I Paid To Get Rid Of Ads On YouTube And Now My Life Is Way Better

I Paid To Get Rid Of Ads On YouTube And Now My Life Is Way Better

Last month, Google introduced YouTube Red in Australia, a paid tier for YouTube that removes ads, among other cool features. I’ve been using it ever since launch day What I thought would be a minor reduction in annoyances actually changed how I view and enjoy the internet.

Illustration by Sam Wooley. Photo by Andrew Currie.

To say that reactions to YouTube Red were mixed Stupid name aside, that’s not a bad deal.

On the other hand, you’re paying for YouTube. Why bother? It’s free already. Why not just put up with those ads that pop up every now and then?

Living Without YouTube Ads Is Awesome

I have to admit, I’m not generally the type to get so annoyed by ads on YouTube that I hunt down ways to block them. Instead, I usually roll my eyes, maybe let out an exasperated grunt, and then click Skip. If it’s really bad, I’ll pick up my phone and check Twitter for a second. However, I was already paying for a Play Music subscription, so without doing a thing, all my YouTube ads disappeared overnight. That gave me a bit of a wake up call.

You see, ads don’t just show up on your computer. They’re everywhere. When I watch a YouTube video on my phone? Ads. Chromecasting a video? Ads. Watching a music video on whatever DJ site isn’t dead yet? Embedded ads!

However, my YouTube life is now entirely ad free. Looking at it purely from a technical standpoint, YouTube Red removed more ads than an ad blocker, was more reliable, and best of all, it doesn’t use up a metric crapton of RAM that ad blocking extensions do. Paying for an ad-free service is just nicer than blocking ads.

This is the life. More importantly, it’s not much different from what my life was like before. I was already paying for a Play Music subscription. Nothing has really changed for me. That may not be the case for everyone, but I appreciate having the option. As a consumer, I have choice. I can watch ads if I don’t think a service is worth paying for (or if I can’t afford it), but if I want to remove a few annoyances, I can cough up a couple extra dollars. Now I want this option everywhere.

Using Ad Blockers On Optional Ads Is Kind of a Dick Move

I Paid To Get Rid Of Ads On YouTube And Now My Life Is Way Better

Without even considering matters of conscience, I already convinced myself that going ad-free was a good idea. However, there’s another angle here: people who make stuff you like need to get paid. Ad blocking is a bit of a murky ethical area because ads can be intrusive and even invasive. Even though lots of content creators rely on ads to get paid (that includes us at Lifehacker!), you can’t just say that blocking ads is universally bad. When it comes to services that offer the option of paying to remove ads, though, the issue gets a hell of a lot clearer.

Content creators have to make money somehow. We know from experience that if they can’t manage to eke out a living the respectable way, they might get more desperate. This is why ads get so obnoxious to begin with. Ads that take over your screen, hijack your window, or even ones that are just obnoxiously loud are all attempts to command a bit more of your attention, since they can’t get your money.

A paid, ad-free option is a truce between creator and consumer. It’s a white flag that says “Look, I know ads suck. If you don’t want to see them, you can pay me directly instead, but I won’t force you to do so.” In a weird way, they’re the best possible option in a world that demands endless free content.

The downside to this truce, though, is that there aren’t really any good excuses left to use an ad blocker on services that allow you to pay instead. It’s one thing to block mandatory ads that make a service unusable, or to protect your privacy. It’s another to do it because you just don’t like ads and don’t feel like paying for the thing you enjoy. It’s just like the piracy problem: in some cases there are better alternatives that support the people who make stuff you like, rather than giving them the shaft.

If you’re worried about being tracked online, you can still protect yourself without blocking ads. We’ve covered the best browser extensions that protect your privacy, and how to stop trackers from following you around the web. Protecting your privacy is about much more than blocking ads and, while the two often go hand-in-hand, you don’t necessarily have to do both.

For the larger web, this issue is likely to stay complex for a long time. It’s nice that YouTube and other services lets you to pay a small sum to remove ads, but until the rest of the world catches up, there will still be a market for ad blockers. We’d certainly never say that using an ad blocker is 100% bad. However, if a company is offering you the option of paying to get rid of ads, it’s a good idea to consider taking up that offer. Otherwise the internet could get a lot worse.

This Trend Isn’t Going to Stop, and We All Asked For It

I Paid To Get Rid Of Ads On YouTube And Now My Life Is Way Better

In case you were worried that YouTube would remain anomalies in an otherwise ad-fuelled internet, don’t worry. This trend towards paid models isn’t going anywhere. See, for the last couple decades, all the cool stuff you’ve liked on the internet has been funded in one of two big ways: advertising or VC funding. And both wells are starting to run dry for a lot of companies you might care about.

