Notes on News: YouTube announces YouTube Red – but why should we care?

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Over a week ago, YouTube announced their first subscription-based plan entitled Red. This was met with the typical internet reaction of two warring factions and a bunch of confused people in the middle, so I’d like to break down the information so that you can decide.

First things first, what does your $10 (£6.47) a month get you? Completely ad-free YouTube is the main selling point.  That means no more thirty second ads, no more annoying banner buttons, and no badly photoshopped side pictures for that thing you Googled last year. On top of this, you get a Google music subscription (a Spotify clone) which will prove handy if you already set aside part of your budget for a service like this. You’ll also be allowed to save offline and listen to videos whilst the app is closed, so you can take your favourite videos and songs on the go wherever, removing the need for those dodgy middle-man websites.

Finally, in an extremely Netflixian move, Youtube will be producing a variety of original content from creators that we’ve already become too old to enjoy. This includes:

  • Reality-scenario shows (think adult Jungle Run) from PewDiePie, Game Theory, Alpine Labs, and Joey Graceffa.
  • Comedy and Drama series from the Fine Brothers, Wong Fu, College Humour, and Tobuscus.
  • Feature-length travel documentary from Lilly Singh.
  • Feature-length comedy by Rooster Teeth.

So what are the problems with the service? From the customer’s stand-point there are basically no drawbacks, unless you consider the price too high. The real issues are for the YouTube creators, as for some, their wages may be at stake.

For every video you watch on YouTube, that creator gets some money for the ads provided on the service. Your viewership is roughly valued at 1000 views = £0.65, so if you watched “Cat chases own tail falls over LOL” 250 times you would be making that video’s creator 16p. (Also, you need a hobby.) What YouTube Red offers in theory is that your £6.50 will be spread amongst the creators you watch. You get a hassle-free watching experience, and they get more money. In an age where 50% of regular YouTube watchers have ad-blockers installed (in a poll of 37000+ users by Hank Green), which effectively cancel creators revenue, this should seem to be a welcome change. However, of course, there’s the fine print.

Firstly, YouTube has not stated what proportion of the money goes to creators, other than that it is the majority. After original show funding, expenses, promotion, and technical support, we have no idea what is left of that amount – the majority only has to be <50%. Secondly, it’s not based on view count, but by minutes watched. The reasoning behind this being that YouTube wants to promote creators making longer form, higher production content. Yet that also means that if you were to watch a four minute vlog that took an hour to make, and a minute long short that took a month, 80% of your money would go to the vlogger. YouTube is heading to a quantity over quality format, and in return are forcing some of their most creative talents to the side.

I believe that we should pay for the content we enjoy. If YouTube Red is another way for people to do that, then I fully accept it; but personally I won’t be taking it. It’s a system designed to make the big get bigger, and the small stay small, and while that may work for some, I personally find the smallest creators to be the most fascinating, and the ones I look forward to most.

YouTube consistently strives to prove its legitimacy against companies such as Amazon or Netflix, without embracing its primary benefit. It’s a democracy – you choose what you watch, and who you support. Now that ad-revenue is slowly dying out, there’s another way you can choose; which creators you give your money to. Sites like Patreon and Vessel are allowing creators more freedom with every video they upload and it’s slowly becoming not just an advantage, but a necessity, for smaller Youtubers to use these services.

As always, the video making landscape is quickly changing, and it’s not certain as to whether YouTube Red will be a success, or a flop; it’s a gamble for both the creators and the site respectively. But if you’re considering YouTube Red, maybe take a moment to think – do you want a handful of benefits, with a fraction of your money trickling down to the creators you love, or would you rather ensure that they get paid what you think they deserve?

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I like sitting by the fire, long walks on the beach, and sunsets. I am also fond of Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain, but I would like to add that I am not into yoga.

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