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Will Premium Content Kill the “You” in YouTube?

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As we touched on this morning, YouTube is prepping a redesign of its site to separate premium content from UGC. YouTube needs to make money, but will its latest moves to embrace Hollywood kill the community that turned the site into the online video behemoth it is today?

ClickZ broke the redesign story and writes:

The new design will offer four tabs: Movies, Music, Shows, and Videos. The first three tabs will display premium shows, clips, and movies from Google’s network and studio partners, all of which will be monetized with in-stream advertising. Meanwhile the Videos channel will house amateur and semi-pro content of the sort major brand advertisers have shied away from.

If ClickZ is correct, this redesign looks like it will ghettoize the amateur community. On YouTube, promotion drives plays, and there are only so many videos it can feature. The first casualty will most likely be YouTube’s own homegrown stars. How will Fred, Michael Buckley and SXEPhil fit into a new ecosystem populated by the likes of Brad Pitt and Will Smith? YouTubers might be able to coast on their existing fame for a bit, but the next generation of web celeb hopefuls won’t be as lucky. Promotion drives plays on YouTube and the lack of it could mean people who make a living off YouTube will need to go back to their day job (or back to school).

YouTube has been inching toward becoming a premium content destination for a while now. It signed traditional media players such as CBS and MGM, it altered its rules to tame some of the naughtier content and design tweaks like ordered playlists have made the site more premium content friendly.

How will YouTube draw a distinction between premium and UGC content? Right now, the site has sidestepped drawing a line between them and happily mixed the UGC with the premium creating a mish-mash of content. But what becomes of someone like Nalts, who is a partner but infinitely more grassroots than anything Disney will put on the site? Creating lines in the sand like that could get messy.

That messiness could have implications on the very nature of YouTube. The site was built by a community of people who uploaded, shared and commented on one another’s videos. Will the “you” in YouTube move from center stage to understudy? Will YouTube become just another HuluTube to watch TV and movie clips?

We won’t know what role UGC’ers will have in the new YouTube until the redesign rolls out (supposedly on April 16). The shift to premium content could actually be a boon for the community as YouTube could finally turn into a profitable long-term venture. But will that community be on the outside, looking in, once again playing second fiddle to the traditional media companies?

What do you think will happen to YouTube’s community? Do you care? Are you a YouTuber who hates or embraces change? Tell us in the comments.

34 Responses to “Will Premium Content Kill the “You” in YouTube?”

  1. This is very disappointing. Personally I don’t care to watch premium content online. If I do watch it, its usually a show i missed on network television.

    The bottom line is to monetize content and site creators and advertisers can’t find the magic solution to make huge profits from UGC. As users we need to enjoy these great social communities, because once they become large they are taken away from us.

  2. I look forward to change. I have been a professional Toy and Product Designer for over 25 years. My YouTube Channel JeepersMedia will exceed 100,000 subscribers in the next few days. YouTubers are enjoying the “Fail Toy” videos!

    The change will bring an Avalanche of new viewers and stabilize YouTube into the Future. I only had 4,300 subscribers 10 months ago, so it still is possible to succeed in the “Bigger Tube System”.

    Mike Mozart

  3. Interesting piece, and i’m curious on how this effects us. On one hand, professional content will draw a more regular mainstream audience that will bleed over to the partner videos. On the other hand, I’ll have more competition. In the end, if the pie is growing I’m happy with a smaller piece.

  4. We should have known this was coming when google bought youtube….

    I am not as disappointed as I could be however; youtube’s lack of user care having long since “turned my heart cold” for the site. It has been evident for quite some time that youtube has no interest in the protection of its everyday users, or their content (false flagging campaigns, and false dmca suspensions being the tip of the iceberg).

    My only hopes are that the users who are dismayed can find new video sharing homes where they will be appreciated, if not valued.

    There must be sites than can do a better job than this. I anticipate that in the future, youtube will be an example of what not to do, at least from the perspective of community, or user generated content.


  5. Alex Bronca

    I think this will give websites like Viddler and Vimeo a chance to grow their communities to the height of YouTube’s current level of success.

  6. If YouTube goes commercial, I hope that they will at least get the licensing rights for their content to be shown in other countries. I live in Canada, and trust me, I would like to use Hulu, but can’t due to licensing snafu’s. If all their stuff goes to premium content that I can’t watch, why would I bother checking out any of the other stuff their either?

  7. As an independent, UGC, non-premium (but still YT partner) kind of guy, I say that folks like me won’t have much to worry about as long as we keep working our butts off and producing great content. If it’s fun and it’s better than what the big boys are pumping out, people will seek it out. I wouldn’t get too worked up about the new YouTube just yet.

  8. Thee Stranger

    I have no use for this “HuluTube” that’s coming. Everything tv did that drove me away from it is the same thing YouTube’s doing.

    People are going to say “Well Google’s go to pay the bills”, and they’re right, but there was no excuse for them to sell the soul of the website to do it.