Advertising is having a rougher go of it after a combination of factors made ad blocking easier than ever. Apple made it easy to create mobile ad blockers on the iPhone, and regular ad blockers are just getting better. This has led to more and more people using ad blockers, which means sites both large and small are looking towards alternative ways to make money.

If a particular company with a free product wasn’t making money through ads, they were probably funded through venture capital. To put it simply, this means that an investor comes in and gives a small company a boatload of money to get started, hoping that they will eventually make money some day. That’s how companies like Twitter could become publicly traded on the stock market without ever actually making a profit. In the early days of the web, this led to a lot of companies that made free products to build a customer base. However, many now-large media companies are reaching the point where they have to make money or risk closing down. Of course, new companies are funded all the time, so it’s not like the internet will disappear and it’s not all doom and gloom. But it does mean YouTube didn’t really have much choice but to start making its own money.

All of this revolves around one simple truth: the companies and content creators you like need to make money. If they can’t do it with mild, unobtrusive ads, they will either shut down or they will have to get creative. Some creators might offer reasonable solutions like charging for additional features or running Patreons. Others may try more nefarious plots like tracking more personal data, using even more obnoxious ads, or resorting to abusive microtransaction systems. By not paying for stuff directly and then blocking the ads that support free stuff, we have made them very desperate. We might not be glad that we did.

There’s some good news, though. As it turns out, there are plenty of people who are willing to pitch in. In 2012, we ran a poll asking if our readers would be willing to pay to remove ads from a service. A full 70.41% of you said yes if the price was reasonable, or if the ads were too annoying. Of course, paying to remove ads isn’t going to work for everyone. Some people can’t afford it, and others just don’t use sites like YouTube enough to justify paying for it at all. Broadly speaking, though, it may be time to rethink how we approach paying for stuff online. We can either pay for stuff with money or pay for it with a little bit of our attention on an ad. Ultimately, this deal is better than some of the alternatives we already have to deal with.

After living for a month in a world where I pay to get rid of the ads on services I like, I can’t imagine going back. It sucks when you’re getting something for free and it either gets worse with ads or starts charging money. The knee-jerk reaction of getting angry or indignant is totally normal. However, I gave it a try and at least in one small area of my life, it’s the experience I always wanted.

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • Ad blockers are sufficient, generally if you have spare money to buy stuff like this, you would probably lack the free time needed to figure out which ad blocker is the best to use or how to add a few manual ad blocks yourself on the sites that try and trick the blockers.

    Buying an extra 8GB of ram is only 3 months subscription to youtube red, so if that is a concern then consider chrome/firefox would be lucky to ever use a gig with 10 multimedia tabs open at once.

    I agree tho, content creators need to make money and if someone hates ads but has money, then go right ahead and pay for it as it’s a sustainable model and gets good results.

    Maybe if the ads would play a few times in a day instead of every 5 minutes and jumble them up a bit – I see the same ad over and over until I would never consider purchasing the product/services if I did ever come across it, I’d buy the “other” brand who didn’t annoy me.

    Pro Tip: Use a Hosts file to block the ad servers that ad blockers do not try to block.

    • generally if you have spare money to buy stuff like this, you would probably lack the free time needed to figure out which ad blocker is the best to use or how to add a few manual ad blocks yourself

      What a weird thing to say. YouTube Red is $10/month and free if you already have a Google Play Music subscription, which is also $10/month (if you got the early adopter rate). You’ve got to be in pretty dire financial circumstances if you don’t have that much ‘spare money’.

      • That’s a stupid argument. Plenty of people already pay for a number of subscriptions and adding another $10 a month one for a service that’s already free is as stupid as burning money and completely unnecessary.

        • Your counterpoint is mostly invalid. For one, there is no free service that blocks ads but also pays content makers for their time and effort. You can use an adblocker but that effectively amounts to piracy since you’re watching someone’s content without paying their asking price (eg. watch one 15 second ad) for.

          There’s nothing stupid about paying for content you like. If you like the content but don’t pay for it, you eventually get less (or no) content. If you do pay for it, you get more content. It’s win-win to pay for it, and lose-lose to not. You’d have to be an idiot to think that’s a good proposition.

          If $10 a month to pay YouTubers you like for their time and effort is too much for you, watch the ads instead. It’s not hard, it doesn’t hurt you at all and it at least gives them something in return.

  • I like how you discuss this on a website which relies on display advertising for it’s income.

