YouTube paid subscriptionsYouTube has undergone several changes lately, and its latest is to launch paid subscriptions this spring. The initial launch phase is being classified as an ‘experiment,’ during which it’s thought the participants will be a hand-selected group of popular channel creators.

YouTube content creators currently earn their keep through advertising (mainly Adsense), sponsorships and merchandise, although many are known to have expressed an interest in paid subscriptions.

YouTube’s been said to have approached a small group of channel producers and asked them to submit applications for channel ideas that would run under the paid subscription model. It’s thought that those approached are likely to have already proved their ability to attract large, loyal followings, such as popular networks Machinima, Maker Studios and Fullscreen.

It’s no secret that YouTube has long wanted to introduce a paid content scheme, with a view to luring talented content producers away from the traditional medium of television, and therefore attracting more viewers and advertisers.

How will YouTube paid subscriptions work?

Although nothing has been officially announced, there have been murmurs that channels operating under paid subscriptions would charge between $1-5 per month, which would allow people access to their content.

There’s speculation that entirely new channels will be created by the selected content producers to run under paid subscriptions; this would reduce the risk of backlash from outraged long-time fans who suddenly have to pay for something they’ve always watched for free – but that doesn’t mean there’s no possibility of existing channels taking up paid subscriptions, though they’ll have to tread carefully, else risk a boycott.

If existing channel producers do begin to operate under paid subscriptions, it makes sense that they would still offer some free content in order to draw in new viewers – for what better way is there to convince a person that something’s worth paying for than to show them exactly what they’ll be getting?

A la carte options have also been mentioned, with viewers able to pick and choose what they pay for; YouTube is thought to be considering charging for backdated content libraries, live events, and pay-per-view programs.

The channels involved in the scheme will also have the option to continue running ads if they wish, although it’s unclear what form this would take. Viewers who pay to watch content may be affronted if they are then also faced with adverts, although it may be deemed more acceptable in the form of endorsements and product placement, which are less invasive than their oft-considered annoying counterparts, the overlay banner ads.

What Does it Mean?

Many content creators are happy at the prospect of paid subscriptions – the extra revenue will help them meet their production costs, and allow them to go on producing good quality content. Those who’ve been unable to score contracts with big networks may revel in the opportunity to charge for their content.

But that begs the question, if they can’t get networks and advertisers to pay for their work, will they be able to convince the general public? The most successful channels are known to have put years of hard work into their shows to attract their current levels of subscribers.

Quality videos cost a lot of money to produce, and advertising is currently the mode creators use to fund their work. But could a steady base of paid subscribers ramp up revenue, meaning producers are left with more money with which to produce even better content? Coupled with advertising, they’re almost certain to pull in more money… if the subscribers are willing to hand over the cash.

Many viewers undoubtedly find adverts annoying, but surely people would rather be subject to a pop up or two than have to put their hand in their pocket?

Not necessarily; some viewers may wish to support their favourite channels, and at such a low price ($1-5 per month) they may be willing to do so. They may find their pocket runs dry when there are numerous channels they wish to subscribe to, though. Perhaps YouTube will invent a cost-effective solution that will allow people to subscribe to a large number of channels without leaving too heavy a dent in their wallet.

Advertisers may be worried that there will be less opportunities open to them if popular YouTube channels make the transition to paid subscriptions, but it’s unlikely that all popular channels will choose this route; many will wish to stay true to their fans and continue to offer the free content they always have, subsidised by advertising. And besides, those that do opt for paid subscriptions will still have the ability to incorporate ads into their videos, leaving plenty of scope for advertisers.

Will it Work?

Only time will tell, of course, and there’s no doubt that it’s a controversial move. While there’s no question that people are unlikely to be willing to pay for poorly-produced amateur content, there are many channels on YouTube that produce professional programs and attract massive amounts of viewers.

However, the beauty of the internet is that everything is so accessible. Unless they’re renting a movie, people usually expect online video to be free. Putting up these paywalls will not be a popular move to begin with but, as with everything, people will adapt over time and get used to it.

So, the big question remains: can content creators produce videos worth paying for?