User entitlement -- A key to the plan of scaling up and eventually figuring out how to make money is free services for users. The minute you charge people, most walk off, particularly when they've been trained to assume that services should be free. YouTube has clearly told people that they should expect free video streaming, even if it has considered an ad-free paid subscription service. Getting consumers to change their behavior after they've become used to not paying is next to impossible.
Frank Kameny, the last century’s greatest gay-rights activist, filed the first-ever Supreme Court petition challenging discrimination against homosexuals. He led some of the first gay-rights demonstrations. He was the first openly gay congressional candidate. He spearheaded the challenge to the psychiatric establishment’s categorization of homosexuality as a mental illness. He fought tirelessly against sodomy laws. He did a lot more than that. But there is one thing he never did—at least to my own recollection and that of associates of his whom I consulted. He did not use the term LGBTQ, or any of its variations.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is almost precisely the problem that the rest of the media world finds itself in. Because quality is hard to measure, the numbers that exist are the ones that describe attention, not effect: views, watch time, completion rate, subscribers. YouTube uses those metrics, ostensibly objectively, when it recommends videos. But as Theodore Porter, the great historian of science and technology, put it in his book Trust in Numbers, “Quantification is a way of making decisions without seeming to decide.”


Instead, YouTube success takes time and dedication. Kelli Segars, the co-counder of Fitness Blender, a YouTube channel with over 5 million subscribers, spent two years posting new workout videos every week before she and her husband could quit their day jobs in 2010 to focus on the brand full time. Still, without YouTube, Fitness Blender probably wouldn’t exist. “When we first set out to create free online workout videos, we found that most streaming platforms charged so much to host content that we were never going to be able to break into the industry at all, let alone offer free content to our (then nonexistent) audience,” says Segars.

YouTube earns advertising revenue from Google AdSense, a program which targets ads according to site content and audience. The vast majority of its videos are free to view, but there are exceptions, including subscription-based premium channels, film rentals, as well as YouTube Premium, a subscription service offering ad-free access to the website and access to exclusive content made in partnership with existing users.
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