PR professionals divided over impact of YouTube's new subscription service

From next week YouTube will offer US-based users a free trial of its new subscription service offering exclusive videos with no adverts. The move represents a shift in strategy from Google that may once again disrupt the content landscape, says the UK PR industry.

YouTube: Has launched a new subscription service
YouTube: Has launched a new subscription service

Initially only available in the US, YouTube Red will cost $9.99 (£6.50) a month.

Adam Clyne, head of digital at Weber Shandwick, says this is not surprising given the three big trends happening in digital right now: "The fast rise of video across competing platforms like Facebook and Snapchat means that YouTube is no longer the only show in town."

Clyne adds that Netflix is also producing high quality original content, driving "huge eyeballs" for its box sets, while Adblocking is making platforms rethink their business model.

Richard Jones, CEO of brand marketing agency EngageSciences, says the impact on video creators will be mixed. Although creators will become YouTube partners under the new scheme, which is potentially lucrative, their audience reach could be damaged. "By cutting off social followers that aren't prepared to pay for YouTube Red, the ability of creators to interact with their audience will be seriously limited. It will also affect new creators trying to build up their own social following," he said.

Jonathan Fraser, chief strategy officer at Exposure Digital, predicts two outcomes. "One scenario is that YouTube will use the additional revenue to reinvest in vloggers, enabling them to make bigger, badder and longer content," he says. 

"YouTube might even eventually see this as its primary revenue generator – an end to the outdated advertising model and a brave new world of ad-free content and better experiences for everyone."

He says a "more cynical" way of looking at it would be that YouTube and internet superstars might bring in the additional income without any noticeable change to the content produced - which would mean no new opportunities for brands.

Fraser adds: "Either way, this is big news for vloggers. The new revenue stream might make them even more discerning when choosing which brands to work with. No longer will they have to put out that bleak washing-up liquid video, just to pay the bills. They can pick and choose the very best brand-facilitated opportunities, and potentially charge much more for the privilege."

Meanwhile last month PRWeek reported that YouTube had hired Ogilvy PR to work on a four-month, UK-based brand marketing project. Ogilvy yesterday declined to comment on whether the appointment related to YouTube Red.

In August, the UK advertising regulator set out new rules governing brands working with vloggers.

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