Google just announced YouTube Red, a new paid level of YouTube that allows you to have access to new original content, ad-free videos, offline videos, and the ability to play videos in the background on your mobile device — and it’s all coming to the US on October 28th.
That might sound pretty cool, until you realize that it’s $10 a month for a subscription. YouTube is trying to act like Spotify (read about the new Spotify) or Apple Music, but it is an inherently different kind of service.
And because of that, YouTube Red will kill everything that we love about YouTube.
What Is YouTube Red?
First off, before I get into ranting, we should talk about what exactly YouTube Red is. It’s a paid tier of YouTube that will exist in addition to the regular YouTube, which won’t (yet) be changing.
If you just want to go to YouTube and watch a random video for free, you still can — you’ll just have to sit through ads as usual.
Subscribers to YouTube Red won’t see ads on any videos, and on their phones and tablets, they’ll be able to save videos for offline playback and play videos in the background while using other apps. The ad-free experience extends to YouTube Kids (which has great learning channels), YouTube Gaming, and the newly-announced YouTube Music app (which they said is “coming soon”).
Plus, Red subscribers get exclusive access to all the YouTube Red Original series and movies. So far, ten projects have been announced by creators like PewDiePie, The Fine Brothers, Joey Graceffa, The Game Theorists, and CollegeHumor — though more are undoubtedly in the works.
Your YouTube Red subscription also ties in seamlessly with the Google Play Music subscription, meaning if you have one, you automatically have the other (since they both cost $10). This means that you get access to Google Play Music’s massive library of music as well.
So, there are the facts. Now let’s get to why it’s so bad for us all.
Original Content Is Not YouTube
My biggest beef with YouTube Red is the original content. I would be okay with a paid tier that simply removed ads — there’s nothing wrong with that — but the original content is taking us down a path that’s bad for creators and therefore bad for viewers.
What makes YouTube great are the thousands of amazing content creators who produce creative and original videos all on their own. Some of the biggest creators (like nigahiga) even make extremely elaborate and well-produced videos — so where is the need for original content? The big stars who they’re pulling in for projects already have the budgets and the resources to make amazing content on their own.
Hans Von Puppet does a very good job of explaining YouTube Red here, if you're curious: https://t.co/RrF5ytIZvZ
— Hank Green (@hankgreen) October 22, 2015
And by “original”, they simply mean produced by YouTube. In this case, that actually seems far less original to me. Real original content is stuff made by the creators, not by YouTube. This seems like a move in the wrong direction if creators want to keep control of what they’re making; soon creators will just be pumping out whatever YouTube tells them to instead of whatever they’d rather be doing.
Netflix, which has seen huge success with original content, had a need for it. It was already a paid service that was just curating content made by other huge studios. So it became a studio itself and made some great content to complement the other content.
But YouTube is not Netflix. It’s a free service powered mainly by independent creators. Adding “original” content and setting a price isn’t just complementing what they’re already doing, it’s changing them into something else entirely.
And I don’t want to be around for the day when YouTube is known mainly as a paid service for super high-budget movies and shows. I want a YouTube that is powered by the small vloggers that made it great.
Some Already Pay for YouTube
Well, not directly — but a ton of people pay their favorite creators monthly to continue producing content through Patreon.
This website allows you to give any amount (as small as $1) to any creator who you want to support. They then receive that money every month and can use it to produce content. Many creators have tiers so that once they reach a certain point they’ll be able to film a certain kind of video or get a new piece of equipment.
Sounds to me like YouTube Red just benefits the top 1% of content creators
YouTube, the American government is not a good role model
— Chris Hubbard (@chrisconsiders) October 21, 2015
And much like Kickstarter, patrons on Patreon can get rewards. Pledging to donate a certain amount every month can get you handwritten notes in the mail, a shoutout in a video, a Skype session with a creator, or anything else they think of.
So if you’re already supporting multiple creators on Patreon, you’re now paying multiple times to view their content — especially if any YouTuber with a Patreon becomes a part of the original content deal.
