Can Yahoo really launch a viable competitor to Google's YouTube?
The digital marketing industry is all abuzz about Yahoo's latest plans to launch yet another YouTube alternative.
According to Google Trends, Web search interest in "YouTube alternative" started back in the summer of 2006 and has grown even as several YouTube alternatives – including Yahoo Video, MySpace Videos, Google Video, and Hulu – all attempted to become the top video content property only to fall out of the top 10 rankings, have their names changed, get sold off, or be shut down.
And now Yahoo wants to play the futile role of Sisyphus, the figure of Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again.
In this endlessly absurd struggle, many media mavens seem all too happy to cheer the latest challenger on. Don't they remember that when YouTube.com broke into the comScore Media Metrix Top 50 for the first time in July 2006, debuting at number 40 with 16 million visitors, it trailed Yahoo Video, which had 21.1 million visitors, and MySpace Videos, which had 20 million visitors?
So, who thinks history won't repeat itself, first as a tragedy, second as a farce? What are the chances that Yahoo can launch a viable YouTube alternative? And why does it seem that so many YouTube creators are anonymously rooting for the underdog?
Let's start by looking at the story that originally broke the news, "Ready for Marissa's Close-Up? Yahoo Is Considering Creating Its Own YouTube (And Poaching YouTube Stars)." It was written by Peter Kafka and Kara Swisher of Re/code and was published March 28. They reported:
Google-owned YouTube hasn't had a serious competitor for years. But Yahoo would like to try: The Web giant has been working on a plan to lure some of YouTube's most popular stars and networks to show their stuff on the site, according to several sources close to the situation.
Then, on May 27, Ad Age published "Yahoo Plots YouTube Rival for Summer Debut After Delay." Written by Tim Peterson, the article asked:
Is there room for another YouTube? ... Yahoo is ramping up talks with video producers and plans to premiere a rival to Google's video service later this summer, according to people briefed on their plans.
So, several sources – or a couple of people – seem bound and determined to let the media know what Yahoo is still working on even if nothing new had been announced over the past two months.
Are you shocked to find that YouTube creators have long-chafed over YouTube's standard revenue split, where Google takes 45 percent of ad revenue? Do you think that maybe, possibly these YouTube creators are interested in getting a better deal from YouTube and are hinting that Yahoo is offering more generous revenue-sharing deals, or fixed ad rates that are significantly higher than YouTube's?
Fortunately, Yahoo doesn't seem to be requiring exclusivity in its contracts, so YouTube creators can simultaneously upload videos to both online video content properties.
Instead, the challenge appears to be trying to persuade YouTube creators to multiply the higher ad rates by the 52.2 million unique total unique views on Yahoo sites, according to the latest data from comScore Video Metrix, to come up with a winning formula. By comparison, Google sites, driven primarily by video viewing at YouTube.com, ranked as the top online video content property in April with 155.7 million unique viewers.
Unfortunately, comScore chose April 2014 as the month to stop reporting video content views in its monthly press release announcing the latest U.S. Online Video Rankings. So, the real question that YouTube Partners need to ask themselves is: "Do I feel lucky?"
If you go back to the comScore data for March 2014, Google sites had 155.6 million unique viewers while Yahoo sites had 55.7 million. And Google sites generated the highest number of video content views at 11.1 billion, while Yahoo sites had 575.5 million. So, YouTube reaches 2.8 times more unique viewers and generates 19.1 times more video content views.
That's the real reason why the vast majority of the more than 1 million creators from more than 30 countries around the world currently earning money from their YouTube videos will remain YouTube Partners even if "several sources close to the situation" decide to test the waters and become Yahoo creators, too.
Even if creators have the ability to distribute their videos across Yahoo properties (which includes the home page and blogging service Tumblr, as well as a network of non-Yahoo sites), that's not where the lion's share of video content views were in March.
So, what would you do in that situation? Would you leak the news that Yahoo is offering YouTube creators a better deal? If nothing happened for a couple of months, would you leak the story again?
Are you really waiting to jump ship? And if you don't jump ship, then viewers can continue to find your content on YouTube. So, do you really think will video content views shift very quickly to Yahoo sites?
We don't need to make a scientific wild guess about the ultimate answers to these questions. We've seen this movie before.
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Greg Jarboe is president of SEO-PR, which provides search engine optimization, public relations, video marketing, and social media marketing services. He's the author of "YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day," a faculty member at Rutgers University and Market Motive, as well as a frequent speaker at SES conferences.
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