The Independent has a massive piece today on YouTube and how, despite having close to 350 million users worldwide per month, it's set to lose almost half a billion dollars this year. And it's all your fault, naturally.
According to The Independent, here's the conflict: YouTube is expected to take in around $240 million in revenue from advertising this year. The problem is that this sum doesn't come close to covering the site's operating costs. Every minute of the day there are over 20 hours of video uploaded to YouTube and the costs involved with maintaining servers, bandwidth, software, etc, is astronomical, so much so that if it weren't for YouTube's "multinational sugar daddy," Google, supporting it and willing to bleed money to hold on to it as a property, YouTube would already be dead.
So whose fault is this? Yours! And mine, of course. Because we've become a bunch of spoiled little brats who refuse to pay for any content online, nor do we want to be bothered with stupid advertisements getting all up in grills during our web surfing.
We are uninterested, verging on contemptuous, of the marketing strategies that were supposed to pay for us to enjoy online services for free. We've become totally unwilling to pay for them directly, either; we simply figure that someone, somehow, will pick up the tab.
Now, let's all pause right here and take a second to look at ourselves in the mirror after reading that passage. You feeling slightly guilty? No? Me neither. Well maybe a little. But still, we're not that bad when it comes to tolerating online advertising, are we?
The fact that most people over the age of 30 doubt that online businesses can survive by offering free services is irrelevant, because most people under the age of 30 are demanding them. On messageboards and forums across the internet you can see them calling for record companies, film studios, newspapers and television channels to come up with a solution that will extend their entertainment utopia, and quick; if they don't, well, they'll find a way around it. And while many see this as a selfish, unrealistic attitude, the onus is on businesses to get themselves out of this mess because the digital medium exercises unstoppable power.
So is our little utopia going to hell? Maybe!
The news regarding YouTube's losses have caused such consternation because people simply can't believe that the third-most-popular website on the web is unable to stand alone and turn a profit. And suddenly, the magical web, whose supposed capacity to revolutionise business has attracted and continues to attract waves of ambitious entrepreneurs, may slowly be revealing itself as an arena in which only a few large companies can survive.
So what does the future of the internet look like?
Either produce something that people are willing to pay for, or come up with an idea for a free service that's so ingenious that a benevolent multinational is willing to take it off your hands.
Look, can we really help it if we demand everything online be free and will stop at nothing to get what we want for free even when it's not intended to be free? After all, the editor of Wired stole material to write a book about how all content should be free! Is there really anything more to say?
But seriously, do we agree with everything in The Independent's article? Absolutely not! Do we believe that YouTube's financial struggles are a bellwether for a widespread failing of the net in general? Absolutely not! At various points the article reads like little more than a rehashing of many of the same arguments that the old media dinosaurs having been braying endlessly over the last few years, but I'd be lying if I said that it didn't provoke me to stop and think, and for that reason you should go and read the entire piece for yourself and form your own opinion. And please feel free to share them in the comments below.