To me, selectively allowing people to support the creators they love makes a lot more sense. People really connect with vloggers in a way that they don’t with other kinds of media, so they’re more than willing to support them.
But creating a paywall across the board loses that personal touch that is an integral part of the vlogger-viewer relationship, and likely means less payout for the vloggers (though it’s yet to be seen how much creators will earn from Red subscriber views).
Takes Power Away from Creators
Right now, creators have a lot of power over their videos. They can choose how they make money — via ads, sponsorships, Patreon, or something else — and they can have a relationship with their viewers based on that.
imo YouTube Red will show the viewer who cares about money and who cares about the fans. I for one, LOVE the fans
— SoaR Crude (@Crudes) October 22, 2015
For example, the vlogbrothers (one of whom, Hank Green, interviewed the President) used to not run ads on their channel because it was a part of their philosophy that their content should be free. Then, they decided that they would run ads but they would donate the proceeds to a charity that their viewers voted on.
That’s trust. That’s a vlogger-viewer relationship. That’s how YouTube should work. That’s a creator being in a position of power and being able to make a choice that is good for them and their viewers.
But YouTube Red is looking to take all that away. All of YouTubers big-name partners were forced to agree to the new terms of service saying that they are okay with not showing ads to Red subscribers — otherwise Google would switch all their videos to private.
That’s strong-arming. Google says that this is for a better user interface, so that people who subscribe to Red can watch any video without worrying about ads, but it’s clearly puffing out its chest a bit towards the creators and letting them know who is in charge.
That’s not a good direction for YouTube to take. It’s a service built on creators who have close relationships with their viewers, and YouTube Red is stripping away those connections. When the big names all become original content creators, they’ll lose another bit of a connection to and freedom to work with their audiences.
And many other (relatively well-known) creators didn’t even know that YouTube Red was happening. Where was the communication?
It worries me that as a YouTube creator I have no idea what "YouTube Red" is, or how it will affect my channel, beyond what's in the media.
— Vi Hart (@vihartvihart) October 22, 2015
With Google getting so tyrannical with YouTube, I wouldn’t be surprised to see creators jumping ship to other video platforms.
It’s Too Damn Expensive
$10? You’re telling me it costs $10 a month just to remove ads? That’s ridiculous.
Of course, there are other benefits too. Original content is obviously an expensive one, as well as the included Google Play Music subscription, offline access, and ability to play in the background.
Can't help feeling that YouTube Red is both overpriced and underpowered, not a great combination
— Rich Keith (@rjkeith) October 22, 2015
But why combine all of that together? YouTube could easily create original content separate from this and let it live in its own niche. That wouldn’t bother anyone — then YouTube would just be a content network like any other.
Then they could separate Google Play Music from YouTube completely, make Google Play Music more competitive with Spotify and Apple Music, and drastically lower the price on ad-free YouTube.
In that scenario, you still might be able to add up the prices of the Google Play Music subscription, the ad-free YouTube subscription, and the original content YouTube subscription, and have it be $10. But this way, you’re not forcing everyone into original content, you’re offering an ad-free solution for cheap, and you’re lowering costs for folks who don’t care about Google Play Music.
Honestly, it would be a win for everyone if they broke it up (or killed the original content all together; I’m still for that). I’m sure Google thinks it’s simpler to just have one subscription service, but not everyone has $10 to burn every month, and not everyone wants all of that stuff.
Besides, it’s probably more confusing to folks that Play Music and YouTube Red are the same subscription with different names.
What Do You Think?
I really think this is a drastic change for YouTube — much more so than any of its other recent changes — and it’s transforming my favorite video streaming service into something that I don’t want it to become. YouTube is all about free video. It’s a platform based on the idea that we all can make something, put it on the internet, and have our voices be heard.
It’s not a place where we pay money to access high-budget content, and it should not become that.
But, that’s just my opinion.
What do you think? Is YouTube Red good or bad for YouTube in the long term? Will you be signing up for the service? Let me know in the comments!