YouTube, like any business, has evolved over the years. In recent years, they’ve really picked up the pace as an advertiser. With so many ads, I’ve literally said on multiple occasions that “I’m so tired of all these ads, I’d pay to get rid of them.” Enter YouTube Red, which is something I feel YouTube has been building towards for years.
Now that they have a substantial ad platform, they’re also paying creators to produce video, with third party studios acting as a kind of network that pays people to create videos in exchange for ad revenue or whatever else. They have more substance to their service, something to offer people. Ad-free viewing. They’ve also Shang highed a highly requested feature into the YouTube Red service, which is background playing. Essentially this allows you to play a video and leave the YouTube app. Without a YouTube Red subscription your video will stop playing, but with it, everything continues on like nothing happened.
I must admit I don’t use YouTube a whole lot anymore. Sure there is the occasional video that I go looking for or a song that I can’t find on Spotify, which is always rare for me. But it’s just not part of who I am anymore. I haven’t made a vlog in years, and I haven’t been, what Google would call an active user for around four to five years. However for the sake of a fair review and to maintain my journalistic integrity I gave the month trial of YouTube Red a shot.
YouTube Red has quite a few benefits actually, something I may have downplayed a bit earlier. So let’s break them down and see what you actually get for $9.99 a month, which is roughly the same subscription cost for any of the premium network streaming services, as well as Netflix, and Hulu.
- Ad-free Videos: That’s right, you don’t have to watch any ads, either before, during, or after your video. You also won’t see the lower-third overlay ads. YouTube does note that the content creators may put ads inside of their video and that they don’t control that. Thus, you may have to deal with the video’s creator doing a short ad that plugs one service or site. So is it truly ad free, maybe not. But you can’t blame that on YouTube, and on their end, they’re holding up their end of the deal.
- Save Offline: It looks like you can save videos to your mobile device, and view them offline. That’s an interesting feature, one that I think could be problematic as it may take up a lot of space on your phone or tablet. But I feel that this will lead to some illegal downloading of videos. Maybe not right away, but out there is someone developing a kind of companion app that will allow you to do this. Obviously, this is already an issue that YouTube faces with regular apps and websites. So there’s not a whole lot new there.
- Background Play: I talked about this one earlier. It allows you to put the YouTube app into the background and the video will continue to play. Which would’ve been nice back in the days when iTunes was the only major music store, and most of us played our music off of YouTube.
- Google Play Music: So this is a good add-on, at least in writing. The straight poop is that if you get a YouTube Red subscription you get a “free” subscription to Google Play Music, or if you have a subscription to Play Music, you’ll get a “free” subscription to YouTube Red. Now I’m iffy about Google Play Music. I tried it back when it first launched and wasn’t to impressed. It has a great catalog. But I didn’t care for the app itself, and I always had trouble with the music skipping or being very choppy. Versus Spotify, which is my go-to and favorite music app, I’ve rarely had a problem with them. Outside of them constantly sending out updates to their mobile and desktop apps.
- Multiple Platforms: The service itself works across all of the youTubes platforms. From tablets and phones to the web and smart TV’s. This is actually a great feature as so many companies release a subscription service, product, or game and it isn’t compatible or available on all platforms, or it simply isn’t the same on all platforms. In my experience as a tech-love and writing about tech, you want your product to be universal and virtually the same across all of your platforms or fronts.
As I said before I don’t use YouTube a whole lot anymore, so I found myself with a free Red subscription, and not using it. So I had to remind myself and force myself at times to cash in on the months free trial.
Upon opening the YouTube app on my Android phone, it welcomed me to YouTube Red and prompted me to activate the background play. It wasn’t something I thought about until I went to put my phone down. I closed the app, via the home button, and turned the screen off and the video kept playing. Rather I could hear the audio. I’ve had this happen before, as it was just a glitch if you will, where the app took a moment to catch up to the phone turning off. So I did instinctively pick my phone up when it lasted longer than a few second. I’d forgotten about the background play. It was kinda cool honestly. Something that I wish we had years ago, but none the less it got me a little physicked about YouTube Red.
I did find myself using it a bit more, simply because I didn’t have to listen to all the damned ads. I know ads are what help keep some, if not the majority of websites going. But I’m so tired of all the ads, just like a lot of people. Plus I could turn my phone screen off and the video would continue to play, which meant it conserved some of my battery life. The whole audio only playback really came in handy for me, because I typically play music when I’m in the shower or working at home. But now I can listen to the video and it isn’t as much of a distraction. Short of turning the brightness off on my MAC, I’m always a little to tempted to watch the video instead of work, if the screen is on.
My final thoughts are it’s nice, it’s a convenience at best. But is it worth the $9.99 a month? For me no, I know that with the subscription you get Google Play Music, but I’ve already got Spotify and I love it. So much so that I don’t plan to stray from it. I’ll admit that it’s going to be a bit of a bummer to see ads play across YouTube again, but it doesn’t feel necessary. Nor does it make me want to pay for it like Spotify did when I first discovered it.