Ah, YouTube. A bastion for free video gaming news, Let’s Plays, and anything in between. It truly represents everything the Internet stands for. And now it has been CORRUPTED AND RUINED FOREVER!!
At least, that’s what the comments would have you think.
I often feel like naysayers are the main reason for why I’m beginning to hate the Internet. Reactionary comments from people who are determined to hate everything are mainly why I’m starting to skip the comments section, even on the stuff I love. When YouTube Red was announced, I admit I was a little confused and upset, but my first thought was to get more information. Of course, trying to do so had me running into these same people shouting apocalyptic warnings of how Red spelled the end of YouTube. People’s hatred of advertisements was just that deep, apparently. There was even a video released by one of my favorite YouTube creators saying he was scared for the security of his job and planned to start a Patreon page (more on that further down in the article) to help keep him funded—when YouTube Red hasn’t even been released yet. It made me really curious about what YouTube Red actually means for the YouTube community and whether all this panic is justified or not, especially since I have always wanted to start a career on YouTube. This recent change may just end that dream before it even gets off the ground, if everything is to be believed, anyway.
What Is YouTube Red?
First, though, what is YouTube Red exactly? A quick Google search shows it’s a $9.99 per month subscription to YouTube (or $12.99 if you pay on iOS), but for what? What does it give you? A quote taken from an article on Wired states:
“[T]he YouTube Red membership gives users ad-free videos, and original shows and movies from YouTube creators (including PewDiePie, Joey Graceffa, Fine Brothers Entertainment, and more). It also opens up access to the recently launched Gaming app, and YouTube Music, a new app that will be available soon. Crucially, a YouTube Red subscription will be interchangeable with a Google Play Music subscription, making this as much a streaming music investment as anything.”
Something not mentioned in the quote is that YouTube Red will also allow people to download videos temporarily (probably with an expiration time or whatever) to their phones so they can watch videos when not connected to the Internet.
So, the subscription is a full packaged deal. It’ll give access to original shows from YouTube creators (you can see what YouTube has planned currently for that here), a gaming app (Ooo!), downloadable videos (Good!) and a music service called YouTube Music (Eh…). It’ll also remove ads from videos, which is the main feature that’s coming under fire from the Internet naysayers.
“How will people make money?”
“Will the creators get even less of a cut now than they did before?”
“Who even needs this when we have AdBlock?!”
So, if we are to think of YouTube Red as just an ad removal subscription like so many people do, is it really worth the money when we all have AdBlock? No. For sure it wouldn’t be worth it.
Except for the fact that we’ll probably be losing AdBlock’s ability to block YouTube videos once Red launches.
Yup. You read that right. Possibly no more AdBlock on YouTube. A reputable source who apparently talked to a YouTube engineer alludes to it in this video. There’s also reason to believe that use of AdBlock is what lead to YouTube Red in the first place. PewDiePie even released a statement on it. So what does this mean?
A World with Ads
Let’s start with the state of YouTube as it is right now.
AdBlock is any Internet user’s best friend. It blocks any kind of annoyance that could interrupt your time online. No sidebar ads, no annoying video ads that play without you wanting them to, no banner ads, and most importantly no YouTube ads. So the introduction of YouTube Red leaves people wondering what its purpose is. Even though YouTube Red comes with many other features (as mentioned above), people are fixated on the idea of paying for no ads. It’s fun to think about what YouTube Red’s reception would have been had they not included ad removal in its business model. To see what the big deal was I decided to disable AdBlock on YouTube for a while and watch stuff without its protection.
If I’m being honest, the ad situation is pretty bad. Although most ads can be skipped, some of the longer ones seem to have paid enough to remain un-skippable. Watching a one-minute ad just to watch a three-minute video seems asinine, but what is even more annoying is what happened in the longer videos. When it came to watching a video that was around 20 or 30 minutes long, ads on YouTube started acting like commercials. The video would fade out and suddenly an ad would play in the middle of it, which totally threw me off. I don’t know when this change was implemented, but it was surprising. Although my first encounter with this commercial form of ad was surprising and really annoying, I quickly got over it. Several videos later I fell back into my old TV routine, where I would get up and grab a drink while the commercial played in the background.
