As the spoiled youth of a post-Napster world, we have become incredibly entitled. We believe our entertainment should be only the absolute best of quality and completely free of charge. Of course, this sense of entitlement really began with our parent’s parent’s parents and their goddamn public libraries.
There is a delightful business model that pervades most aspects of life: a tangible good or service is provided in such a fashion as people are willing to pay money for it. Initially, the cost of this item is very high, but then competition drives the price much lower, and market stabilization occurs. When inflation sets in, we complain about how much better “the old days” were.
But the entertainment industry is different — they work off another business model, one that stipulates going low to high as demand increases. With entertainment (and branded fashion), the product is unique and therefore subject to proprietary whimsy. See, many people can change a car’s oil; very few can sing like Adele. As such, despite the fact that infinite recordings can be dispensed of her work with no harm to her skillset, iTunes can charge the premium $1.29 for her songs (as opposed to the “lessers’” price of $0.99). What percentage of that actually makes it back to Adele is a topic for a different discussion. But as Adele’s value becomes higher, iTunes’ algorithms and focus testing will reflect that, and the company will raise its prices because people will continue to pay.
In entertainment, nothing has a value until suddenly people are willing to pay for it, i.e. the market creates the demand. YouTube channels had no worth previously because no one knew how to monetize them and still get people to watch. Now that interactive advertising has temporarily solved that problem (ads are a patch — not enough people are clicking to make them really worthwhile), YouTubers have obtained a “value.” Obviously, it is something of a shame that they have, because, like you, I like free things. But that is “Selfish Jeff” talking rather than “Heuristic Jeff” who understands the importance of paying for said goods and services. And now that YouTubers have value, we can distinguish which amongst them has premium value.
Jenna Marbles is a unique talent. She’s not exactly profound in any way, but people fiercely want to see what she says and does next. Her fanbase is actually sort of rabid. And that is great, because that means she stands very good odds of achieving a high market value when paid subscriptions occur. People don’t like it because they indignantly think they should have exclusive access to a YouTuber’s thoughts for free. You don’t get access to Stephen King, Michael Bay or Lil’ Wayne’s thoughts for free (unless you steal them), so why is Jenna, who has proven herself to be an “important voice,” any different? Obviously, there is a subculture who thinks entertainment should be free, and it can be — if, like food, you go out and make it yourself.
YouTube subscriptions are great because they will contribute to the continued maintaining of the free content — the random one-off vids that explode into virality occasionally, while rewarding and inspiring the makers of premium content. Of course, if you don’t feel it is premium content, you can certainly unsubscribe as a means of letting the creator know you hate their art (as it should be). And for the creators and fans who reject the notion of paid subscriptions, they can run off and do their own thing. Of course, to use a “Game of Thrones” analogy, then you will be missing out on good discussions around the watercooler. And to further the “Game of Thrones” concept, maybe these paid subscriptions will result in sweet gratuitous nudity? [Jeff puts his rumored $2 monthly subscription fee per channel in his teeth].
For more on YouTube subscriptions, check out these links: