For the past decade, YouTube has existed as a free pioneer of online media and video comsumption. It’s also the world’s top music platform (R.I.P. MTV) and has opened the floodgates of all new kinds of (incredibly profitable) entertainment, including things like watching people play video games and watching unboxing videos.
YouTube is, essentially, one of the greatest frontiers of New Media. It’s a hub where anybody can watch videos for free, anybody can make and share videos for free, and content creators can make some pocket change or make a living that would make a businessman green with envy. It’s a platform run by Google and its advertisers, but unfortunately for them, it only breaks even.
That’s where YouTube RED comes in. According to the latest emails from the YouTube Team themselves, YouTube is due to launch a version of YouTube with no ads for a monthly subscription fee. (Now, RED isn’t a confirmed name. In fact, the name “RED” comes from an odd little naming quirk for YouTube’s Music Key service.)
In this article we’ll cover two things: the events leading up to this impending change by Google and then what it could possibly mean. The first step is the timeline.
From Then to RED
Google began making the steps to making YouTube more profitable on May 9th, starting with paid channel subscriptions as well as paid videos. This idea didn’t seem to catch on that much, but it is still in effect today, and you can even see it with certain movie releases like The Interview. This was a step clearly made in response to subscription video services like Netflix and Hulu.
Google’s next response was to provide subscription music services like Spotify, launching their YouTube Music Key service on November 17th, 2014. Music Key is a paid subscription YouTube service that allows you to download videos for offline playback and listen to videos in the background on mobile devices. It’s also virtually the same service as Google Play Music All Access which allows free downloads and streaming from the Google Music library.
Essentially, this service combines the main benefit of Spotify with the extra utility of YouTube, which prior to the emergence of players like Pandora and Spotify was the uncontested champ of streaming music online.
In addition to becoming YouTube Partners or finding external sponsors and partnerships, online content creators have increasingly been using places like Patreon and PayPal in order to fund their free content creation.
Having the keen eye they do, Google noticed that money was being exchanged between the creators and audience without them getting any kind of cut, so they began rolling out Fan Funding in September of 2014. They take a small cut from donations and give paying fans the ability to send a message with their donations as well as a little badge beside their comments.
YouTube may seem like it’s in a comfortable position right now, but it isn’t the Internet’s early days anymore. If they don’t change with the times, they may well be left behind by other services – Google’s moves since 2013 have demonstrated a clear knowledge of this possibility, one they seem to be trying to avoid.
What does this mean for you, the user? Great question, and it could mean quite a lot. Let’s talk about that.
What It Means to You
Adblocking is a popular topic here on MTE, isn’t it? My most popular article is on an APB alternative. The audience seem to favor it and for good reason – advertising on the Internet can be in-your-face and harmful to your overall user experience. Not just that, but malware regularly finds itself in advertisements, even from people partnered with Google, so in addition to being a drain on hardware resources and Internet bandwidth, it can be a threat to your privacy and security. Many people running adblockers, however – myself included – often whitelist websites that they frequent in hopes of supporting the content creators. However, YouTube’s video advertisements are notably egregious, and you can’t exactly disable them on a per-channel basis … so how do you support content creators on YouTube without seeing advertisements?
Most people will opt for donations or Patreon support. Some content creators skip pre-roll video ads and integrate their sponsors directly into the videos, like the notable Tech YouTube channel, LinusTechTips. Here’s an example of one of his in-video ads, in case you haven’t seen YouTubers do in-video sponsoring.
Now, if you have no intention of disabling adblock or spending any money, YouTube RED probably won’t change much of anything at all for you. According to the email sent out by Google, they intend to keep videos free for paying and non-paying customers alike, with the main benefit of YouTube RED being found in removing pre-roll video advertisements. Heck, if you’re looking purely for a support-the-creators standpoint, Patreon and Fan Funding allow you to put the money directly into their pockets, with very small percentages being taken out by the middle man.
However, YouTube RED is very likely to be combined with Music Key, which is already combined with Google Play Music All Access. This means that potentially a single subscription service from Google will offer you all of the following features for a $10 monthly fee:
- no advertisements on YouTube
- downloading videos for offline viewing as well as background viewing for mobile devices
- unlimited Access to the full Google Play Music library featuring most of the biggest artists in the music industry; probably your favorites, too, unless you’re too indie for me
- more on the music bit – the ability to download and play those tunes offline as well as listen to them in high-quality and stream them from anywhere you like.
Suddenly you find yourself with a service that offers most of Spotify’s best features … while also allowing you to combine them with a better version of YouTube, albeit a paid version. Combine YouTube RED with all that Google has done up until now to add premium features to their services, and you may begin to realize that Google’s looking to turn YouTube into a truly profitable service. Not just profitable, but hopefully able to compete with the likes of Netflix and Spotify in their respective arenas, all while catering to their mass variety of content creators.
Google clearly has a plan to monetize YouTube, and RED could be the biggest step yet. What do you think, though? Sound off in the comments below and give your opinions.