  9. Hilarious! “Premium content” is just what the many millions of YouTube watchers don’t want! This could be a tremendous flop if “premium content” pushes out the creators that have made YouTube such a phenomenon.

  10. Hey Chris!

    I am used to things changing on YouTube! I am not that worried about it. I am just enjoying creating content and focused on that.

    But you are right, I and other long timers are lucky to have amassed a large subscriber base becuase it is more difficult now to get seen and discovered in my opinion.

    I think people who are worried about it will get used to it/adapt. A lot of folks freak out when any site changes are made.

    I hope vloggers and up and comers are still motivated to post on YouTube and do not get discouraged. It is still an outstanding platform for all of us!

    Thanks for mentioning me in your post!

  11. I agree with Abigail that premium and user generated content are complimentary to each other.

    As a whole, the creation of a premium “sand box” for professional content will allow independent producers and large media companies to showcase and monetize their content more efficiently. Also, all content producers on the site will benefit from the inevitable increase in ad spends that are pushed to Youtube due to the new UI and its ability to showcase “brand safe” content. To date, the content discovery process and the issue of brand safe advertising have been a “thorn in the side” for both advertisers and content producers. The new UI will help mitigate those issues.

    It will be interesting to see how Youtube shifts its programming strategies. (Although this is always something that we have limited insight into anyways.) I wish I could see all of the UX data as it starts to flow in..

    I look forward to this new chapter in Youtube’s evolution.

    • I agree with you guys that the biggest opportunity is for YouTube to have all sorts of content together. Hulu is great but it’s never going to be the full picture of entertainment because its corporate owners don’t want their precious shows next to dogs on skateboards, even though dogs on skateboards are AWESOME.

      I think the problem is that the interface as discussed will require YouTube to create a binary divide between UGC and premium content. Which is exactly what it’s done such a good job of blurring.

  12. mutcluck

    While I hope that my youtube homepage can be customizable to view what I want as is now, I feel this change will marginalize UCG content, but it’s still a million times more democratic than the TV model. We can’t forget this. Having Lost and some random stranger’s youtube channel having equal billing in my subscriptions box is what makes youtube and online content an equalizer despite the issues with spotlights/paying for views ethos.

    It’ll be increasingly harder to rise the ranks to be a youtube star/partner. This has been the reality for the last 2-3 years as the quality bar has risen for amateurs and pro content has flooded the site.

    I’m hoping that with more of advertising presence brought by the pro/TV/movie content, partnership can be granted at lower view counts since advertisers may be willing to have ads run on content for eyeballs alone without needing it to be overly vetted as quality brand related content. I wish the risk of litigation would allow any video to have advertising if the channel’s owner opted in… Clearly fear of litigation and advertisers fear of anything new is holding back the mass eyeball approach of selling advertising that could turn youtube into the cash-cow it should be.

    As long as youtube limited these opt-in ads to bottom thirds or 1-3 second ad insertions for certain channels or specific videos it might make sense. Channel owners would control how long, type of ads and whether they even allowed ads. In that way the users might be okay with supporting their channels in this way monetarily when they chose to run ads. Sort of why people put up with adsense on blogs they frequent.

    That’s all I’ve got. Great article. Looking forward to seeing how things shake out over the next year.

  13. I just wrote a post hailing the advent of a more professional, user-friendly interface. While writing, the questions you ask were gnawing at the edges of my consciousness. The unknowable factor allows me to put on my optimist hat for the meantime. The UGC community on YouTube can succeed if they are able to monetize more easily and if established and rising “stars” are identified and receive promotion that positions them as “must-watch,” “YouTube only” content.

    There is a need to keep YouTube working as a free utility (I upload my son’s piano recital video and share the link with firends), and to monetize and promote both UGC and premium content which don’t necessarily compete with each other. They can be seen as complementary, and the more YouTube facilitates a parity the better.

  14. its the end of youtube as we know it.

    That’s lame, it starts with an update, new “features”, a brand new look- More hated than the new “facebook”
    skateboarding/hurricanes, see the UGC churn –
    google serves its own needs, doesn’t serve nalts needs. Ads comes to knock, smosh, fred no, lisanova no. Network structure clatter with fear of viral,
    down viral. Money the desire, forget the million vloggers dropped in the funeral pyre and watch the revenue spiral.


  15. This disappoints me, but honestly I saw it coming. They’ve been freezing non-partner view counts for months and basically accusing us of spamming (my friends comment on my videos and I respond, I don’t understand the crime in that). They’ve been disenfranchising us more and more. Eventually we’ll migrate elsewhere and youtube won’t have an audience to advertise too. A lot of my favorite channels (Sister Salad is one of my favorite for example) aren’t Partner Channels and I found some of them through featured videos, which sadly has changed to spotlight videos and will mainly feature partner channels. The partners aren’t the ones actively participating in the community (though I LOVE a lot of the partner channels, don’t get me wrong). I’m not sure what will happen once the average person feels unwelcomed at youtube.

    Disappointed, but expected.