YouTube may create a subscription model, allowing consumers to watch videos without having to sit through video advertisements first. Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, told The Wall Street Journal it would be in addition to the ad-supported content. “If you look at media over time most of them have both ads and subscriptions, ” she said. Although Google Inc. GOOG, -1.00% , which bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006, didn’t say how much it would charge consumers for ad-free content, experts say people would have to spend a lot to have an ad-free Internet.
“Consumers very often aren’t aware of how much their attention is worth to advertisers, but when they are they are often shocked, ” says Aram Sinnreich, a media professor at Rutgers University. Internet advertising revenue industrywide totaled $42.8 billion last year, up 17% from $36.57 billion in 2012, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (pdf). And given that around 85% — or 269 million — of the 316 million people living in the U.S. are online, according to recent estimates by Pew Research Center and Forrester Research, that would equate to roughly $159 per person per year.
“There’s no way they would pay that, ” Sinnreich says. “I have a family of four. I’m not going to spend over $600 a year for ad-free Internet. Internet advertising is growing, so the amount of money needed to defray those revenues will grow as well.” Some 75% of people said they preferred ad-supported content rather than having to subscribe to content in a survey of 1, 000 Internet users by the Digital Advertising Alliance. And 98% of consumers said they wouldn’t pay £140 a year ($224) to skip ads in a survey of 1, 000 U.K. Internet users by video ad company Teads. (Both companies also have a vested interest in ad-supported content.)
That doesn’t mean people aren’t suffering from ad fatigue; in fact, they often do their best to avoid the video before pressing “skip.” An advertiser can tell how long your cursor hovers over an ad and even if you choose to skip it after a few seconds, although most publishers charge advertisers on the number of clicks their site (rather than the ad) receives. Some 63% of web users skip online video ads “as quickly as possible, ” a figure that rises to 75% for 16-24 year olds, according to the U.K. study. Over a quarter of all respondents aged 16 and over said they mute their sound while the ad is playing and 20% scroll away from the video. Another 16% use software like AdBlock Plus and 16% open a new browser window or tab. For those people aged 16 to 24, the incidence of ad avoidance was higher in all cases. And some people will just tune out ads or put the kettle on when an ad is playing.
While people pay for ad-free devices and apps, most browsers have pop-up ad-blockers, says Jules Polonetsky, director of the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington, D.C. think tank. “People don’t seem ready to pay that much to simply block seeing an ad that exists alongside content.” Still, some 28% of Americans say they already employ ad-block software when browsing, according to a survey of 1, 000 Internet users by PageFair, which measures ad-blocked revenue. But there’s no one-stop-shop to block all types of ads, Sinnreich says. “It’s a pipe dream. It’s not really a feasible expectation.”