I can see why people are upset, but I don’t really see why they’re that upset. Ads are ads. They have existed seemingly forever in one form or another and will continue to exist. Ads are what keep YouTube funded and working. In that respect, is a small interruption in your regularly scheduled programming so bad?
Of course there are people who have answered “YES!!” to this question. Vowing to stop using YouTube once Red launches, these people are determined to somehow boycott YouTube into changing its ways. Which brought up a thought.
Are There Alternatives to YouTube? . . . No, Not Really.
Aside from Vimeo, can anyone you know name more than one existing alternative to YouTube? The problem comes to light once you list all of the features that the alternative has to replace, which YouTube already does really well. It has to provide:
alternative has to replace, which YouTube already does really well. It has to provide:
- High-quality, easily streamable videos that can be rewound and paused on a whim without any loss of data or lag
- An option to change the quality of the video should you want a sharper image or if your service provider or Internet connection is unable to handle streaming the video adequately
- A service that allows people to create whatever they want and make revenue from it
- A huge audience
- Access around the globe
- Reliability, meaning it must never be down for maintenance
That is a lot to ask from any competitor. The audience part is really important considering that it’s the same reason why Facebook has never had a competitor able to contend with its huge social media platform. No one wants to move to a social platform with fewer people. Who would be there to socialize with? What’s the point of making videos if no one’s going to watch it? Even releasing a video on YouTube as it is right now doesn’t guarantee anyone’s going to see it. So how well would anyone fare in a space with fewer viewers?
Dailymotion is surprisingly YouTube’s closest competitor, but considering that the top followed account on there is BuzzFeed, with only 26k followers, that doesn’t look very promising.
Vimeo is YouTube’s next closest competitor and it doesn’t even target the same kind of audience. Vimeo is seemingly much more artsy and exclusive, plus it has pretty strict guidelines to get you to pay for using it, such as allowing you to upload only 25 GB of videos before you have to pay $59.95 a year just to get that boosted to 250 GB. Imagine having a data restriction on how much you can upload on YouTube. Creating content would be way more of a hassle than it is now.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why people are in such an uproar. There is no true alternative to YouTube. And with these new changes coming into place there really is nowhere left to go on the Internet. Why couldn’t YouTube just remain the same instead of switching to a plan that screws over its own users? Why do the creators have to settle for so much less money now? Are they even going to exist anymore?
All of these questions are legitimate if the creators do actually get the raw end of the deal. So . . .
Are Content Creators Actually Screwed? Hard To Say.
There’s a misconception that, as a content creator, not signing up to YouTube Red will get all your videos privatized. That’s sounds confusing, but really all it means is just pressing “I Accept” to the new terms and conditions that will come out with YouTube Red’s launch. It’s not like the creators will have to pay the $10 a month to have their content be made public. So that is easily put to rest.
However, the money side of this argument, which is whether or not creators will make more money from this, is somewhat vague and can do with some explaining.
If we’re talking about how content creators make money specifically and only through YouTube, the answer is advertisements. YouTubers make their money through a Google AdSense account. It works like this: the more views a video gets equals more eyes on advertisements, which raises the chances people will click on or watch the ad, thus generating more money for the YouTuber. This is why views and subscriber counts are so important. We should get into specifics for why that is.
Some advertisements, such as the ones played at the beginning of a video, will pay the channel based on whether or not the viewer watched it. This immediately rules out people with AdBlock, but if you’re not running an ad blocking software how does this play out? Basically, if you press the skip button on an ad, then that creator will earn no money from it. However, if you watch an ad (AKA leave it running while you go make a sandwich) then the ad will count as having been watched, and the channel will profit.
