YouTube Ads

By Mark Nuyens
4 min. read📱 Technology

Perhaps YouTube doesn't want you to upgrade at all, given how ad revenue probably outweighs that of subscriptions.

I can't remember the last time I intentionally clicked on a YouTube ad. In fact, when using YouTube on your TV, engaging with ads isn't even an option. With ads becoming longer and more prevalent, it's hard to ignore the feeling that we're back to the old days of cable television, where we have numerous channels to choose from but limited control over the ads that we are confronted with. Google's recent efforts to prevent ad blockers from hiding ads on YouTube only add to this feeling of frustration.

It's interesting to see Google addressing the ad-blocking issue, especially since they've tolerated ad blockers for so long. However, with OpenAI threatening their core product, search, Google needs to find new revenue streams, and YouTube is a prime target. While I can still skip ads on YouTube using my Firefox browser on Linux, most people use Chromium-based browsers, which Google tightly controls. This control allows Google to limit the effectiveness of ad blockers, making it harder for users to avoid ads.

YouTube's dominance ensures a continuous ad revenue stream for Google, so it's no surprise that they want to protect this at all costs. If users don't want to see ads, they can upgrade to YouTube Premium, a paid plan starting from 12 euros a month. However, considering how much money Google makes from ads, it's unclear if they genuinely want users to upgrade. In other words, it's likely that Google makes more money from selling ads than from selling subscriptions. In my opinion, this seemingly tight balancing act between optimizing engagement with ad-supported videos and minimizing engagement for paid users is an interesting dynamic at play.

This whole situation shares similarities with other platforms like Facebook and Instagram, who recently announced a similar plan that was so expensive, users would probably never select it. However, it does show how much money Meta, the company behind Facebook, makes from advertisements. It's an interesting duality where Meta wants to promote their subscriptions but only to users who don't engage with the service that often. For instance, if you interact with Meta's services through a mobile app, you'll end up paying more.

Privacy organizations have also voiced their concerns about these practices, as they can be seen as "not providing users with a real choice." With privacy becoming increasingly important for a safe and reliable internet, it's interesting to see this balancing act at companies like Meta and Google, who make offers they don't seem to fully endorse. Ultimately, it's clear that data and ads are the most beneficial for these companies, and their dominance signals how consumers may have to accept longer, more frequent ads as the new normal.