As the market for web content grows, the offerings grow even faster. The top destination for web content is quite clearly YouTube. While typically media content is scripted, shoot, edited, and then sent out to consumers via movie theaters or television airwaves; YouTube works under a completely different premise letting the viewers also be the creators of content (see my explanation of how different types of content make money for their creators here).
Unlike movie, television, and some web content competition, YouTube is free to creators and viewers, and also available upon viewer demand. Wherever you want to watch a YouTube video, you can. There is very little filter of content, allowing for a great diversity of video topics, production, origin, and length. All together this content, made by amateurs and professionals alike, has grown into a company estimated to be worth $45 billion (source).
The question that arises when YouTube makes money from the content shared on their site is not weather they are allowed to make money, but how much of that money should be shared with the people who are creating the content that YouTube is profiting from.
Monetization is the process of making money off of a product or service, that otherwise wouldn’t provide an income. Some bloggers monetize by selling ad space in their sidebar. People pay a fee for a month or two and have their site mentioned in a post, and do a giveaway, ect. YouTube is a for-profit company, of course they’re allowed to monetize and make money off of their efforts, but the service would be useless without the creators who draw people in.
The best way to make money is to figure out the best part of your business and find a way to get people to pay for it. What matters on YouTube*? Views and comments. Those are the interactions that both creators and consumers of videos get the most out of. They may not be the most profitable interactions, but they are the reasons people want to be a part of the YouTube community.
How can YouTube make a profit off these? To be honest, I’m not sure what the answer is. Advertising may be part of it, and certainly will be for the foreseeable future, but I can’t help but think that a more engaging form of advertising will eventually be thought up.
Meanwhile, YouTube as a company, seems to have decided that Subscriptions are the be all end all of video making. Here’s the thing: YouTube can provide the space, but if they want to grow as a platform they can’t dictate how people use it. In fact, the more freedom they give, the more likely people are to use their service in a way that brings in more viewers and – ultimately – more money for the site.
There are two things that can be achieved by introducing paid subscriptions.
Thing the first: no advertising. I can especially see the value of this in kids content. If I was a parent I would be willing to pay for a kids content channel, knowing that I could let my kids watch it without worrying about raunchy advertisements. Peace of mind is absolutely worth $5-10 a month.
Thing the second: A requirement that paid subscription channels be high quality and consistent. If I was guaranteed an awesome video once or twice a week I could understand a subscription fee. Web series come to mind such as the Lizzie Bennett Diaries or Crash Course. Channels where I know I am getting consistently awesome content are channels I would be happy to pay for.
But the majority of content on YouTube is made by people who are not relying on said content as their source of income. People who make videos for fun, who got an account to upload that one video of their cat on a romba chasing a duck. In an internet climate where the only way to get noticed is through big cross-platform social media campaigns, what is YouTube doing to draw the general population of viewers and creators? Not much.
Do you YouTube? What kinds of channels would you be willing to pay subscription fees for?
*to those who are creating YouTube videos