    • Who knows, Lifehacker may one day offer a small fee subscription service to allow for the site without ads also? A few other sites are already trialling it (Ausdroid is calling for Patreon subscribers to a particular total funding level, and say they will then drop AdSense, for example).

  • I’ve been using Play Music for a while now, so the addition of Youtube Red (such a bad name) was quite nice. I’d like to know, however, how my payments are used to pay content creators that are no longer getting money from me being forced to watch ads on their channel.

    Also, there’s no mention of one of the most useful features of Youtube Red – undisrupted video playback when you lock your phone! Nice little bonus on top of removing ads considering how many videos out there are just music or people offering there opinions/insights on topics. Youtube can now serve as an alternative to a music player/podcast without the additional battery drain of your screen been left on.

    Still use an ad-blocker for other sites, but I tend to be rather selective about the ads I disable.
    If a site is using small to medium advertisement that isn’t intrusive, I have no problem letting them take up screen space.
    However, large ads that actually intrude on my browsing are an immediate block. Not to mention any site that deliberately separates article entries over multiple pages to increase ad revenue. I generally avoid them completely.

    • Despite initial complaints, most YouTubers have noticed now that YouTube Red contributes a significant amount to their income, and significantly more per-viewer than ad views did. TotalBiscuit has made several comments on this since it was introduced if you want a reference to look up.

      TLDR, Red is better for content makers than ad views. By a lot.

  • My policy is to be a human being to websites that deign to treat me as a human being. If a site has a polite, humble or humorous message regarding my use of adblocker and requesting me to reconsider, I’ll turn it off for that website. For every other, it remains on.

  • I wish that I could pay for more sites with micropayments / subscription models. I’ve got youtube red and this has only reinforced my attitude that it’s a great model. It’s also good for my kids as some of the ads on child appropriate youtube videos were completely inappropriate for a 3 year and 5 year old.

  • In a world of disposable content, the user has increased power to craft their own experience. My experiential choices include avoiding ads that infringe on the task at hand, whether that is watching a video or reading an article. As an author of a site that makes money through advertising, you can call that a “dick move” but it’s the reality of the marketplace.

  • Nope. You don’t let people take dumps on your lawn, so why should I leave your crap on my screens? Call me a dick, but I have every right to be selective about what I consume. As long as content providers choose to take the easy way out for profit, and as long as there are free ways for me to act against them, I will let my actions speak loudly and clearly and remove their ads.

    • In this case, “being selective about what you consume” effectively means “you want me to watch a 15 second ad as payment for your content, but I’m just going to not pay you”. I definitely get the hate for ads as a consumer, but it’s not reasonable to expect the creators to go unpaid either, otherwise they shut down and we don’t get any content any more.

      That’s why something like YouTube Red is great, because it doesn’t cost much, creators can get paid for their work (and at much better rates than ad impressions would have paid) and we don’t get any ads.

      • Sure, that’s exactly what it means, simply because 1) 9 times out of 10 I’m not interested in your product, 2) If I am, I may not want to learn about it from your marketing department, and 3) I simply don’t want to spend yet another 15 seconds of my life on something I don’t care about; you say your humble little ad only takes 15 seconds, but 15 seconds every video—or even every other video—adds up to a hell of a lot of time I can use to consume your actual content, or content I actually want, or just do something else that’s actually worth my time.
        So tell me why exactly would I pay to get rid of something I didn’t want in the first place?
        You’re asking me to become part of a system that has created a pollution problem and then making me pay to get rid of it. It’s bullshit and I won’t engage in it.
        The fallacy you’re pushing is that advertising is a content creator’s only revenue stream. That’s nonsense. I actually do understand that content creators do need to feed their families and pay their bills, but I’m not going to pay you for putting more noise out there. If your product is worth my time and money, I will buy your merchandise, or subscribe to your personal stream, I will even tell my friends and family about it, or even just donate directly to you. I’m not heartless, and I’m not poor, but I sure as hell am gonna choose to be very mindful about where my time and money goes. As a consumer, I will happily let my wallet speak loud and clearly for me.

    • A lawn dump can lead to green and fertile growth in those lawns; the relationship between them, the same with websites and ads, is reciprocal. Without sh*t, gardens can die.

      • Ok, let’s extend the example, what if every one of your neighbours thought their shit was the best thing for your lawn, and they came and dumped free samples on it every now and then for you to see how good it was. That might be ok; you might be able to deal with that for a little while, but what if that same scenario was extended to your entire city, or country, or even globally. How much shit would be on your lawn now? Probably so much that you’d have to start paying to have it removed. That’s what YouTube Red is; paying someone to remove other people’s unsolicited shit from your lawn.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!