Incoming stupidly long rant.
First of all Newgrounds has been part of my life for over 10 years, and its been integral to my growth as both an animator and as an artist and the last thing I want to see happen to Newgrounds is to see it fall by the wayside. HOWEVER, this new $25 "premium membership" idea makes no sense to me for a number of reasons and really comes across as a move forced by sheer desperation. Im just going to list some of the issue's I see with the site as it currently stands as someone who works in advertising and understands the importance and does a lot of work in the field of social media.
The major issue facing this premium membership for Newgrounds is its audience. The sites main viewership are young teen males, usually of school age and as a general rule have no money. Thats not to say that there aren't hundreds of people like me in their mid 20's and 30's who dont visit the site, but the vast majority of the user base are of an age where money is an issue. The second issue is aside from games, theirs very little by way of exclusive content for people who pay for that premium experience.
This leads into the fact that the idea of punishing non paying users with a worse and slower experience will also scare away many new potential users, the site already has some massive issues with speed, I personally find myself a lot of the time just grabbing the name of a film from this site and then looking for it on youtube just because I know it will load faster then it will on this site. We live in an age of convenience and at the moment the site is anything but.
This brings up another point which is youtube's social media integration and the fact it runs fine on mobile. Newgrounds dedication to the flash format is only going to damage the site more and more over time as mobile platforms take up more of the webs browsing space. Newgrounds as a site is hope to largely short fun movies and games, this content is ideal for mobile and tablet platforms, yet the site makes it impossible to view the content on them. As time goes on this is going to become more and more of an issue. Then theirs the fact you can embed youtube/vimeo videos into facebook/tumblr for quick and easy sharing, and for watching the content within a container. Newgrounds requires you to click a link that will bring you to an external site, which is something people stopped wanting to do years ago, its clunky, its unintuitive, and its completely backwards. Social media is the most powerful force of traffic online, and Newgrounds through its very nature as a flash content based site completely blocks it.
Which brings me to my last point, the level of flash content on the site. I love the IDEA of the new video player, it brings the site up, superficially, to the web standards of 2006/2007. The largest problem with it (aside from the obvious lack of advertising within it) is the speed it loads content and its limitations. The fact I can only watch David Firths most recent film in standard definition on this site, and even then it takes five times as long to load as it does in full 1080p on youtube renders the video player completely pointless. Not only that, but the video player should have been an open invitation to animators from all styles and backgrounds to submit content, but no push as far as I can see was made to encourage new and higher end animators to submit there content to the site. How do you even attract new artists to a site like this when the purpose of the site isn't even clear, i mean its great that its a hub for art, games, videos and music, but its has a its fingers in all these pies without coming close to mastering any of them, its unfocused and as such excels at nothing other then being cluttered and undirected.
I understand now that the team is incredibly small, I know most advertisers wont touch you because of some of the subversive content on the site. I just wonder if the site has grown into something too big for you and your small team to handle now, and honestly wonder how long the site can keep going as it is without imploding under its own weight. Something has got to give, and Newgrounds can no longer exist in the vacuum that its been hiding in for the last 6 years.
As I said at the beginning, Newgrounds has been a part of my life for over 10 years, and I dont want to see it go. But the way things are going, without some massive reforms to the site and the way its directed I dont see Newgrounds being here in another 5 years and I think that would be a real shame.
I dont have any solutions, but I would recommend taking a look at http://fillim.com/ to see the sort of social media and multiplatform development that independent film makers and potentially game makers will be using as a standard in the future.