June 7, 2023

  • Dr Sandra Lee, aka Dr Pimple Popper, was briefly making hundreds of thousands a month on YouTube.
  • That ended as many advertisers didn’t want to appear next to “graphic” content, he told Insider.
  • Lee was upset that her “educational” videos were penalized by YouTube’s “subjective” process.

The founder of a pimple-popping YouTube channel said she lost an income worth almost six figures a month when the site said her content was “too graphic” to make money.

Dr Sandra Lee, aka Dr Pimple Popper, told Insider her YouTube channelwhich has 7.5 million subscribers and nearly 5 billion views, struggles to generate significant advertising revenue.

After earning nearly $100,000 a month from YouTube views between 2014 and 2016, the site then told her her content wasn’t making any money.

YouTube revenue

YouTubers like Lee make money from the ads on their videos, their subscriptions and a portion of the revenue from premium subscribers.

This became a major revenue stream for Lee when her “Popular” viewers started watching her videos in their billions. According to The Influencer Marketing Hub estimates that 1,000 views generate between $3 and $5, Lee could have made between $15 and $25 million from those views.

However, YouTube discourages users from posting “graphic or violent content” on its channels and warns that it will be removed. This included “footage or images showing bodily fluids, such as blood or vomit, intended to shock or disgust viewers”.

It’s usually meant to target harmful content and prevent violence or trauma, but it seems Lee’s videos have fallen into that category as well. A chart seen by Insider describes a sharp drop in revenue in 2016, when the team said YouTube told it videos could not be monetized.

But Lee, who said she received warnings on her account from YouTube for her posts, maintained that her videos were only meant to be educational.

“I’m really proud of the fact that kids know what lipoma is now, or know that you can’t just squeeze a cyst — you have to completely remove the sac to remove it,” she said.

“We teach people about psoriasis or hidradenitis, but if you’re not motivated to get that content out, how are people going to learn?”

Fighting medical misinformation

Lee feels she is helping to fight medical misinformation by acting as a verified source for dermatology, and has been disappointed by YouTube’s actions.

“They changed the rules all of a sudden,” Lee said, noting that advertisers didn’t want to be associated with a channel that popped blackheads.

“They [social media platforms] they grow up because of all these new posters, but then they wait until they’re old enough to limit it and make restrictions.”

Lee has since created a members-only section where viewers have access to exclusive pops, while also earning revenue from her clinic, a show on cable channel TLC and her skincare brand.

But he noted that TikTok, where he has more than 15 million followers, is also starting to clamp down on content like Lee’s. Some of her TikTok videos now come with a content warning.

“There’s a fine line between what’s dangerous, what’s just shocking, and what’s educational,” Lee said.

YouTube did not respond to a request for comment.

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