This post was originally written for The Jungle, a weekly newsletter about the business of YouTube. Subscribe here.
By Sarah Ullman
Let’s debunk the idea of a “YouTube competitor.”
1. YouTube is like Kleenex: Its brand name is used to define the entire product category of digital, short-form video. In the same way “to search on the internet” is “to Google,” a digital video creator is known as a “YouTuber.” “Content creator” is preferred by many, but that’s really industry jargon rather than a consumer-facing label.
2. YouTube’s challengers usually involve a “windowing” strategy in which creators post exclusive content on their platform for a specific time period before then uploading the content to YouTube. This means that YouTube’s competitors have also integrated YouTube into their business models. It’s very counter-productive to place yourself in total opposition to a platform that is integrated into the way you do business.
3. Global audience aggregation. Google’s infrastructure is too well-established for any meaningful UGC challenger. The scale of the platform is unassailable, both in terms of audience reach (more than 1 billion users) and creator community. There are 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
4. YouTube is currently the only social media platform that monetizes for content creators (re: paying content creators, Facebook is “not sure how that would work.”) The 45/55 revenue split is much maligned; Google argues that it’s paying for infrastructure, servers, etc. Another result of the barely-sustainable revenue split? Creators build businesses around their audience on the YouTube platform. They use the platform to sell, to share, and as a conduit to other revenue streams (merch, brand deals, live events), thus placing YouTube in an “anchor” position at the heart of their brand. If the split was more heavily weighted in favor of the creator, creators might not feel the need to integrate YouTube so seamlessly into their business models.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I firmly believe that Vessel, Vimeo, Facebook, the Fullscreen OTT platform, etc. have a vital and vibrant place in the YouTube ecosystem. Vimeo is a great example; its niche brand as the YouTube for filmmakers or cinematic video has been proven to be quite successful. Even Vimeo, however, is reaching out to YouTube-native creators (at Maker and Machinima) to expand its user/revenue base. Facebook can notch excellent viewership numbers but their search function is nonexistent. Maker.tv was never intended to compete with YouTube because it
isn’t a UGC platform, but rather a premium content destination site for its current partners. Each of these YouTube “competitors” lacks an element that is crucial to YouTube’s success.
The answer, of course, is not to challenge YouTube by copying it — because YouTube will always win. There is certainly money to be made in building a video platform that coexists, supplements, and feeds off of YouTube. However, the idea that a platform can ever match the YouTube Goliath in terms of scale, audience, monetization, and brand awareness is a false one.
Sarah Ullman (@thesillysully) is a writer and creative consultant focusing on the YouTube ecosystem. She writes a weekly newsletter about the business of YouTube called “The Jungle” (subscribe here) and specializes in helping “traditional media” clients transition to the digital landscape.