As far as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is concerned, the need to watch funny cat videos ranks up there with food, water and shelter. This is why we are so concerned whenever there is news about our primary source for derpy felines: YouTube.
According to The Verge, YouTube is launching a paid subscription service for select channels. So far the magic numbers are $1.99 a month to access about 50 channels. YouTube has specifically contacted which accounts they want to become subscription-based, most of them are already uploading high-quality, full-length episodes.
Don’t worry cat lovers, you can still spend an afternoon watching kittens fall asleep online while you upload your own clips of Fluffy destroying a ball of yarn. Those videos will stay free. The rest of the world, meanwhile, will try to figure out which direction YouTube is heading and what it will mean for advertisers and marketers.
Earlier this year, rumors were circulating that YouTube was going to update its playlists and suggestions to become a music streaming service. The website wanted to compete with Pandora, Spotify and iTunes. Now, with the video streaming service rumor, YouTube will try and take market share from Netflix and Hulu. The 50 chosen accounts will create exclusive content only available to subscribers (like Netflix did with House of Cards) or will replay videos after they originally air (like Hulu does.) YouTube is entering its angst-filled teenage years and struggling with its identity. Can it turn into both a video streaming outlet and a music hub? Will it specialize in one over the other?
Many social networks have fallen into niche uses where marketers tailor their content appropriately. Twitter is where people go for breaking news, LinkedIn is where users network and job search, Instagram is where people take pictures of food, and Pinterest is where users plan for a future they will never have. What do people go to YouTube for? They go for music, they go for news, they go for shameless self-promotion and now they go for video streaming.
Fortunately in the short run, marketers in general won’t be affected. Those who pay to advertise on the site will still get their money’s worth on the free accounts while content creators can still upload and share videos without losing their non-paying customer base. In the long run, however, the path YouTube follows will determine the type of content that marketers upload to it. If it continues to become more video based, it could become a hub for webinars – either live or recorded. If it moves towards music, companies could create playlists as parts of their campaigns. Of course, there could always be a soft spot on the social network for viral videos of dogs on skateboards and squirrels dramatically turning around.
Would you pay for YouTube subscriptions? On one hand, $2 a month hardly breaks the bank, but on the other hand, paying for anything – especially something that used to be free – is simply un-American. Tell me in the comments.