2023 has been the year of social platform subscriptions, with every platform now considering alternative revenue options, due to volatile ad markets and changes in digital privacy regulations.
Every social app has been hit by at least some level of ad spend reduction, which seems to have freaked out the higher-ups, while Elon Musk’s broader focus on subscriptions at X also appears to have paved the way for new considerations in this respect.
YouTube is the latest to expand on its subscription offerings, with some new elements for YouTube Premium, which it hopes will entice more users to pay to keep using the app.
First off, YouTube will now provide early access to its own generative AI experiments to Premium subscribers, which could pique some people’s interest.
As you can see in this example, YouTube’s experimenting with its own in-stream AI chatbot, which will be able to answer questions, like ChatGPT, though with a YouTube-specific tilt.
As explained by YouTube:
“Think of this as your tool that can answer questions, suggest related content, and more, all without interrupting your playback experience. This feature is currently only available in English to a limited number of YouTube Premium members in the United States on Android devices. If you sign up quickly for one of the limited spots, you can access the tool by tapping “Ask” beneath select videos and begin by asking questions about the video or selecting a suggested prompt.”
“Sign-up quickly, go do it”. Yeah, it’s a very TV promo-type pitch, looking to cash in on the AI hype.
YouTube’s also testing AI comment summaries, which will also now be accessible to Premium members.
So if you want AI tools on YouTube, you can pay to get early access, though I suspect they’ll also be coming to all users sometime in the new year.
YouTube’s also adding new discount offers for Premium members, via partner providers.
“YouTube Premium paid members in the US can head over to their Premium benefits page to see all details of their account as well as new promotions.”
The current slate of deals includes various gaming add-ons and trials, as well as Walmart+ membership offers, and more.
YouTube’s also expanding access to higher quality playback, as well as continued viewing, another benefit of Premium subscription.
While it’s also adding new “achievement” badges for Premium users.
“To help you keep track of all the awesomeness YouTube Premium has to offer, we've rolled out badges that showcase your achievements on the platform for members 18 years and older. Located on the Your Premium benefits page, it's like a trophy cabinet just for you, highlighting your Premium milestones and how you've embraced all those exclusive features.”
So, good work, Amanda. You listened to music.
The value of these add-ons is pretty variable, but maybe, they will help to generate some enhanced interest, which could get more YouTube users signing up.
YouTube says that it now has 80 million paying Premium members, which is a solid revenue stream for the company, though that still only equates to around 4% of YouTube’s total user base that’s shown any willingness at all to pay for the app.
And that’s actually a good level of take-up. Around 0.5% of X users are currently estimated to be paying for X Premium, while 0.67% of Snapchat users are signed-up to Snapchat+.
Whether by design, or by mishap, people are now accustomed to accessing social media platforms for free, and most see no need to pay for add-on features that have limited use for the majority.
Sure, no ads would be good, but we all see ads all the time, so it’s not really that big of a deal. Better features, like improved playback quality, are something, but when you’re watching on a mobile phone screen, who really cares?
Social platforms are yet to come up with truly valuable enticements to make more users pay. And while X is now taking the next steps on this, and charging all new sign-ups to pay in some regions, I suspect that too will fail, and will only result in more people using other apps instead.
Still, shifting ad markets are pushing apps in this direction, and you can expect to see more looking to sweeten the deal for paying subscribers moving forward.
Some will crack the code, and increase their sign-ups. But it’s difficult, at this stage, to see any getting even 10% of their users to pay up.