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In which John discusses YouTube's new paid subscription service, YouTube Red. Is it good for creators? Is it good for viewers? And what are the risks and benefits of advertising models vs. subscription models?

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An overview of some research on how advertising affects us:

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Good morning, Hank. It's Tuesday, October 27th, 2015, a significant day in YouTube history because tomorrow, YouTube Red launches, which may or may not change online video forever.   Also, you'll notice that I trimmed my beard because Nerdfighters had started to refer to it as the Under Puff.   Right, but YouTube Red. So until now, YouTube has always been like network television and radio before it - an advertising-supported medium.   Now there are obvious advantages to this. Creators get paid unlike most social media sites, and also, it's free for viewers.   But there are also disadvantages. Ad-supported media tends to seek the broadest possible audience because what advertisers really want is the most possible eyeballs to see their message.   And with ad-supported media, we generally end up with stuff that lots of people will watch over stuff that, like, some people will really, really love. You know like broad spectrum shows like Law & Order can succeed, but niche shows like Firefly or Arrested Development can't.   Also, I know you probably don't think you're affected by advertising, but you are. To quote Emily Nussbaum's brilliant recent essay on what advertising has done to television, "Our comfort with being sold to may look like savvy, but it feels like innocence."   I mean, Hank, corporations know a lot more about what influences my consumptive habits than I do. That phenomenon has been studied extensively, sources in the dooblydoo, where you can also find a link to Nussbaum's essay.   So OK, having acknowledged my advertising ambivalence, let's explore my YouTube Red ambivalence.   Here's the idea - for ten dollars a month, you get ad-free YouTube, off-line watching, and all the music you want. So it's like Spotify plus ad-free YouTube.   Also, there will be some new original shows from people like PewDiePie and other YouTubers that are only available to YouTube Red subscribers.   So Hank, the question I've heard the most from people is "Is this good for creators?" which speaks a lot to how awesome the YouTube viewership is. The answer to that question is... yeah?   Some portion of that ten dollars per month will go to the YouTubers you watch, I don't really know how much yet. And per viewer, YouTube Red will generate more money for creators than advertising.   That said, it's like a thousand times more valuable to support a creator through Patreon or through buying merch than through either YouTube Red or advertising. Actually, it's not like a thousand, it is a thousand times better. Maybe even two thousand. The best way to financially support creators you care about remains directly. So I don't think that's the reason to get YouTube Red. But I do think there are good reasons. I mean I'm gonna get it.   But anyway Hank, here's what concerns me the most: will YouTube Red create two classes of YouTube viewers - those who can pay and those who can't?   One of the things that makes YouTube really special is that at it's best, it's a flat platform for both creators and audiences, right? Like I have the same capacity to reach an audience sitting here in my basement as a major media company does.   And on the audience side, if you have access to a device and the internet, all of YouTube is available to you. Now that started to change a little on the creator side of things as production values have risen, but I really don't want it to change on the audience side.   Like YouTube is gonna remain essentially the same for everyone who doesn't become a Red subscriber. The only difference is that you won't have access to these new high-budget original shows.   Like PewDiePie is making a horror show with the producers of The Walking Dead, and that sounds awesome! And it would also be completely impossible in an advertising-supported medium.   But Nerdfighters, I wonder if you would be excited or scared if your favorite creators did such a show. I'm asking for a friend by the way.   Like, it allows creators to have the kinds of budgets you can't have for advertising-supported projects, but on the other hand, it limits the number of people who can actually see the thing to Red subscribers.   In short Hank, I don't know how to feel about all this stuff. We've always been uncomfortable with advertising, and it's nice to see YouTube moving away from sole reliance upon it.   But I think YouTube Red will be a good option for a lot of people without harming the experience of the majority who stick with ad-supported YouTube. And in general, I think that subscriptions make viewers more powerful and brands slightly less so. And that's good news.   But I'm not sure I want YouTube to look like cable TV when it grows up. I want YouTube to be driven by the stuff that makes it interesting, by passionate fan communities who do awesome stuff together by the direct relationship between creator and audience. I mean, at it's best, YouTube isn't something you watch; it's something you're part of.   So the question becomes, is YouTube Red a step toward that promise land or away from it? I don't know. That's not a rhetorical question. I look forward to continuing the conversation in comments, Nerdfighters.   Hank, I'll see you tomorrow. Nope, Friday. Gosh, I was so in Brotherhood 2.0 mode.