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The End of YouTube?

As most of you have heard by now, April 16th is going to be a very important day for those in the YouTube community. For those of you who haven’t heard, in exactly one week, YouTube is planning a major redesign of their website.

The redesign will structure the website so as to promote commercial content partners (CBS, ESPN, Disney and many other corporate content creators), while “hiding” the user generated content under a single tab called “Videos”.

Alongside the Videos tab will be tabs for Movies, Music and Shows, all of which will feature premium (read: corporate) content only. This is no doubt a move to make the site more attractive to advertisers. According to Wikipedia, YouTube burns through a million dollars per day in bandwidth costs, and only brings in $200 million per year in revenue. Do the math then and you’ll see YouTube is actually losing $165 million per year for Google.

However, by spotlighting and promoting “safer”, more advertiser-friendly content on 75% of the site, YouTube might be able to even out their expenses-to-income ratio. But I think they are going about it all wrong.

The user-generated content is what gave YouTube its edge, its atmosphere, and its press. No one wants to report about a website that lets you watch the same content you can already watch on TV. Almost every piece of press I’ve read about YouTube has focused on the viral videos or success of its homegrown users, the Michael Buckleys and LisaNovas and vlogbrothers… not its Universal Music videos.

So, unlike most users who tend to complain, but offer no solutions, let me suggest YouTube that you take the following steps before sweeping your real users under the rug:

1. Partner (almost) everyone. This seems like a no brainer. Hire part-time college students to watch and approve monetized videos, because I understand you can’t just blindly approve every video uploaded for monetization. College kids work cheap, and getting paid to watch YouTube videos is a pretty sweet deal. Then, Partner every single user you can. I don’t care if they only have 31 subscribers, they’re using your bandwidth, and getting views on each video, and each of those views could have been monetized. Multiply that by the millions of users who fall into this category, and you’re talking some serious extra cash, YouTube.

2. Promote more of your Partner’s videos. I’ll never understand why, on average, only 30% of the featured/spotlighted videos are monetized videos. You have millions of hits coming to your front page every day; send those views to videos that bring in some cash.

3. Connect advertisers with Content Creators. I know you already do this for a very limited, very select group of individuals. But hire someone full time to connect advertisers with eager content creators. So many companies want to pay your top users to hock a product or service, I know this because, after writing my book, they’ve been contacting me to help broker these deals. Marketers don’t know how to contact your top users, and users don’t know how to negotiate a deal once contacted. Step in and help facilitate these deals, take 15% for your troubles. The content creators won’t mind, because they’ll be making way more than they would on their own, and the marketers would love to have someone to contact about this.

I guess that’s it, for now. I’m sure my readers will have even more ideas for you in the comment section, YouTube. I just think, and everyone else does as well from what I’ve read, that you’re going about this all wrong by burying the worker ants who’ve carried you this far.

51 Responses to “The End of YouTube?”

  1. dctcool Says:

    Well written Alan
    Great suggestions and topics

  2. Hannah Says:

    Alan, you’re a genius. I think that says it all. Off to re-tweet now.

  3. themightythor1212 Says:

    funny, item two is an issue/solution i raised back in 2008, that got Smashed by people who didnt understand business. Why have a partner if you dont help that partner make both parties money, thats an odd business relationship! some real good points here and sound advice, unfortunately i am of the opinion, youtube is NOT run by similar beings such as yourself. Wanna attempt a COUP? :P

  4. Dan Says:

    Hey alan,

    Yea totally agree, i have never understood why they don’t have all or at least most videos monitized seems like a no brainer to me too.

    I would also suggest a points system which could be good, so for example every time you rate a video leave a good comment (if marked as spam u lose the point) post a video flag a offensive video etc and the more you contribute to the community the more “points” you build up, and if you could use the points in a way so you can earn promoted spots on the site or stuff like that it would really boost community usage.

    Also i think you should ammend the post as YouTube/Google are losing a LOT more than $165 million.

