I am a die-hard YouTube fan. I have loved it since its inception, and now have numerous playlists with all kinds of weird and wonderful movies, old TV shows and music collections that I would never have found otherwise. Where else could I possibly find old episodes of The Prisoner? Or entire seasons of terrific British dramas like Trial & Retribution or Blood in the Wire? Or one of my genuine treasures: the 1970 BBC mini-series The Six Wives of Henry VIII? I’ve even managed to dig up great audiobooks, like The Exorcist, read by the author himself. (What a voice on William Peter Blatty!)
Granted these selections might not be your cup of tea, but no doubt you have your own great finds — maybe old TV commercials you remember as a kid, or campy music videos you once thought were cool (and now make you groan), or makeup tutorials, or home-reno videos… The variety on YouTube is almost infinite — one of the things I love about it.
Lately, however, my love affair with YouTube has waned.
It’s the ads. Ads, ads, and more ads. Several ads in a 40-minute episode of Escape to the Country. Ads interrupting every few minutes in a Christmas jazz playlist. Ads that are longer. Ads that can no longer be skipped.And hey: I get it. YouTube makes its money through advertising — money that helps fund original content creators (my daughter being one of them). Lately, advertisers have started to put pressure on YouTube to provide greater transparency and proof of viewership — i.e. If my ads are being skipped, why should I place them?At the same time, I find it oddly coincidental that just as YouTube is launching its ad-free subscription-based YouTube Red (at roughly $10 a month), it litters its original free service with more ads than you can count.And there’s talk that content creators for the original service are essentially being bullied into joining the new Red service — i.e. no Red, no revenue.
In addition to which are Google’s moves to stop all adblocking.
All of which sours my once rosy view of Google. As a dedicated user (and quasi-evangelist) of products like Gmail, Google Docs, Sheets, Play Books, and — probably my fave — Google Maps (hey, I even switched this year from an iPhone to Android), I’ve always thought Google was all that and a bag of chips. From the company’s first appearance on the web back in 1998, when they actually gave you real search results rather than just tried to sell you something (like all the other search engines did), I thought Google was intelligent, intuitive, and for the people.
Alas, with the recent changes at YouTube, I’m not so sure that’s still the case.
One thing I am sure about is that I can no longer watch my beloved playlists when they’re peppered with ads. It’s just too damned intrusive, and too much trouble to try to watch or listen to the content itself.
So for now, while I will still turn to YouTube to ‘look something up’, for the most part, it’ll be back to the ‘prime time’ of Netflix.