Love online video, but worry advertising isn’t enough to fund quality content? Two of the biggest names in online educational video agree. Hank and John Green – the sibling pair behind Vlogbrothers, The Crash Course, SciShow and numerous other YouTube channels – this week launched Subbable, a subscription service for content creators. The site hopes to fund content with enthusiastic, but not necessarily large, followings.
“Advertisers just want the most views, not the most engaged views,” says the Subbable About page. “We fear this might turn the Internet into the Great Distractor, a place where huge wells of content exist that we enjoy fleetingly but feel no passion for.”
Only one project exists on the site right now, the Vlogbrother’s own Crash Course, a series of educational videos on science and history. But that project’s met with some enthusiasm: within 24 hours Crash Course fans pledged to fund 30 per cent of the show, monthly.
The service at first glance looks like Kickstarter, but one-time funding isn’t the goal here. Instead, users are encouraged to voluntarily pay for subscriptions to content they love, meaning content creators can count on a certain amount of money coming in every month. Think of it as Kickstarter with NPR-style pledges.
It’s long been a holy grail of content creators: a way to fund online projects without advertising. Hank and John Green have spent a lot of time thinking about the problem. A May 2012 Vlogbrothers video by John outlined how advertising works, and with typical reflection asked viewers to realize they’re making a choice.
“You and I and anyone who uses Facebook or Twitter or Google or Angry Birds has agreed to be commodified,” said John. “I’m not saying that’s a bad decision, but it is a decision and it’s one that should be made thoughtfully…Should we be okay with being the product?”
Crash Course is currently the only project listed on Subbable. It was originally funded by YouTube itself, with funds that are now used up. New projects will be added slowly during Subbable’s beta phase, but an application page exists for interested creators.
“We hope [Subbable] will allow creators to focus not on getting the most viewers but on providing the most valuable stuff to viewers,” says the About page. “Is that idealistic? Hell yes, it is.”
What do you think? Can something like Subbable help content creators focused on quality? Or will cat videos dominate YouTube forever? Leave your thoughts below.