Paid YouTube subscriptions: How will it affect your social strategy?

A billion YouTube channels and there’s nothing on. How about paying to watch them? Madness? Maybe not. A recent article suggests we’re about to enter a new chapter in online video: paid subscriptions to YouTube content. And, at $1-$5 per month, it might just have legs. But what does this mean for your social media strategy? 

There are a number of reasons why such a move would be beneficial to YouTube. Firstly it would encourage producers of high quality content to favour YouTube’s platform as their medium of choice. This, in theory, would attract more eyeballs. In short, amazing content equals more viewers, two things that are fundamental to YouTube’s philosophy.

It’s not yet clear how the monetization of such a subscription model would work and how subscription fees would be split between channel owner and YouTube. But what is clear is that YouTube will make money from charging subscriptions, again, another plus point for them.

Finally, the increase in quality and a more prominent and discerning audience could see advertisers on (traditional) TV look to YouTube to spend their megabucks, further stocking the YouTube coffers.

The only potential negative (although a big one) is the possibility of viewer numbers plummeting as the disillusioned masses refuse to pay for a service that they once used for free.

But what implications will this have on how brands use YouTube as part of their social strategy? It seems that brands will have a critical decision to make: should they place their video content behind a pay-wall, or keep it free of charge? Is doing so a shrewd move to make content more desirable (at least perceivably), or is it social suicide to build barriers to content that already faces stiff competition from all corners of the internet?

Video content is often integral to a brand’s social strategy and traditionally the only concern was to produce high quality content and to seed it to as many relevant stakeholders as possible. With paid subscriptions comes the need to reassess the purpose of video content production on a case-by-case, campaign-by-campaign basis. Should one channel be paid? Should another be free? Should videos be grouped into an aggregated library in which users can watch on a pay-per-view basis? There won’t be a one-size-fits-all answer.

With all these new options in the melting pot, incorporating video into social strategy gets more complex. If the reports are true and we see YouTube roll out paid subscriptions as early as spring 2013, businesses and brands will have to be full prepared and make critical decisions on how they gate their video content.

Would you pay for premium quality YouTube content? How do you think brands should approach their video content strategy? Eyes are firmly trained on YouTube for an imminent official  announcement … perhaps their model works.

Toby Margetts is an Engagement Executive at Beyond.