Well, this feels weird. Today, This month, I let my YouTube Premium subscription lapse as an experiment and I was instantly reminded of the grim reality of the state of the platform. You may have recently heard some outlets discussing how 11 or more advertisements were shown to users who were not subscribed to the service, and it’s true.
I’ve been a paying member of YouTube’s top-tier service for years, having never skipped a beat, because I am firmly against subjecting myself to advertising whenever possible. The amount of mental fragmentation and chaos that ensues when you’re trying to watch something for education, entertainment, or inspiration and a commercial for a political campaign, toothpaste brand, or dating app invades your ears and eyes is just absurd.
Ten bucks per month is a fair price to spare myself from all of that nonsense, so I’ve always budgeted for it. Unfortunately, my little test jolted my system with a few realizations. First and foremost, ads make me extremely angry. I guess living without them for so long has made them even more annoying and caused me to be more attentive to that fact.
Second, and probably most importantly, I can’t live without background listening. Being able to click my screen off or open another app on my phone while listening to a song or YouTube video in the background is essential. I understand why it’s behind the Premium paywall, but I’ve decided that it’s an odd choice for the company.
Hear me out – yes, you make people pay for the features they want most, but in a day and age where the consumption of information is at an all-time high, especially for video content, it almost feels evil to force people to pay for such a core feature. Listening without watching feels like it should be a given, not an add-on.
This may be a controversial opinion, but I truly do think that Google would get more Premium Subscribers if it allowed background listening on all YouTube and YouTube Music content and across all devices at no additional cost. As it stands, if I weren’t already so dedicated to paying that ten bucks per month for the benefit of removing ads, having to pay to click my screen off or multitask in a society where those actions are second nature would kind of piss me off.
It’s interesting how I never realized the pain that non-Premium users go through just to consume content, so I’m glad I took this time to experience it, even though it was unbearable. The sheer number of pre-roll, mid-roll, and ending ads, as well as the banner ads, no background listening, and more that you have to suffer through would be enough to make anyone abandon the platform if it weren’t already the largest (and almost sole) video provider on the internet.
I hope YouTube changes some of this soon to reel in free users to its paid model, but I don’t believe torturing them this much is the answer. That being said, I still believe in paying to get rid of ads, as everyone needs to make a living. I just believe that it should be better balanced with the user experience. Getting paid subscribers should be gone about by providing extra value, not psychologically manipulating them and withholding basic features. Let me know in the comments if you pay for YouTube Premium, or if your daily video-watching includes being wrecked mentally and emotionally by these divisive schemes.