The sky is blue, grass is green, water is wet, and YouTube is free. For many, many years we've all lived in a world where one can just go to a website and watch billions of hours of video – for free. I don't think it's Google fawning to say that YouTube, and its open, unrestricted video database, is one of the most important and influential entities of the internet age.
The free, ad-supported model that YouTube has employed for years has worked – in that YouTube is the biggest video site in the world. Most internet users have simply accepted that, in order to watch videos on YouTube, you're going to have to sit through an ad. It might be 30 seconds, it might be 15. YouTube might even let you skip it after five seconds. But chances are, you're going to have to sit through some advertising before your free content plays (and possibly during said content).
Maybe that doesn't have to be the only way. In the near future, you might have the option to pay for YouTube. Why would you pay for an already-free service? To join an ad-free wonderland, of course.
Are YouTube ads annoying enough to justify paying to get rid of them? Do you think a subscription-based model is a good idea? Let us know in the comments.
Speaking at Re/code's Code/Mobile conference, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said that YouTube is thinking about offering an ad-free subscription service.
“YouTube right now is ad-supported, which is great because it has enabled us to scale to a billion users; but there’s going to be a point where people don’t want to see the ads,” Wojcicki said in an onstage interview. Consumers generally “will either choose ads, or pay a fee, which is an interesting model. … We’re thinking about how to give users options.”
“We’ve been thinking about other ways it might make sense for us [at YouTube]. We’re early in that process, but if you look at media over time, most of them have both ads and subscription services,” she added.
She's right, of course. Take Spotify for instance. The popular streaming music service offers "tiers" – the lowest of which is an ad-supported free tier. Spotify then allows users to pay to, among other things, get rid of the ads. As it stands, about one-quarter of all Spotify users choose a paid tier.
Providing the YouTube viewer with an option is great and all, and that surely factors into YouTube's considerations, but make no mistake – offering a paid subscription model is mostly about keeping the creators happy.
Look at what Wojcicki went on to say:
"There are going to be cases where people are going to say, 'I don't want to see the ads, or I want to have a different experience,'" she said. "We're always watching, always trying to innovate. It's similar to the ad market in a lot of ways: There are always new ad platforms coming out, but at the end of the day people say, I'm going to go to the one that generates the most revenue for me."
Right now, and for the foreseeable future, YouTube is in no danger of losing its online video crown. With 100 hours of video uploaded to the site every minute and over a billion unique visitors a month, YouTube is by far the biggest video site on the planet. But even so, YouTube knows it has to keep the content flowing. If content creators aren't happy with the amount of money they're making on YouTube, there could be a minor to major problem – depending on the specific talent and the scope.
Well, are they happy?
Though you've no doubt heard many a success story – teens in their dorm rooms making thousands of dollars a month on YouTube – the reality is that things aren't quite what they used to be. Some reports indicate that advertising rates have fallen, which isn't great for a system where monetization is entirely dependent on an ad-based revenue share.
Sure, YouTube has made it easier than ever to make money by opening the gates and letting more and more channels qualify for monetization. The company has also automated the process and to be fair, it's super easy to get started.
But it's clear that YouTube knows it needs another option – another way for content creators to earn. Paid subscriptions could be that option.
The question then becomes ... who would pay for YouTube?
You may or may now know that YouTube has already been experimenting with paid subscriptions on a smaller scale. Since May of last year, YouTube has offered paid channels. YouTube lets the channel creator set their own price (which could be anywhere from $0.99 a month to a few dollars a month), and then takes a cut of the profit. Paid channels started with a few dozen partners and soon expanded, but the initiative hasn't really taken off – at least not as much as YouTube would've hoped.
Nearly a year and a half later, there are only 224 paid channels on YouTube.
And the problem that befalls paid channels could also affect YouTube's move into offering a site-wide paid subscription service.
Is the content really worth paying for?
It's one thing to pay a monthly or yearly fee to watch Game of Thrones or to listen to Led Zeppelin. It's a whole different thing to pay money to watch babies laugh, cats chase laser pointers, and drunk people falling down stairs.
I know there's much better content on YouTube than that – but you get the point.
YouTube caricature aside, a lot of people would likely have a problem justifying a monthly payment for YouTube. We're all so used to YouTube being free. You know what we're also pretty used to? Ads. It's just a part of the experience now. Are you really that annoyed by ads to warrant paying for YouTube?
Maybe getting rids of ads isn't enough. To get people on board with paying for YouTube, maybe the company would have to offer some other perks. Who knows, maybe some sort of music service?
How do you feel about this? Would you even consider paying for YouTube? Let us know in the comments.