Do You Care If YouTubers Lose Money?

17 November 2015, 16:08 | Updated: 17 July 2017, 12:11

We the Unicorns

By Benedict Townsend

YouTubers Are Angry About 'Freebooting'

Here are two weird-sounding phrases: 'freebooting' and 'ad-blocking'. They may not mean anything to you, but to YouTubers they represent something of a waking nightmare.


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Freebooting (a free reboot, geddit?) is a new problem. Facebook users and pages have been downloading YouTubers' videos and re-uploading them to Facebook without the creator's permission. In some cases they have even made money from these stolen videos.



Meanwhile, Ad-Blocking Has Been An Issue For A While

Ad-blockers are programs that block all ads from the YouTube videos you watch. This, while convenient for the user, denies that YouTuber all the money they would have made from the viewer consuming those ads. This may seem like small change but when you factor in the huge popularity of these ad-blocking programs, it can seriously dent the money YouTubers make.

YouTubers have kept quiet about both ad-blocking and freebooting for a while, but in recent weeks prominent creators have become more and more vocal in condemning them and the attitudes they represent. "I get that." I hear you say. "They're annoyed, whatever. But they're only losing some of their money. So what could happen? What could really happen?"


YouTube Red Could Happen

That's right - that's what happens. YouTube Red is a direct response by YouTube to these new methods of avoiding traditional YouTube adverts. However you may feel about YouTube Red (and I am going to speak about it purely neutrally here), there is no denying that it's existence is meant to be a reply - not just to paid services like Netflix, but to the behaviour of YouTube viewers.


We could debate endlessly about whether YouTube Red was always going to happen (yeah, it probably was), but it's pretty clear to see that the inevitable introduction of this service was accelerated by the fact that YouTube recognised it had a series problem: A money problem.


Why Does It Always Have To Be About Money?

Let's not kid ourselves: YouTube needs to make money and YouTubers need to make money. The world is not free and they are humans and they live in the world. Ask any decent YouTuber if they make videos for the money and they'll reply with a firm hell no. However, if you should ask them if they could make the content they do if they didn't make money, then you would be greeted with an equally firm, (but less angry) hell no.

Think about it: How could a channel like Smosh - which is effectively a full-blown TV production company at this point - produce the amount of content it does, at the frequency it does, if they weren't able to hire multiple members of staff, hire facilities or feed themselves?




"But They Super-Rich Tho"

PewDiePie has recently estimated that he loses around 40% of ad his revenue to users who use ad-blockers. He made this complaint around the same time that it was revealed that he is the highest paid YouTuber in the world - making over $12 million a year. Does this mean that PewDiePie is a money-hungry Scrooge? No. PewDiePie has stated over and over again that he does not make his videos purely for the money and that he does not care about having lots of money. Whether or not you believe him, there is no denying that he has given vast amounts of money from his channel directly to charity - so it's not like he's gripping every single penny in a tight little fist.

That's beside the point though, because when PewDiePie complains about losing ad money, he's not concerned about himself and other huge YouTubers - he's concerned about the next generation of YouTubers. On his blog, Pewdz expressed concern specifically for smaller channels:




Smaller Channels NEED money from ads

For the biggest YouTubers, the money they make from ads comes alongside money they make from things like sponsorship deals, merchandise sales, tours, song releases, promotional work and variety of other revenue sources. Therefore it might be reasonable for you to question whether they need ad money from every single user.

Here's the thing though: That's the big guys. Despite the amount you may hear in the news about YouTubers getting filthy rich, these success stories represent a tiny, tiny percentage of the number of video-makers on the site. For the majority of creators on YouTube, ad money is the only money they make from YouTube - and for those creators, (some of whom make YouTube videos as their sole job) all, or at least the vast majority of the money that they need in life comes from money they get from ads. Sure, if one person stops a YouTuber from receiving ad money, it will only make a tiny difference - but if many people take that attitude (and many people are), then we have a real issue on our hands. Freebooting is just the same issue from a different angle - by reposting people's original content instead of just linking the original YouTube video, you deny them the ability to make money off the ads on their content.


But actually, do we care?

Here's the thing: do we care? For YouTubers, YouTube is a source of great fun, but it is also a serious business. They have to pay taxes because of YouTube, they have to pay water bills using money from YouTube. For the rest of us, it's just this silly thing we watch for lolz. It's hard to look at something that is a fun, casual way to idle away some time and say: "yes this is actually a series business. This cat video is fully business." 

You can't hold it against viewers for getting bored of ads and treating YouTube as a casual thing - it is a causal thing in their lives. It's like if all the people who run bouncy castles went on strike because they're not paid enough and they asked us all to be suddenly super-serious about bouncy castles. How are you supposed to be serious about something if you don't think it's serious? If you couple this with the fact that people on the internet tend to be unsympathetic jerks*, then it's easy to see that yeah, people might simply not care.

*(for more info, see every comment section ever)


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