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YouTube - thanks but no thanks

25 June 2018

Several years ago, when YouTube was paying decent money to its "channel partners" by way of ad-share on videos they uploaded, I suggested to them that they introduce a paid subscription option for those channels.

Based on my interaction with my own audience, I was aware that a good number of people who subscribed to my channels would have been happy to pay a monthly subscription to my channel, both as a way of supporting my content production and also as a way of dodging the ads.

At the time, YouTube roundly ignored this suggestion... they were obviously happy with what they were doing and felt that ad revenues were the best option.

Then Patreon came along and suddenly YouTube discovered that a growing number of their previously lucrative ad-share channels were starting to list unmonetized videos that were exclusively available to those who slipped the creators a few bucks a month via that service.

Uh-oh, YouTube's revenue model starting to be eroded by a third party.

Then came the big adpocalypse... where advertisers decided to pull their spend from YouTube for fear that their ads would appear on unsavoury videos.

Bang... another chunk of change gone from YouTube's revenues!

In the wake of the adpocalypse, YouTube themselves began to demonetize videos left, right and centre -- to the extent that some channels which were once "good earners" for YT were now completely ad-free and nothing but a burden.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to offset these losses to the revenue streams, the company introduced YouTube Red... a subscription system whereby users of YT could pay an annual sub to avoid ads. Sadly, this didn't come close to offsetting the lost ad revenue so they had to come up with some other brilliant idea to try and restore woefully sagging incomes.

So guess what they're doing?

Well it seems that they must have kept my email on file because now, according to this BBC story, they're offering exactly the kind of option I suggested they roll out all those years ago.

There I go again... being years ahead of my time :-)

Will I jump at this opportunity to sign people up to my channels for US$5/month?

Hell no I wont... and I suspect a lot of other full-time YouTubers will also say no.

Why won't I jump at this, especially given that it's an idea I came up with some time ago?

That's simple... every full-time YouTuber now realises that it's just too risky to place all your apples in one basket (the YouTube/Google basket).

Far too often, YouTube has shat on its content creators from a great height by unilaterally changing stuff without consultation and without the slightest concern for the effects those changes would have on the revenues and lives of those people. YouTube has also proven time and time again that it is greedy and that this greed leads to very bad decisions that adversely impact both the company and its content creators. If the original concept of using a small pool of proven content creators as the basis for serving ads had been retained, the whole adpocalypse (and subsequent fallout) would not have happened -- but instead, YouTube got greedy and decided to let every man and his dog monetize videos... with a resulting total loss of control and dilution of the revenue streams to the trustworthy, responsible creators.

So no, I would much prefer to have my supporters using Patreon as a vehicle for showing that support. By doing this, my risk is split, such that if YouTube was to decide to shut down my channels (through error or design), or to do something else that adversely affected me, I'd still have my Patreon revenues to see me through until I could sort out some form of alternative platform. There are far too many tales of woe out there where full-time YouTubers have woken up one morning to find their channels deleted and all their income gone, simply because of a policy change or some stupid (false) copyright claims made against them.

Any full-time YouTuber who opts to rely entirely on the company is a poor businessman and will inevitably suffer at the hands of the corporation that no longer believes in "don't be evil".

So, YouTube can stick their channel-subscription model where the sun doesn't shine. I (and doubtless many other full-time YouTubers) will continue to direct our supporters to Patreon, who at least had the good grace to back down when they last made unilateral changes without consultation.

One thing that *everyone* who uses YouTube (either to post content or watch content) must remember is that the videos are not the product. It is the eyeballs of those watching who are the product and the purchaser is the advertiser.

If anyone wants to make a living out of posting YouTube videos, they must have this little fact first and foremost in their minds at all times.

I fear that by failing to listen to its content creators, YouTube has suffered mortal blows to its feet and it will take a lot longer to recover from those wounds than it might like -- which means we must be vigilant for other knee-jerk, unconsulted changes to the service that may disadvantage everyone but the guys at Alphabet.

Sigh... it's not often I consider myself to have better planning skills than the guys at Google... but in the case of YouTube, I was 100% correct right from the get-go. I shall gloat a little today.

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