Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 12, 2024
What do I owe you? Or you me?

I now have both a YouTube Premium and a Twitch Turbo subscription. In both, I am basically paying to watch ad free, and the revenue from the subscriptions is divided between the platform, and the channels I watch. Thus I rarely feel the need to pay for an added subscription to any channel. Once a month I can hand out my free Prime subscription on Twitch. And Twitch has a strange culture of gift subs, where sometimes I get gifted a subscription. I even have been gifted a sub to a channel I don't remember ever watching. I might have been on that channel for a few seconds due to a raid without remembering it, and then somehow the random algorithm selecting the gift sub subscription beneficiaries landed on me.

The big question here is in an ecosystem of millions of content creators and billions of viewers, who is owing who what? Should the content creators whose channels I watch be happy about the revenue they get from my Premium / Turbo subscriptions? Or should they consider me a freeloader and I owe them a monthly subscription?

As a content creator myself, I never felt that any of my readers owe me anything. I appreciate your readership, and I appreciate comments even more. Having my voice heard is a reward on its own. But I can't help the feeling that my attitude is as outdated as the medium I use to create my content. I remember my surprise when I first heard a streamer saying that he was doing that as a full-time job, that was a concept unknown to bloggers.

Besides entertainment, I also get most of my news from the internet. And I have noticed an increasing trend towards paywalls here. I hate those! I use the internet to have access to a wide variety of different news sources, because you need to hear the same story from different angles to understand the biases. If I gather my news from 20+ different sources, I certainly can't afford a monthly subscription for each of them. But if I subscribe to one, I basically would be stuck to that one source, and wouldn't get any different views. The result is that I simply don't read certain news sources anymore, not willing to pay them a monthly subscription.

We live in a world where even your door bell might ask you for a monthly subscription. While each subscription sounds like a minor sum, if you subscribe to everything out there you can spend a fortune, without actually realizing where your money is going. I am not poor, but I can't afford to subscribe to every streamer I watch, every news source I read, plus paying monthly for internet access, streaming services, and the Game Pass. There are too many sources, and as a consequence I don't spend enough time with each source to justify a subscription.

I think I have a weird way of looking at this. However, most of the content that I watch online I don't feel any obligation to pay for. The content that I watch is on ad support platforms and that is the revenue source that the content creator chose. If they chose that knowing the situation going in then why should I feel a certain obligation. If it doesn't work for them then they should do something else, I certainly don't feel that they have an obligation to me. That's actually why I think the onlyfans model is good. You can only watch if you're a paid subscriber. It's good for content creators to have business model choices. If they chose to be ad supported, I chose to watch that business model content.

What I do support is a higher ad revenue sharing model. I'm all for companies making profit, however I am not for excessive profit. Granted I do not know the current profitability levels of something like youtube or dailymotion. However, distribution platforms seem to take a lot. That's exactly why people are unhappy with steam and apple platform distribution amounts.

I am not saying that my way of thinking is correct. It's just how I view the world. I could easily do without about 99% of the content that I consume. Spending time with family, friends, and being outdoors is what I truly value. If books, movies, music, and youtube videos were never made I think that life would be fine.
Nothing. They owe us nothing and we don't owe them anything.

My personal view is that they (and some other professions!) are like buskers who provide unsolicited services. Just because we are in the same place, it doesn't establish a mutually agreed contract.
If a bar owner employs a musician for entertainment, then they are doing it to generate more revenue by being more attractive to the patrons. But the patrons are not paying the musician.

What I also find strange is the gifting or tipping "culture" on twitch. It's in part yuppie behaviour of one upping some other stranger and in part para-social.. desperation?
Like on larger streams where chat is filled with memes and spam, the streamer is unlikely to read your message. So if you have the urge to participate in the conversation.. you pay a few dollars so that they read your message out loud and then reply with a half sentence? To then have the warm fuzzy feeling that the streamer has really actually talked to YOU!
And because the streamer was so kind to do that, you want to return the favour and gift some subs which is only giving half the money the person you think is your friend and the other to a corporation?

I usually try to understand people and follow their train of thought even if it's illogical but this one is so far out of rational bounds that I have a hard time with it.
It's not even tipping a waiter or waitress at a restaurant as they have some actual interaction with you even though they don't care that much about you. But twitch is you in a crowd watching a busker and handing them messages written on bills.
I think we can make too much of all of this. Lots of people do lots of things without expecting to be paid for them, even those are things other people do get paid for. For example, millions of people play golf just because they like playing golf. They know other people make a living playing golf but they don't think that means they should, too.

Of course, lots of people try to make a living playing golf and fail...
WE still haven't come up with a decent way of compensating those who provide content online. Free doesn't work because professional journalists and writers need to eat. Ad supported doesn't work because it creates perverse incentives and a race to the bottom in terms of quality. Subscriptions don't work because we can't afford to pay 100 subscriptions to all the sites we visit on a regular basis.

I remember many years ago some folk thought that micro payments might be the answer. Instead of paying some provider €10 per month to have access to all their content you pay something like 1c for every article you read. That would spread the money around more fairly. Is that an idea that could be revisited?
The Atlantic published an article Democracy Dies Behind Paywalls. It mentions "Yes, you may face this very dilemma reading this story in The Atlantic." And that is in fact the case. I wasn't able to read the story about the effect of paywalls on democracy, because the story was behind a paywall.
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