Here’s some news. People are still absolutely shocked that they have to pay for things.
Users online continue to be gobsmacked that content costs money to make, and therefore costs money to consume.
Although it’s a proposition that hasn’t been fully enforced by all content creators and distributors, it stands to reason that it’s inevitable we will see ads or have to pay to watch content of any worth on digital platforms.
Slowly the most popular destinations for digital video are adjusting to models that force users to pay for at least some of their content, with Vimeo being the latest addition. The company, which has invested in the acclaimed series “High Maintenance” will begin charging $2 an episode or $8 for a bundle of episodes, according to the New York Times.
With each episode of the show – formerly offered for free – previously being viewed hundreds of thousands of times, it will be interesting to see how many viewers transition into paying customers.
The move heralds the beginning of Vimeo investing in projects that start on the platform and show great potential to be critically and commercially viable. And, it shows that they’re thinking of their position within the landscape of digital video, going up against the great behemoth that is YouTube.
In the eyes of Vimeo chief executive Kerry Trainor, they view their position through the lens of the 1970s cable system.
“We really feel like Vimeo is in the world to find a higher-quality creator, delivering a different experience than what you’d typically find on YouTube, – Not to say that YouTube is bad, but Vimeo on the whole has much more of a premium cable and even a film sensibility. That’s what tends to do well on the platform.”
Trainor’s view of the company’s place within the landscape is an acute one, but even so YouTube is making investments of its own. Less in more sophisticated scripted storytelling, however, and much more in personalities and channels that have a specific niche and large following. Rather than investing money into each specific project, the company is mainly providing selected content creators with resources including studio space and equipment, in exchange more of the ad revenue from their channels.
It’s been reported that YouTube ad dollars alone don’t necessarily provide enough financial incentive for content creators to live off of their videos, but can result instead in endorsements by brands, the benefits of which can be financial reward, or free products.
That type of reward is reason enough for video bloggers to continue on the platform, but what about publications who believe video is the future, but are struggling to monetise it like, the New York Times?
As we mentioned in our ‘Let’s Be Honest’ Podcast about the future of journalism , the Times’ business model is still so big. They’re in an awkward bind where they’re trying to find an effective formula to grow their following on sites like YouTube, but because they’re struggling to monetise their content on the platform, they’re not so sure why they’re there. This conflict creates a visible restlessness for publications, and can result in ever adapting formats of video, shorter and cheaper content, and sometimes almost complete pullback.
The Verge, a technology publication which had been one of the most prolific creators of content on YouTube almost completely stopped posting videos a few months ago. The site – owned by Vox Media – axed its daily show “90 Seconds on The Verge”, rested review show “Top Shelf” as well as its weekly podcast “The Vergecast” usually posted on SoundCloud, iTunes and YouTube. The talk was that, with the launch of the Ezra Klein led sister site Vox.com, Vox Media reined in spending, and forced its sites to re-strategise what they were doing with video, noting that the costs of producing longer, higher quality content in comparison to shorter cheaply produced videos was significantly high, with little difference in viewing figures.
Being news and information publications, the New York Times, and the sites from Vox obviously can’t reap the benefits of endorsements, which is why alongside their presences on YouTube, they also have separate video platforms native to their sites, where distribution and profits are in their control.
So why are they even on YouTube?
My newfound addiction to YouTube has led me to discover that most of the news, information and entertainment I consume is found scrolling through my self-curated subscriptions feed.
If a massive story breaks, I’ll see a video from CNN. If a new iPhone is announced, I’ll see a video from Bloomberg. If John Oliver rips apart Tony Abbott in a bit for his show “Last Week Tonight”, I’ll see it there in my feed. It’s easy, and simple for me because I’ve chosen each channel, and tailored the experience to my liking. If I’m bored or have a spare second, I can open my YouTube app, and right there waiting for me is a bunch of content fit for me.
Whether media heavyweights like the Times like it or not, YouTube’s goal is very clear, to become the TV network of the internet. In-fact, it has very obviously already succeeded. But of course the ad dollars on offer for it pale in comparison to traditional broadcasting. Therefore the vision for it to be the destination for much more than video blogs and, say, gripping scripted drama like “House of Cards” don’t yet seem viable unless they adapt their business model and charge for content.
YouTube’s biggest strength is its accessibility everywhere, and the ability for anybody and everybody to post content about anything and everything. But what may be a hurdle looking ahead, is the definition of its brand.
With Vimeo fittingly concentrating on investing, co-creating and distributing high quality content, charging consumers per series, and sites such as Netflix offering subscriptions to their vast library of binge-worthy content for around $10(US) a month, YouTube sits in a position of potential saturation. Can it produce high quality original content while continuing to support itself purely though advertising, or will it too put together a subscription model for high quality original content?
I guess we’ll wait and see.