest creators.

The main change is, as announced in November, that for all content detected or marked as being for kids, viewers will be considered children no matter what. Even if you’re a verified, paying YouTube Premium customer (we know you’re out there) your data will be sanitized as if YouTube thinks you’re a 10-year-old kid.

There are plenty of reasons for this, most of them to do with avoiding liability. It’s just the safer path for the company to make the assumption that anyone viewing kids’ content is a kid — but it comes with unfortunate consequences.

Reduced data collection means no targeted ads. And targeted ads are much more valuable than ordinary ones. So this is effectively a huge revenue hit to anyone making children’s content — for instance YouTube’s current top-earning creator, Ryan Kaji (a kid himself).

It also limits the insights creators can have on their viewers, crucial information for anyone hoping to understand their demographics and improve their metrics. Engagement drivers like comments and notifications are also disabled, to channels’ detriment.

Google for its part says that it is “committed to helping creators navigate this new landscape and to supporting our ecosystem of family content.” How exactly it plans to do that isn’t clear; Many have already complained that the system is not clear and that this could be a death sentence for kids’ channels on YouTube.

Now that the policy is official we’ll probably soon hear exactly how it is impacting creators and what if anything Google actually does to mitigate that.