The Evolution of YouTube; Dipping Toes in the Subscription Model

I wrote today on Quora about YouTube, and wanted to share my article. It’s all about YouTube and how they’ve moved from ad-based to subscription … and it’s not a pretty picture for the average user!

Blame YouTube music videos!

The original question was … Why is Google’s YouTube increasing a number of ads shown per each video and what is your opinion?

The Answer

Because after many years building the company based on giving everything away for free, supported by advertising (which worked well, creating a trillion dollar company) … Google is finally creating a subscription model.

Here’s The Background

YouTube is a video website.

It’s in the name – You-”Tube”

But there’s music on there. In fact, you’ll find what you’re looking for on YouTube when you can’t find it on Spotify or anywhere else. YouTube didn’t do this, the users did – they contributed James Taylor’s album discography without asking anyone’s permission, using still images of the album cover. At first the users were told, NO you can’t upload that! But a few years ago, YouTube started talking with artists and managers, like James Taylor, telling them it would be easier to keep all the content, but don’t allow anyone to monetize it … and then we’ll monetize it ourselves and give you the money, James! James said OK!

That was easy!

None of the users really noticed. When they uploaded an Adele hit, sometimes they’d get an email saying something legal, sometimes a strike against their account, but sometimes nothing would happen. Little by little all the majors were getting covered, so YouTube just didn’t care much, especially if there was an agreement b/t YouTube and the artist, if the upload was of good quality and the uploader had some history as a YouTube user in good standing.

If you uploaded a cover song done by a band you saw, similarly you’d just have to wait and see if the robot recognized the song, then see what the robot does. If the cover was “good enough” for the robot to detect it was a cover, the resulting action of YouTube was (and is) unpredictable. I upload covers often on my channel, and never receive a strike, though often the robot sends me an email anyway. I’ve come to think of these as a pat on the back; the band did a good version of the cover, good enough for the robot to find it!

An example of a recent email to me from YouTube. It’s an excellent band!

(Side note: I can’t monetize on my YT channel; they make it very difficult to obtain partner status. I was a partner in the past, but they kicked me out because I clicked on my own ads while using a computer in Indonesia, where I never was. That’s a different story! YT is not known for playing fair in this area.)

And The Answer to Your Question!

YouTube launched … wait for it …

YouTube Music! — It still says tube! But this is an acknowledgement, after years of being the go-to place for music, even if never intended … that YouTube is the go-to place for music, and now they’ll separate MUSIC videos from the rest of the videos.

Also, ALL of the music on the YT Music platform will need accompanying video! And the dumb-as-nails still photo of James’ album cover is good enough! YouTube didn’t have to do much, and would launch YouTube Music with a better catalog than ANY of the other major players, a library which was completely, FOR FREE TO YouTube, uploaded by loving users.

Now it’s YouTube, and YouTube Music.

And, about the same time, YouTube TV.

Those two new entities are the first real dive into pure subscription models for YT, the first time a platform of theirs would RELY on subscription money and be ad-free. It’s NOT YouTube’s MO. It’s a major left turn.

User of YouTube? Yes?

Ever paid them for anything? No? Most people haven’t.

See the ads? Yea, sure, no biggie.

Well, how are they going to make YOU pay? Maybe they’re not going to!

More ads will make them more money. The only catch is they may play too many ads and discourage users. Their bet is their Plan B, which is to nag the users to try the YouTube Music experience for a few dollars a month.

Worst case scenario; people listen to music with ads and never pay anything to YouTube. With both models running simultaneously, their risk is reduced. The absolute worst case would be losing customers, but remember, they have established the BEST COLLECTION OF MUSIC already.

It’s 80% smug, 10% logic and 10% luck.

I don’t know if there really is an increase in ads on YouTube, though I have noticed a wider variety of types of ads – some come before the video, some in the middle, some you can skip, some you can’t, and the behavior / appearance of ads changes depending on if you’re on a computer or phone/tablet. If you’re using the YouTube app, and you’re not a paying subscriber, the song will stop if the app is not in focus.

Some Issues

The evolution of YouTube has presented some downsides. The iPhone, which is the evolution of the iPod, can no longer be used as an iPod, unless you pay. If you put your iPhone in your pocket while you’re jogging, the #1 use of the original iPod, it will stop playing the song. This is because music is different than videos. YouTube has to acknowledge that while the James Taylor album cover might substitute for actual video … in reality, it’s not video. It’s not going to keep anyone watching. If it’s just music, and they’re in the kitchen, driving or jogging or something, they won’t view ANY ADS. This problem was not foreseen, judging by the knee jerk solution; Oh, sorry advertisers, how bout we PREVENT the users from USING Youtube unless they click a button every now and then PROVING they have eyeballs on the screen … and if they flip away from the app, the music will STOP … unless they pay monthly.

The most annoying downside to the evolution of YouTube is long ads. I’ve seen ads that were an hour long. If you’re in the kitchen listening to the Grateful Dead, either the song will stop right in the middle (prompting you to walk over to your computer and confirm you are “still watching”), or after the song finishes an ad will come on, and you won’t realize until you’re about 10–15 minutes into it that it’s an hour long ad with a super-obnoxious person delving deeply into dermatology, zits or something similarly compelling.

But We Still Love YouTube!

The answer is they want to see if they can get the new subscription model to work, so if they were ever going to show more ads, now would be a good time!

Hope that helps! Have a wonderful day!

Original question: Why is Google’s YouTube increasing a number of ads shown per each video and what is your opinion?


Mark Urso

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