I’m Not Sure What I’m Trying to Sell You: The Problem with YouTube Red

What if I told you there was a subscription service out there with exclusive, original video content and a huge library of music you can watch and listen to at your leisure? YouTube has entered the streaming service ring with their own paid subscription service, YouTube Red, that boasts exclusive content, an ad free viewing experience, and offline options that subscribers can enjoy. So where has the buzz been for YouTube Red and why is every video for YouTube Music buried in dislikes?

YoutubeBefore we get into it, let’s go over what YouTube Red actually is and how it works. YouTube Red is a monthly paid subscription service where users are allowed access to YouTube’s exclusive, original content, an ad free viewing experience, background usage on mobile devices, and the ability enjoy downloaded videos and music offline. Since Google owns YouTube, a Red subscription also nets you access to Google Play’s large library of music in addition to YouTube’s selection. YouTube Red is priced at $9.99 per month – the same as Netflix.

Unfortunately for Google, the reception for the announcement of YouTube Red has been less than desirable. The beginning of the marketing hardships began with the announcement of YouTube Red in late October of 2015. The announcement was immediately met with aggressive criticism from both users and content creators on YouTube. Users who were excited by this announcement, however, are those subscribed to Google’s monthly “All Access” subscription, as the two services will be consolidated.

Why are consumers unhappy with this announcement? Apart from a single video advertising YouTube Red, nobody really understands what YouTube Red is supposed to be. The advertisement tells consumers about the advantages of having YouTube Red, but doesn’t do a good job about what YouTube Red is supposed to be. In fact, YouTube itself, disregarding the subscription service struggles to identify itself clearly. There’s educational content, gaming videos, reviews, advertisements, short films, tutorials, music, and so much more. The identity of YouTube depends entirely on the user.

As a music streaming platform, YouTube is number one. To cater to the music listening audience, and make an attempt at viral marketing, YouTube released several YouTube Music ads celebrating diversity involving subjects of different racial backgrounds and gender identities. Considering the timing of these advertisements, you could say this is a direct response to Donald Trump’s political campaign from 2016. Many Internet users rallied behind companies that stood up for diversity, and while YouTube’s approach seemed like a good idea, the campaign was negatively received. The advertisements showed up incredibly frequently, weren’t very well executed, and to add insult to injury, were unskippable. Which is unfortunate considering what appears to be a genuine attempt at acknowledging their diverse user base.

Apart from co-existing with Google Play, which is also owned by Google, and not expressly stated as being independent, or the same service, consumers were incredibly confused at what YouTube was trying to accomplish with these ads other than the aforementioned “celebration of diversity.” Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO said, “YouTube gives people of any race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or interest a place to come together and a place to belong.” An admirable sentiment about an incredibly powerful and diverse online platform that anyone can use. The source of this campaign’s failure lies within YouTube’s failed ability to brand themselves.

If you were asked what YouTube stands for, what would you respond with? Is it what YouTube really stands for or what you think it stands for? I think Observer nailed what was missing when they said, “YouTube carries everything—so it stands for nothing. No one knows what YouTube believes in, so no one cares what YouTube believes in. And you don’t pay for something when you don’t know what it means.”

Ultimately, I conclude that YouTube’s marketing failed in this aspect. Celebrating the one year anniversary of YouTube Red, numbers suggest they have roughly 1.5 million subscribers. Twitch Prime – has roughly 1.9 million subscribers within the first four months of its release. So what do you think? Would you purchase a YouTube Red subscription? Did YouTube’s lack of brand identity cause the negative reception of their service announcement? Comment below!

Kevin Thorn

4 thoughts on “I’m Not Sure What I’m Trying to Sell You: The Problem with YouTube Red

  1. Honestly, I am baffled as to why YouTube thought that an “ad-free” experience would be a selling point in a world where ad blocker exists. There must have been someone in some meeting who brought this up, and not enough people listened to them.

  2. I definitely would not purchase Youtube Red. I don’t understand the purpose of it because anything I’ve wanted to find on Youtube I have found without having to spend any money. I think it makes a lot of sense that their campaigns failed because no one knows what Youtube really stands for. I don’t think either of those ads help people understand what Youtube Red even is.

  3. Well, I agree that it isn’t a very effective campaign considering the absurd amount of youtube that I watch. There’s already a decent amount of content that doesn’t require me to watch like eight advertisements in 20 minutes. I’d be more hard pressed to consider making the leap if it weren’t also trying to compete with netflix while at the same time not delivering with more of the supposed premium content. I guess in my mind I don’t consider youtube to be a place to find a lot of quality work because it’s a needle in the haystack situation. It’s a great platform to start out with but not where you should live out of currently, despite a few outliers.

  4. The idea of YouTube Red, in my opinion is a noble one, they recognized that certain people would rather pay a fee instead of a watching an ad. Having that as an option is a good idea.

    I think its worth mentioning the reason many creators aren’t happy with Red is not only because it confuses the users and customers, but it restructured the payment system. Now instead of how many views you get on your videos leading to how much you get paid, you are paid based on the time the audience spends watching your content. This change rewarded lets players and commentary channels, and punished film and animation channels which take much longer to create for shorter videos.

    Overall I agree with you. YouTube and Google need to make it clear for consumers and content producers where and for how much we can get our media. To have a system so confusing does not bode well for long term sustainability.

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