The profit doesn’t equate to much, however. Although YouTube has been careful never to release exact numbers, it’s often thought that people are paid only a couple of cents per 1,000 views. The small-time channels barely make any pocket change from YouTube for this reason.
Other advertisements pay the channel based on whether or not they were clicked. More than likely these are the little banner ads that pop-up on a video as you’re watching, the ones we try and close as fast as possible. While clicking these will definitely give money to the channel you’re watching, clicking on these too much in too short a time frame will possibly end up getting the channel banned from AdSense, like this one was.
If you want to get into YouTube and learn more about monetization, YouTube has a great page on it in their Academy section.
It’s also implied that instructing people to click on your ads or clicking on ads yourself is against the terms of service, for obvious reasons. So most of the money is pretty much made through blindly trusting and hoping that your audience will actually watch and click the ads. Presently this has become a rather terrible and dated way to make money. Few people even like the concept of an advertisement, much less looking at one. It’s easy to say that if ads were the only way a YouTuber could make money then we wouldn’t have millionaire superstars like PewDiePie around.
Once a YouTube channel creator feels their community is big enough and that their videos are reaching a wide enough audience, they should look into other ways to let their community pay them. Patreon is always the first suggestion given because it’s a great resource. On Patreon, people can choose to pay the content creator however much money they want per month, most of the time in exchange for a reward. This allows the YouTuber to gauge how much money they can expect to earn that month, and it gives the audience a way to pay them without having to interact with ads. Additionally, Patreon takes only around 10 percent of all the money being earned. Getting $.90 per dollar is a great deal, for sure. To be honest, Patreon is probably the best way to make sure your YouTuber of choice is getting as much money from your dollar as possible.
Merchandise, when done properly, is also a great way of making more revenue. The Young Turks channel makes a good portion of its profits by selling t-shirts, mugs, calendars, and the like. Creative people and gamers also have the added option of streaming on Twitch for money. With YouTube’s recent attempts at trying to infiltrate the streaming service space, there could be future changes that allow YouTube content creators to make more money streaming on YouTube than on Twitch. However, this opens a completely different can of worms, so we won’t cover that here.
As things are right now, YouTube creators need to be more resourceful in how they make money since ad revenue is not enough to make a living on. YouTube Red, as much hate as it gets, has promise of changing that for the better. It’s not hard to see the reason behind its creation. People are not just going to one day wake up and suddenly love ads. So why try and force more ads on people when you can just create a monthly subscription service that will generate more money for everyone across the board? It would be easier to embrace YouTube Red if that outcome was a guarantee, but as things stand right now there’s actually no way of knowing whether it will deliver. YouTube itself has released a statement saying that content creators will get the bulk of the money made from the service. This did nothing to abate fear, anger, or anxiety, however, as many have taken to Twitter to spout their harsh feelings on the topic. The general understanding is that only the top 1 percent of YouTubers will be making the most money, and every other channel is going to get tossed to the wayside. Since there’s no way to prove this thought right or wrong, however, the only option is to wait and see what YouTube Red has in store.
YouTube has tried to launch similar services in the past. There were paid channels back in 2013, and then “Fan Funding” back in 2014. Considering how few remember these attempts, it goes to show YouTube failed pretty miserably. Given the past, if YouTube Red fails this year it’s likely that YouTube will come up with a new service for next year. Maybe the question shouldn’t be when YouTube will stop trying to create new revenue services, but rather when they’ll come up with one that the users will like. No company fails at the same idea for two years straight and goes in for a third attempt without being determined to making it work.
As a final note, Hank Green (one of the VlogBrothers) made an excellent video going into detail about how the changes affect him as a YouTube creator. The video is definitely worth watching if you want a more in-depth analysis than what you saw here. Link below!
(Special thanks to my friend Kaetlyn who helped me with the research for this piece!)