I’ve been interested in Youtube Red since it’s announcement, and stayed somewhat optimistic when everyone wanted to hate it. Now it’s been out a few months, and more importantly, Youtube Red analytics have been added. With these tools a pretty clear picture can be painted: Youtube Red is a great potential source for income that, at present, is used much too rarely to be of notable real-world value to creators.
My channel isn’t huge, around 10,000 subscribers at the time of authorship, but I think it’s large enough to draw some inferences. It might not seem large next to the very top names, but keep in mind the majority of Youtube channels are likely well below 10,000, and that not only subscribers watch (the significant majority of my views and watch time are NOT from subscribers).
If you’re a creator yourself, you should probably just dig into your own analytics to get a picture iof how well Youtube Red is doing for you. Check the Watch Time report and set Youtube Red Watch Time (Hours) as your Comparison metric. You’ll probably see something like the (censored) picture below.
By going to your Earnings report you can actually directly compare Youtube Red earnings with Youtube Red watch time as well. For me it yields a perfect correlation, give or take rounding, there’s no particular funny-business like ads with different CPC (Cost Per Click).
How Youtube Red Pays
As advertised, Youtube Red pays by the Watch Time directly, so all you can really do to improve earnings is keep people watching, either by keeping them engaged through long, single videos or encouraging them to stick around and watch several shorter ones.
What kind of channels can’t benefit from Youtube Red? Personally the only thing I can imagine is some channel with extremely high, extremely brief views, resulting in lots of display/pre roll ad clicks but extremely low watch time. Which would be…either amazingly high quality insanely short videos or misleading videos that get lots of clicks but people bail from very quickly.
Due to that I don’t see Youtube Red as a potential negative influence—encouraging watch time is pretty harmless and there’s not much of any way to “cater” toward high watch time other than making content people enjoy watching. The “alternative,” videos people view a lot but don’t actually watch much of, doesn’t seem to be of any value to anyone but possibly the creator and pre-roll ads. Forgive me if I don’t shed many tears.
In general, Youtube Red offers the idea of a world where you’re paid simply by watch time, completely ignoring the ups and downs of the ad world. Ad earnings always peak around December in the US (due to the shopping rush) then crash, hard, in January, but there’s no such change in views, Youtube Red watch time or thus, Youtube Red Earnings.
Youtube Red By The Numbers
So how good are the numbers? Without getting too specific, I can say that Youtube Red, which accounts for an abysmal .8% of my total watchtime, accounts for a relatively substantial 5.6% of my total revenue (all rev is ads or YT Red). I can’t give you specifics, but Youtube was definitely not lying when stating a Youtube Red viewer is (substantially) more valuable, monetarily speaking, than a standard free Youtube viewer.
Note this is only for the past 28 days, just a real quick measure you shouldn’t read too much into, but it’s been fairly consistent for me that a Red user is “worth” maybe several times what a non-Red user is.
The problem of Youtube Red is not the pay rate, nor the “forced” application to channels, nor the removal of ads. There were certainly hiccups early on, such as some Content ID content being blocked in the US and a lot of confusion, almost all of it seeming to be because of how Youtube Red was announced almost immediately before release with little explanation or forewarning.
The problem is, well, no one’s using it. At least, not enough for it to be a big deal. But the actual per-user rates are fantastic!
Though, Youtube Red has one further problem: If you really want to support a single channel, things like Patreon or youtube’s own Fan Funding (which also seems to be almost entirely unused) are much better ways to support single creators (Is this the part where I mention I have a Patreon? Ahem.).
But if even 10% of my frequent watchers used Youtube Red, I would have a considerably higher amount of money with which to purchase new equipment. And as great as Patreon is, I don’t expect even so much as 1% of my fans to ever contribute directly to me. Of course Youtube Red will never have 100% penetration either, but as a passive way to support any Youtubers you happen to be watching, hey, it works, and it’s even better than leaving adblock off.
I’m very interested in seeing how Youtube Red grows, because it’s definitely an underutilized but very positive thing for creators right now.