Do Content Owners REALLY Have To Diversify Away From YouTube To Win?

We have ALL been writing about YouTube, videos and how to make your website work harder for your business. Now we see that it may be a good idea to diversify- and get away from YouTube?

Canadian media guy, Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, wrote some six months ago about this. Here are excerpts (and my comments):

I love YouTube.  I love YouTube as a user and I love it even more as a video content entrepreneur.  But, I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I have no idea if YouTube will help me grow my business or force me to grow despite it. (well, I KNOW YouTube grows business… I every day as my organic results climb, and I get calls and submissions for work!)

Ok, What’s Your Beef Now?

As recently as Q1 2010, our YouTube channel accounted for a third of our total streams; today, that number is just over half.  In all likelihood, if you produce videos, you see a similar pattern: YouTube generates more views for you than it ever did, and probably generates 50% or more of your total volume. (The less-mature business will see these numbers climb, just at he did, before leveling off or dropping).

The thing is, even though YouTube generates over 50% of our views, it  generate less than 5% of our revenues in some months. (nothing is 100%!)  That’s either a problem or an opportunity (it’s both).  [Yet] today, I’m less certain than ever about whether it will be more of one or the other.

YouTube’s Awesome March

If the future of the Web is video, then YouTube is the road, car, driver and gasoline.  YouTube’s grip on online video only strengthens with each passing month, becoming the de facto monopoly on views and content. (But alas, there are new video distributors emerging every day- good for competition, and good for businesses!)

Ah yes, the content.  Let’s first look at the noise factor on YouTube:

– in 2007, there was 8 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute,
– in 2008: 13 hours/minute
– in 2009: 24 hours/minute
– in 2010: 35 hours/minute
– in 2011: 48 hours/minute.

That’s right: each minute, two full days’ worth of content is uploaded to YouTube.  What kind of content?  Well, all kinds of content, including:

–      Hollywood and studios (“Super premium”)

–      Professionally produced content by new-media creators (“Premium”)

–      YouTube celebrities that are racking up views and building actual media businesses, if not shows (“Prosumer”)

–      Random individuals (“User-generated content”)

–      Illegally uploaded (“Pirated”)

Therein lies one of the challenges facing content owners: while elsewhere they compete for mindshare and volume with other producers, on YouTube it’s a bit of a free-for-all, where National Geographic competes with Buffy the cat (not the show, but the feline from North Carolina).

Leveling the field is good for challengers, bad for incumbents — but they’re incumbents for a reason. Historically, it could be argued that professional content creators had an edge, since those with large libraries who refreshed their catalogues frequently enough at least had revenue-sharing commercial arrangements with YouTube, an economic incentive that gave YouTube a reason to promote them.  The problem is that the majority of audiences on YouTube seem to favor the content that seems less than desirable from the big marketers. (Remember, those cat videos do not sell anything, nor do they help a business- so discount those amateur posters who just want their 15 minutes of fame!)

This may explain why YouTube is trying everything: from rentals to branded channels.  Smosh’s President (and former Walt Disney executive) Barry Blumberg once stressed to me the importance of having been an early channel on YouTube: YouTube promoted a handful of channels early on, helping those channels land subscribers.  Then as YouTube grew and got acquired by Google, its algorithms favored those channels with high subscriber counts.  The cycle continued and became a self-fulfilling prophecy, a new-media video version of “it takes money to make money.”

That means the opposite is also true: if you are starting to produce or distribute videos now and looking at YouTube as a channel, good luck.  It’s not impossible, but the odds are stacked against you.  I guess that’s why there’s no business like show business. (Your best bet is to use YouTube as an ancillary channel, embed that channel into your website and look at YouTube as a way to leverage 2 to 3 times the credit in your organic rankings- that is really all there is!)

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