    I have seen quite a few figures and from what i know YT is suposed to use in excess of $1m/day (as u said) on bandwidth just running the YT HQ is suposed to cost millions a year on feeding staff alone yet alone building costs, wages etc.

    I wouldnt be suprised if Google loses were close to a half if not a full billion a year.

  5. Andrew Says:

    I’ve always thought that if youtube made a bad move and everybody decided to leave and go somewhere else

    If youtubers all packed up and left youtube, i’ve always thought the site they would go to is one that hasn’t been invented yet. There isn’t a youtube alternative which offers the correct community features yet. Because of this, i don’t think that right now as many people would leave youtube and go somewhere else. Some people may just stop making videos altogether, some people may stay and the rest will spread out over all these different video sites, none of which, to my knowledge, are right for building a community. I think the site youtubers would all go to in an event like this hasn’t been invented yet and we’re still waiting for it.

  6. Blade376 Says:

    This issue is definately a no-brainer… for people outside the box of the buisness - but unfortunately their buisness models will go with what has been proven in the past. Websites like Hulu are working well, and YT wishes to revolutionise itself in a way that appeals to the big commericial bodies in the world.

    It would only become a matter of time until user-content-generators get pushed under, and I guess the time has come.

    Def will wait to see how this turns up, but the YT experience as i’ve known it for the past 3 years has been on the decay for a long time now. If you haven’t ‘made it’ by now, having no commericial backing or support… don’t expect it to get any easier now.

    I’m doing StickAID2009 in June which has always been a huge event on Stickam and YouTube - showing the real potential of online community - and hopefully this year itll be even stronger with people like us wanting things to favor the online community more… not just those that pay YT vasts sums of cash.

    Nice blog Alan. I feel though that the points you have made have long been considered and deemed unpractical by Google. We’ll see =]

    Take care all!

    -Myles x

  7. Raven Says:

    Soooo true, Alan. So true. I agree with every word you said, and I’m not even a partner. It’s just the right way to go about things and unfortunately Youtube has yet to grasp that. There are so many things they could be doing to bring in the $$$, so who exactly are the geniuses that are coming up with these crappy ideas? Geesh. They really just should hire you.

  8. Chris Says:

    I vote Alan as CEO of Youtube

  9. falletron Says:

    That was a fairly epic post, Alan. Those were good ideas, hope someone at YouTube hears them! I truly despair for what’s going to happen on the 16th…

  10. Andrew Says:

    I also thought i’d add that while our community is the number 1 priority for us, it’s a very small part of youtube. If i asked everybody in every one of my classes at college, i’d be surprised if more than 2 people had heard of Fred or Whatthebuck. Sure, they’ve probably heard of chris crocker but only because they watched that 1 video of his a few years ago, nothing to do with the community.

    Whenever people go on youtube in college, it’s always to look at music videos (but not so much anymore, since they blocked the majority of them in the uk), film trailers and clips from tv shows. It’s never to watch user generated content made by the community and it’s quite rare that a video like that comes alone (mrs teen south carolina, leave britney alone) which they do watch.

    I don’t think this is killing youtube for them, in fact i think the people at college would love it and it’d be amazing and they would make great use of it. In fact, i’m sure it’d be very handy for us to use too, but not for what we use it for now.

    I think this is a step in the right direction for youtube in general, just not for our community and that’s where the problem lies.

  11. AllTheLostOnes Says:

    Oh wow… Thats just lame and wrong. I think we should be a bigger part of youtube seeing as its what gives them all their publicity i mean fred and tay are really big and they bring people to youtube everyday. And there are even more people doing that just today. And now they are just sweeping us away that makes no sense…. Its said really.

  12. Karen Says:

    This is a great post Alan. I’ll be reposting it everywhere because there are some really good points made.

  13. phampants Says:

    Alan I completely agree with you. This is why I’m hesitant to make new videos because at this point, the community is being kicked out. It’s harder for anyone to view my videos.

  14. kenrg Says:

    Even better: College students work for free - Call it an “internship” and just have the school give them two units of credit.

