YouTube Red and Small YouTubers

YouTube is releasing their paid subscription service this week and it’s going to radically change the website. Not only are they going to add not-TV like/TV-like content exclusive for YouTube Red subscribers and other subscriber-exclusive benefits, but they’re also dramatically changing the way YouTubers are getting paid.


Between whiny bigger YouTubers who lacked the effort to research their new method of paychecks and big tech websites calling this change “the downfall of YouTube”, somehow the issue of smaller YouTuber has risen every once in a while. How will this paid subscription service affect them? If the big YouTubers won’t benefit from it, surely small YouTubers will suffer the most…right?

Actually, as a small YouTuber, I am stoked for this change.

Basically, long story short, payments from YouTube Red will be issued based on watch time from YouTube Red subscribers. For example, let’s say you watch enough YouTube in a month to generate $1 in ad revenue. During that month 10% of your YouTube watch time is my videos, 20% are Vlogbrothers, and the remaining 70% are PewDiePie. That means I’ll earn 10 cents, Vlogbrothers will get 20 cents, and Felix will get 70 cents.

Right now, before YouTube Red, most of the ad revenue goes to those big YouTubers that go “viral” or spend most of their time trying to make viral videos. While that’s good and dandy, most of their views are from people like my parents who know YouTube is a thing and it’s a fun thing, but honestly they’re only going to watch a video if it shows up on their Facebook feed. They would never shell out $10 a month for an ad-free experience because frankly they only watch a handful of videos a month.

That’s not good business for YouTube. It was in the past when they were an up and coming company trying to get known in the world, but they are known in the world. There’s a reason why there’s no more Google Video. Now that YouTube is known, they need to focus on their return value aka why people are coming to their site in the first place and how to get them to stay.

How does that help small YouTubers? Well from firsthand experience, even though I’ve generated a third of a year of watch time for YouTube for the past three years I’ve only earned $40 in ad revenue. That’s because typically I only get 30-50 views on each video which means on average only 30-50 people are affected by ads on my videos, assuming that they don’t have ad-blocker which a rousing 23% of internet users do.

But I do get a steady audience who belong to bigger communities outside of my own, as do most small YouTubers. Even looking at my own feed, in between the many Game Grump and Jackfilms videos there are a handful of small YouTubers that I watch because I know it’ll only take a minute or two of my time. If I obtained a YouTube subscription, yes most of my YouTube Red subscription would go to Game Grumps but a couple pennies and nickels would find their way to those small YouTubers.

Pennies and nickels can add up to a lot. Personally, I’ve gone months without movement in my earnings graph. Not even a penny. YouTube Red will change that. It’ll be slow, but it’ll be steady. It won’t be the surge of dimes I get whenever someone discovers my Doctor Who reaction videos, but it’ll be something. That in itself is the biggest change YouTube can offer to small YouTubers at this time. They can’t recreate the infamous 2007 surge or even the investments made in 2012-2013, but they can promise pennies where there were none.

Is it a perfect solution? Absolutely not. But it’s something. It’s a realization that even though us smaller YouTubers barely even take a fraction of the watch time, we’re still taking watch time and we need to be recognized for it. Its poetic justice to take money away from the YouTubers who make money from viral shock value and give it to the smaller YouTubers who give just as much effort as the stars, but are just terrible with exposure.

If you’re still confused on YouTube Red, please take the time to watch Hank Green’s video about it. It’s long, but it’s informative and it’s the best thing we’ve got so far explanation-wise.   


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