YouTube is reportedly working on a new option which would enable publishers to more directly add paying subscribers to their publications via their YouTube channels, providing another means for the video giant to help support the news industry.
As reported by Digiday:
"YouTube is developing a tool for news publishers to sell subscriptions to their owned-and-operated digital properties through their YouTube channels, according to publishers that have been briefed on the matter. YouTube has told publishers as recently as April that it plans to begin testing the subscription sales tool by the end of this year."
YouTube, as with most online platforms, has long had a difficult relationship with traditional publishers, with online platforms now taking the lions share of publishing ad revenue, often while using content that originates from traditional providers. Both Google and Facebook have also been criticized for the same - in fact, the Australian Government recently outlined a new regulation that will essentially force both Google and Facebook to compensate publishers, in some way, when they display their content on their platforms.
Various countries have tried similar regulation of the online news ecosystem, and failed, so it'll be interesting to see how the Australian experiment plays out (the draft code for the new laws is due in July). And maybe, this new measure from YouTube is an olive branch measure in this respect, a compromise of sorts that will help it come to a more effective agreement with publishers and news providers.
When such regulations have been proposed in the past, Google has flatly refused to pay for news content. In Google's view, it provides traffic to these sites, so it shouldn't have to pay in order to help guide people to them. As a result, in past negotiations, Google has simply removed publications who don't agree to its usage guidelines from its index, which means that, in the end, both sides lose out.
Maybe, if Google can build more inclusive, mutually beneficial processes, and help news organizations, it will be able to establish more effective compromises, without the damaging stand-offs.
On YouTube in particular, this could be beneficial. YouTube is one of the most significant drivers of news engagement on the web, with more than 2 billion users coming to the platform every month. In addition to this, YouTube is also the second-most referred to social media platform for news content (behind Facebook).
As such, the logic for publishers maintaining a presence on YouTube in order to maximize connection with their audiences is clear. But the platform also presents monetization difficulties for news publishers, with some advertisers hesitant to place their ads alongside news content in case of unintended association with offensive or concerning content.
That underlines the benefit of YouTube building alternate models for revenue generation. It won't necessarily solve all the various challenges and issues, but it could be a big help in facilitating better relationships between the groups.
YouTube hasn't made an official comment on the initiative, but with negotiations over revenue-sharing expected to heat up, it seems likely we'll hear more on this very soon.