Don’t see red, Youtube pay-wall benefits us all
Last week, YouTube launched its ad-free subscription service: YouTube Red. As with any change that rolls around, YouTube Red has had its critics.
The majority of the criticism revolves around how, in the face of ad blocking, paying $10 a month for YouTube is a waste of money. Furthermore, there have been concerns over the steps YouTube seems to be taking to make its creators pay, as evidenced by an 16,000 signature petition on Change.org, “Stop YouTube Red”.
To the first point, YouTube Red may be of interest to people who want to support content creators or the platform itself. As popular YouTuber and multimillionaire Pewdiepie points out on his blog, ad blockers significantly cut into the ad revenues of creators; an estimated 40 percent of ad revenue may be lost due to ad blocking, which can significantly hurt smaller channels.
There have been many creators on YouTube who have asked their viewers to turn off ad-blockers when viewing their content. Personally, I would rather tip a creator I supported through Patreon than turn on ads. In my experience, ads significantly increase the time a webpage takes to load, diminish the viewing experience, and sometimes even contain malicious code.
An official ad-free solution that helps support content creators would be useful, but it is clear that YouTube Red cannot survive on the selling point of an ad-free viewing experience alone.
For one thing, a large portion of YouTube’s user base is young and may not be as willing or able to pay a subscription fee. Compared to Netflix, for example, most of the content on YouTube seems to be geared toward an under-30 crowd — think Tyler Oakley versus House of Cards. Furthermore, the majority of videos on YouTube are amateur content that most people would rather not see if they had to pay money for it. Red may be of the most use for people who use YouTube to listen to music, but this service is hardly any different from the existing Google Play Music subscription, which is now bundled with YouTube Red.
To entice anyone into using YouTube Red, YouTube plans to rely on “premium” content: high-budget videos by some of its biggest stars available only to Red subscribers. It appears that YouTube is trying to change the direction of how it does business.
Instead of a platform where people are able to post and discuss videos, YouTube may be trying to become a content distributor, able to hold leverage over the decisions of its creators and shift the balance of who rightfully owns content.
Many are concerned about how YouTube handles its power over its partners and whether they will maintain the culture of open content. In launching YouTube Red, YouTube partners were given the option to either sign up for YouTube Red or let their videos be made private, which would make their videos inaccessible to the general public. While most partners had no qualms about the switch, YouTube got its way by essentially threatening them with censorship.
Although it remains to be seen what direction the platform will head in, for now YouTube Red seems to be overall a net positive for creators and users. Hopefully, YouTube will continue to support the efforts of creators and improve the experience of users without sacrificing its traditional culture of open content.