YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has confirmed that the Google vid service is open to introducing subscriptions.
This is not exactly news – one of the most controversial sagas to rage this year concerns complaints from independent music companies over YouTube’s yet-to-be launched subscription music service. Indies requested emergency action from the European Commission’s competition regulator, and weeks later a Chocolate Factory music boss quit.
Nor are subscriptions entirely unheard of at Google. Google Play Music All Access, a Spotify-like service, asks for $9.99 for offline access – just like all the other streaming music services. Android users are bombarded with it. But charging for the YouTube video service is rather different.
There’s a weird currency in Silicon Valley’s kingdom of the unicorn: popularity in the real world is usually followed by money. But on the internet, expect to be paid in hugs, credits, and upvotes - which are somewhat less convertible into something that pays the rent.
When real folding stuff enters the picture, won’t the internet’s stars want start to be more demanding – and demand something more convertible? ®
Today, YouTube behaves rather like an X-Factor gatekeeper. The talent is paid in “attention” rather than cash. It’s estimated that one in four humans on the planet saw Psy’s novelty hit Gangnam Style. But in real cash terms, he’s reckoned to have pocketed about £5m. In other words, he created a global phenomenon - but pocketed what an averagely talented Champions League-level footballer might take home in a year.
Once real money is changing hands, shouldn’t the video talent start to get feisty, and start demanding more? It takes cash to hire talent. And shouldn’t Google start to charge wholesale for platforms that carry YouTube? In short, it may be inclined to act less like that creepy gatekeeper, and more like a proper business.
This can only be a good thing. Who knows, the “digital economy” might start to look less like Somalia and more like a proper functioning market. One can but hope.