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Google Continues to Botch the YouTube Experience


After blundering through the overhaul of its comment section, Google's about to ruin the very thing that made YouTube special.

What is it about Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and its continued mishandling of YouTube?
Last year, with the intention of actually improving its egregiously awful comment section, Google somehow managed to make YouTube's comment section even worse. (See: Google Inc.'s Recent YouTube Fiasco Isn't Just About Privacy.) Integrating mandatory Google+ logins in order to curb trolls from spewing hatred from behind a shroud of anonymity, the company enraged privacy advocates who preferred a wall between their legal names and their viewing habits. Add the ease of making a fake Google+ account, a default sorting system that promotes controversial comments, an unlimited character count, and a blatant attempt to increase traffic to a flagging social network, and Google's experiment in improving YouTube became a massive failure.
And it's about to fail again.
YouTube will soon introduce the premium music service called YouTube Music Pass. Similar to the overabundance of streaming music options from Pandora (NYSE:P), Spotify, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), and even Google itself, the service will reportedly offer unlimited access to streaming music and the ability to store and play tracks offline. That means popular songs that are currently a quick search away will be available only through YouTube Music Pass. In other words, what once was free will soon be accessed through a paid subscription.
Great! That's always a hit with users!
And as an added bonus to any streaming music service, licensing deals must be forged with the most universally beloved outfits in all of corporate America: record labels. So far, Sony (NYSE:SNE), Warner, and Universal -- as well as a handful of indie labels -- have signed on as partners, giving YouTube access to roughly 90% of the music industry.
Unsurprisingly, Google is ecstatic about the proposition. In a statement, the company said the following:
Our goal is to continue making YouTube an amazing music experience, both as a global platform for fans and artists to connect, and as a revenue source for the music industry. We're adding subscription-based features for music on YouTube with this in mind -- to bring our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year. We are excited that hundreds of major and independent labels are already partnering with us.
But what about that remaining 10%? What happens to the videos featuring artists that aren't included in the deal?
Those videos will be blocked.
In an interview with the Financial Times, YouTube's head of content Robert Kyncl said the company plans to start removing videos from artists and labels that haven't joined the YouTube Music Pass fold -- that includes content from Adele, Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, and many others. Kyncl and other company executives assert they cannot offer free content that wouldn't be available behind a paywall as it would disappoint paying subscribers. So they solve that issue by removing the unsanctioned free content -- satisfying absolutely no one.
At its core, it's already a monumentally bad idea. Blocking content because of failed licensing negotiations benefits nobody, particularly a start-up in an overcrowded market. But there's something else to consider: YouTube has widely become the go-to method for teens to discover new music, and the financial perks of pre-roll ads and links to music featured in videos grant artists and labels an incentive to offer their content to the public for free -- all without messy licensing agreements. To damage that would be to destroy the very foundation on which YouTube was built, and that is sharing videos.
Whether this rampant video blocking takes place or matters get straightened out beforehand, YouTube's image and reputation have been irrevocably tarnished. Between privacy fiascos, user disregard, and content disruption, Vimeo (NASDAQ:IACI) and Dailymotion are starting to look like fine alternatives for content creators.
Google should bear that in mind before it continues to ruin YouTube.
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