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I should be able to lock my phone while using YouTube and still hear the sound in the background. Currently this functionally is only available to YouTube Premium subscribers for $12 a month. This is a bad business practice for YouTube and a bad thing for the world.
Bad for Youtube
Why is it bad for YouTube? Because YouTube should be THE default podcast provider. Instead they are giving up this market to iTunes and Spotify. As a content creator, I should not need to publish my content anywhere else, other than YouTube. I don’t want to host my files. I don’t want to figure out monetization streams. I don’t want to manage podcast feeds. I just want to create content, upload it, and get paid.
By making audio stream a premium feature, YouTube forces podcaster to go somewhere else.
Bad for the World
I was one of the first critics of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project. AMP is not all bad though. They are trying to make the Internet a better place for users on slow and expensive mobile internet connections. It’s a very worthy goal and I agree with it 100%.
The irony is that by forcing people to stream full video files, Google is similar to the bad players that they are trying to go after with the AMP project. It’s much cheaper to stream a small video ad, as annoying as it may be, than to stream an hour long lecture on YouTube. So if I am a college student with a limited and expensive data plan, I can’t afford to educate myself during my daily commute by watching a YouTube video.
Forcing people to stream full video is a waste. People who want to drive and listen to a song on YouTube are force to stream the full video, draining the battery and putting un-necessary load on mobile data providers as well as YouTube servers.
All of Youtube files are already encoded in audio format. Meaning, YouTube already has an audio version of each file; all they have to do is stream it. It’s just a software switch that they need to flip to allow people to get access to the audio version of the content.
Show me the Money
I understand that YouTube wants to make money. Running the business and hosting all these files is not cheap. I just think that selling audio stream as a premium feature is the wrong way to go about it.
Recently I saw an ad for a new Karate Kid coming out on Youtube Premium. They take the bad guy who lost and make him look like the good guy. That is something that I would gladly pay $12 to watch.
I think that creating quality content is a much better model for making money. Streaming TV is another interesting angle. Charing for something that you already have available and which cost you LESS money to provide, does not seem like a good or fair value add to me.
People have Options
There are many ways to download YouTube videos and to convert them to sound. From online sites to open source command line tools. The data is out there and people can get it. YouTube can fight it with their Terms of Service and legal action, but that would be missing the point.
By opening up audio streaming to the world YouTube can decrease their operating costs, increate their ad revenue, reduce mobile data consumption for their users, attract new content creators, and make the world a better place.