October 22, 2015

YouTube Red to Creators: Join Us or Else?

The theme of queries in my inbox over the last 24 hours or so has definitely been related to Google's new "YouTube Red" offering.

In case you've been living in a cave without Internet service, Red is a new YouTube subscription tier aimed at providing ad-free videos and music. It's obviously a very important project to Google. There have been rumors about it for ages and it's been a long time coming.

There are a lot of questions and comments coming in, including from people questioning the idea of paying for what used to be free relating to the reportedly "exclusive content" aspect of Red, asking whether ad blockers render the entire concept of Red largely moot, and lots of other issues.

I'm not particularly concerned about the pricing right now, and as you probably already know I view ad blockers as essentially unethical (though I do agree that some Internet ad models have become incredibly obnoxious and intrusive -- a problem I prefer to see addressed from the ad creation and distribution side).

But the aspect of YouTube Red queries being sent to me that quickly caught my attention relates to existing monetizing YouTube creators -- YouTube Partners -- who feel that they were not adequately notified of this project and that they are being coerced into participating in Red.

I don't have all the facts yet and I'm trying to better understand the details.

The implication for now though seems to be that these loyal YouTube creators are being told by Google that if they are uninterested or unwilling to participate in the new Red program with its new terms, their existing YouTube videos will be changed to private status (and perhaps their entire YouTube channels as well) -- cutting them off from public viewing or participation.

A further implication appears to be that to proceed without participating in YouTube Red for whatever reasons, these creators would have to start from scratch. In other words, apparently -- and I'm trying confirm the accuracy of these claims I've received -- they cannot choose to take their channels public on a non-monetized or ordinary non-Partner monetized basis, and would have to start entirely new channels without any of their existing subscribers.

Loss of subscribers would be a very, very big deal for some of these creators who have spent years building up a following.

If this state of affairs is true, I do indeed find this aspect in particular to be quite disturbing.

Looking at it from what I presume is Google's point of view, YouTube wants to help ensure a reasonably uniform user experience, without confusion over why particular material would or would not appear with ads. I fully understand this.

On the other hand, if the situation actually does boil down to "agree to Red terms or you lose most of the work you've put into your YouTube channels up to now" -- well, that strikes me as fairly problematic both in an ethical sense and perhaps in a business sense as well, given the various competition to YouTube (especially from but not limited to Facebook) that appears to be rapidly developing.

So overall, this is my sense of the situation at the moment, based on what I know right now. As I noted above, I'm trying to get more details and find out how much of what I'm hearing about this is accurate, and of course I'll pass along what I find out.

As I've said many times, I'm a tremendous fan of YouTube. I consider it to be arguably the most important entertainment and educational video resource on the planet. I want it to continue succeeding.

But I really do hope that this can be done in a manner that is ethically fair to everyone concerned.

Be seeing you.

I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so.
All opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Posted by Lauren at October 22, 2015 09:31 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
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