I didn’t used to hate YouTube ads. They were never my favorite part of the YouTube experience, but for almost my entire YouTube-using life, I’ve dealt with the endless cycle of pre-roll ads whenever I wanted to check out the latest movie trailer or clip on YouTube. I understood the basic idea — hosting videos isn’t cheap, and ads help pay for continuing service and even supporting my favorite content creators.
Then, a few months back, YouTube Red offered a free three-month trial, magically transporting me to a world where suddenly, there were no ads on YouTube. But my trial ended a few weeks ago, and now I’m in ad hell.
Dealing with ads on YouTube had become such an automatic part of the process of watching a video, it was practically muscle memory. Click the link, shut off brain, automatically mouse over to the “skip” button, wait a few seconds, and enjoy the video. Switching to Red for the first time, it was almost a jarring experience — constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop and for a dreaded unstoppable ad to appear, but they never did.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if it was always this way?”, I started to wonder. “Why even have ads at all? What if the whole internet was like this?”
And then, my free trial ended and the harsh reality of ads came crashing back. Part of it is probably just the abrupt nature of the change back. I’m noticing the ads more because I had spent weeks getting used to the world without them, and now instead of the instant gratification of clicking or tapping a video and seeing it play, I’ve been forced to once again re-learn patience. (If it were prone to conspiracies, I would think that YouTube was showing me more ads than I had before in an attempt to drive me back into the monthly payments of YouTube Red, but I don’t think that there’s actually any empirical evidence to support that.)
Something else about YouTube ads that bothers me now — they’re so repetitive. I’m positive that Google and YouTube are tracking every minute of every video I’ve ever watched and collating that information with all my other web browsing history. Surely they can figure out that I’ve seen (and skipped) the same ad for some weird Marvel toy that I have no interest in and would be better off being served something else. Because the only thing more infuriating than an annoying ad is being followed around by it across seemingly every video I watch.
But here’s the thing. Even though I hate YouTube’s ads, I don’t think I’d ever shell out $10 per month for YouTube Red. Personally, I’d rather spend my hard-earned money on a subscription that gets me content I want but don’t already have access to (like say, Apple Music, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, or Moviepass, all of which are in the same financial ballpark) rather than just to make already free content slightly more palatable to watch (and before you ask, no, YouTube Red’s original content does not justify the cost).
And besides — it’s already been a few weeks. Soon, I’ll be back to barely even noticing them again.