There’s more to church live-streaming than which encoder you use and what transition you take between shots. Sometimes, you have to make decisions that are “no-brainers” on the surface, but turn out to be much more complex in practice.
Here’s an example.
A lot of churches use YouTube for church live-streaming. It’s got a lot of advantages. There’s a huge audience there and best of all, it’s free.
So, for church live-streaming, it seems like the answer to all your problems, but there’s something that happened recently that may prove it’s not.
Big creators are declaring an “adpocalypse” because YouTube has started cracking down on offensive content.
For a quick description of the “adpocalypse”, take a look at this video by YouTuber Hank Green:
[Video via YouTube]
It started with people who were monetizing their content through YouTube, but soon “advertiser-friendly content” became “community standards”. If you’re not familiar with the rules and what YouTube considers offensive, take a look at this list (for more detail, see the original article from Google here):
- Controversial issues and sensitive events
- Drugs and dangerous products or substances
- Harmful or dangerous acts
- Hateful content
- Inappropriate use of family entertainment characters
- Sexually suggestive content
Perhaps you’re thinking (as I was), “Great! Make YouTube a safer place! That doesn’t affect my stuff at all. It’s all clean.”
That was, until I got an email from YouTube that I’d violated community standards with this video:
[Video via YouTube]
You don’t have to watch it, if you don’t want (it’s old and the quality isn’t the best, so keep that in mind, too). I’ll just share the general gist of it with you.
Make your content available any way you can so that people can consume it whenever and wherever. This will give you an advantage over big media companies who have limited the ability to do just that with their content. Sometimes that means that they make it hard to consume legally and make it so people feel justified in downloading it illegally, which you should never do.”
See how offensive it is? I didn’t either.
It turns out that my video got a strike, not because it was offensive, but because an algorithm said it was. Yep, I was the victim of a computer mistake.
I disputed it and in a few days, all was well.
Except it wasn’t.
You see, the reason I got it resolved in a few days was because my channel has enough views for them to look at it fairly quickly (not the same day, but the same week). Your church may not hit that mark.
It’s not the only video that got the attention of the YouTube bots. My “Snapchat is not the devil” video (you can see a screen cap of its monetization settings as the featured image of this post) didn’t get a strike for violating community standards, but it’s monetization is limited…and despite my appeal, it’s still that way, months after I pointed out the mistake.
Why does this matter to live-streaming, though?
Many churches use YouTube for live-streaming, remember? Guess what penalty was assessed to my channel for the strike on the first video I mentioned (which I uploaded to YouTube back on July 21, 2014; the strike came on November 4, 2017). I wasn’t allowed to live-stream.
So now, consider that you get a similar notice (on a video you uploaded years ago) on a Friday or Saturday. What would your church do if your only plan for live-streaming is YouTube?
This isn’t a content problem; it’s a customer service problem. It all comes down to one thing.
YouTube is free and as the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”
That’s not to say that there isn’t another problem here, too. What if your church has a speaker, who during his talk, says God delivered him from homosexuality? Is that “homophobic hate speech”? What about having a testimony from a former Muslim who says she had to flee her homeland because of death threats from her family after she became a Christian? Is that “Islamophobic”? I’ve heard people mention both topics at churches. Sometimes, those topics weren’t planned, but came up as part of something related.
According to YouTube’s list of community standards, both could be considered to fall into the categories of “Controversial issues and sensitive events” or “Hateful content”. So, it’s possible that your church could be targeted, accurately, at least according to the policies YouTube has.
What can you do?
Have a plan.
You pay for things in money, time, or frustration. So, assume that, because it’s free, you might have to pay in time and frustration. If you have a plan in place, you could be able to switch over to Facebook (which has its own problems) or a paid service and still have your service live-streamed.
Have you ever had trouble with YouTube? I recognize most people will say, “No.” But that doesn’t mean you won’t. What’s your plan should you suddenly be wrongly (or even accurately) targeted? Do you have one? Have you practiced the steps, in case it’s a last minute thing?
For more on alternatives to YouTube and strategies for how to deal with a last-minute change in live-host, take a look at my book, Live-Streaming Church.