YouTube and ads

Photo by Caroline Betz Student Publications

As major online streaming services come under fire for simultaneously increasing prices and omitting features for their subscribers, the virtues of consuming content on platforms like YouTube become important for online content consumers. 

However, the edge that YouTube once had against content giants like Netflix is quickly dulling as viewers are inundated with more and more ads, and the company has taken steps to block users from utilizing software that automatically blocks online ads.

For many years, ad-blocking software, which is often completely free to use, was a prevalent hack to avoid the increasingly obnoxious number of ads played before and during videos on the platform. This simple hack allowed many people to access an experience on YouTube that was both free and pleasant, something that is no longer possible with the state of the platform.

For many people who are now in their early 20s, videos on YouTube were a central part of the content that they consumed when they were coming of age as teenagers. The mid-2010s are often referred to as the golden age of YouTube, as creators on the platform were skyrocketing in popularity, but before various scandals brought the platform negative press attention and brought creators anxiety about their ability to rely on ad revenue from the platform. 

In those days, YouTube was the perfect place for teenagers to find online entertainment; it was free, and there were few enough ads that it was not entirely invasive to a pleasant watching experience. As those who religiously watched YouTube as teenagers begin to have disposable incomes of their own as adults, they can make more meaningful decisions as to where they are willing to put money into their entertainment needs. 

With the platform they once went to for free content no longer offering a viable free experience, serious fans of YouTube content creators may be willing to pay for the ad-free experience. However, those who are more casual watchers are unlikely to want to shell out similar rates to a Netflix subscription for something they used to receive for free.

For many who already pay for more traditional streaming services, paying an additional fee for YouTube Premium is unlikely to be a priority for those who only consume content on YouTube occasionally. 

Particularly with the threat of a serious economic recession looming, everyone but hardcore YouTube fans are unlikely to shell out for a YouTube Premium subscription or to frequent the platform at all with the incredible volume of ads that must be consumed to watch videos on the platform fully for free. 

Overwhelmingly, YouTube’s new practices are driving away anyone but the most hardcore of their fans. Very few people are willing or able to pay for yet another subscription fee for something they do not utilize frequently enough to justify the cost. The obscene number of ads playing on every single YouTube video is bound to decrease the number of people who use the platform for more occasional watching dramatically.

Many watchers already have been paying for subscription services like YouTube or Amazon Prime, and with YouTube becoming more and more miserable to use, they are likely to abandon it altogether. 

When given the option of a streamlined and ad-free experience that has already been budgeted for in comparison to an absolute deluge of ads or having to find even more money to spend on a YouTube Premium subscription, many people are going to be choosing the streaming platforms that they already pay for.