Institutional Polymorphism: Diversification of Content and Monetization Strategies on YouTube

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Through guidelines, terms of service and algorithmic curation, digital platforms such as YouTube encourage creators to produce content that fits with the commercial goals of the platform. Scholars have argued that this pressure to conform might lead to uniformity, or isomorphism, in the ways organizations manage their presence on platforms. This article contributes to the debate on isomorphism by taking a bottom-up approach and ask to which extent creators on YouTube pursue similar, or different, strategies for uploading and monetizing content. Through quantitative and qualitative analyses of a sample of YouTube channels, we show how content creators adapt to, negotiate with, and defy institutional pressures. In the end, we find greater support for diversification, that is, polymorphism, than concentration in the ways organizations manage their presence on the platform. This has implications for how we understand platform power and integrate institutional theories in communication research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTelevision & New Media
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)432-451
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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