We are all largely familiar with two things in this information and digital content filled world: Time and YouTube. There are lots of other platforms and web content providers, but none as accessible and universally rated as YouTube. So what does YouTube and your time have in common? Well, it turns out that your time and YouTube’s money are inversely proportional. More specifically; the money earned by the producers of content, such as those addictive videos made by so-called “Youtubers”, the ads made and distributed by marketing companies and good old Google himself (who facilitates it all like a big broker), is inversely proportional to the time you spend watching the videos on YouTube. As your time dwindles, their earnings grow. You may already perceive what I’m getting at here; ‘hey! You’re stealing my time to benefit yourself and line your pockets with money!’ – said a peeved user who had an assignment to hand in but wasted all of his time watching cat videos while subjecting himself to the over the top commercial ads, failed to complete his assignment on time and got fired from his job, lost his livelihood and now walks the street hungry at night.
Ok so that last bit was a bit of an exageration, but the general treaty is not. YouTube is a platform for the benefit of content creators, which pushes “free” content to users, at the expense of their time and productive potential. Yes, the producers invest time, labour and money into producing the content, but the ultimate consumer is still paying the price with their time.
Traditionally, a product or service is something we buy to save us time and energy or satisfy a need or want, or to have a professional solve a problem we couldn’t otherwise solve alone. We traditionally pay money for the benefit of these products and services; money in that case is the price of the time and energy others have invested to produce the products/services.
Whenever I watch a YouTube video, by the end I can’t help but feel robbed. I could have spent that 15 minutes doing something productive, like writing about how watching videos is a waste of my valuable time. I ask myself, “Why did I just spend all that time watching videos? Now I just feel used!” Indeed I do feel used, but why? Why do I feel the compulsion to watch a video, seemingly against my own will? I’ll have to do some digging and see if I can figure it out.
For now I believe it’s enough to be aware that when one consumes YouTube content as a means of entertainment, there is no payment of money so it seems to be free. Unlike a traditional transaction where one pays with money, here we are paying with our time!
Depending on what you normally use your time for, you may or may not be getting value for your time. We are normally, and rightly so, very judicious about how we spend our hard earned money because we expended our time and energy to earn it. Should we not act even more judiciously when cosidering what to spend our time on? We should be sure that what we spend it on is actually worth the price; 5, 15, 60 minutes you’ll never get back-sunk costs!
How much would you pay in money to watch those videos? Probably not much. If we think about time being equal to money then it shouldn’t be too hard to work out how much of it we’d be prepared to spend.