    All great ideas, and all will be ignored by YouTube. They’d rather expel 80% of us than do anything like you suggest (to their own folly).

  15. FantasticBabblings Says:

    I hate to be the skunk at the garden party, but this sounds like pie in the sky to me. User generated videos on YouTube probably average a few hundred hits each. In ad revenue, that is going to generate pennies.

    Even if college kids screen for free (which some of them will, but sufficient to cover all the videos submitted every day?)there are costs. You have additional real estate, energy, insurance and other costs. The idea that the revenue generated would even cover the costs, much less make a profit, is suspect to me.

    Does anybody here have any real projections with numbers? That’s what businesses do. My guess is that Google already knows the numbers.

    The Michael Buckleys and LisaNovas and Freds will still be promoted, I bet, because they do generate real revenue. But they represent a tiny fraction of the users who create content.

    I want YouTube to continue its commitment to original content and edge and creativity because it is a good thing to do. But I can’t honestly say that it will generate profits. I don’t think it will.

  16. Candy Says:

    Well written and great suggestions. I have agreed with #1 for ages, I don’t know why they don’t do this.

    As far as #2, though, until they follow through with your first suggestion I am really glad that they feature a lot of people who aren’t partnered/monetized, because being featured is the goal for the little people, their way to finally be seen (if that’s what they’re wanting). The people who are already partners don’t need the featuring as much. If everybody were monetized, though, they could continue this trend AND make money off of every featured video.

    Regarding #3 - what do you think of services like HitViews? Maybe YouTube doesn’t need to step in, but I think there may be a market for other services like this to spring up and represent different YouTubers.

  17. Liam Says:

    “burying the worker ants who’ve carried you this far” is definitely the best metaphor I’m going to read today. Also your ideas are brilliant, Alan. I hope you’re sending them to the right people…

  18. luv4piggy Says:

    “youtube is going about this all wrong by burying the worker ants who’ve carried youtube this far.”

    The last line says it brilliantly.

    I agreed with you 100%.

    We, the ants, made youtube to be well known around the world and youtube is drowning the ants to attract a different audience for the TV shows and movies.

    Sadly, that is low down dirty shame.

  19. luv4piggy Says:

    “If you haven’t ‘made it’ by now, having no commericial backing or support… don’t expect it to get any easier now.” - Blade376.

    My same thoughts, Myles.

    Now, it will be much harder to gain new subscribers and videos views.

    what a shame!

    Youtube shouldn’t forget their loyal viewers.

  20. Alex Says:

    To FantasticBabblings - 95% of content uploaded to YouTube is user-generated. I just wanted to point that out.

    -Alex (nerimon)

  21. Michske Says:

    Just wanted to throw the following out there:
    “What with all the international versions of YouTube… I often stumble across messages telling me the video is not available in my country. Will this change not make the whole front page - where they will deff promote their sponsored material - unwatchable for me and all the other non-US-viewers? Just a thought… Hulu is the same way, the website itself looks good, but I’ve never been able to experience it.”

  22. SimplyJalyn Says:

    This really worries me.
    It’s gotten a lot harder for people to “make it” on Youtube and I know that certainly isn’t the point of the whole website, it’s to put yourself out there, but isn’t that a big part of it? It’s already really hard and with this change it’s gonna get worse. What are they turning Youtube into? Just online TV basically? That’s not fair to all of us and that basically just sucks. It’s called YOUtube. It’s for YOU to put stuff up. Yes okay, Google is losing money but there ARE ways to fix that. Just like you said. Promote more videos by Partners. Even that “Partner more people” thing was really brilliant. I know that the change is probably inevitable but I really wish there was some way we could stop Google from changing Youtube so much. Sometimes good things are good if they’re left untouched. It’s the fact that we’re putting things on there ourselves that makes the site special. This sucks. Bad.


  23. Says:

    Great discussion and great ideas! It would be great if YouTube could make money from amateur and semi-pro videos and not have to sell out to corporate material. The problem is coming up with a way of matching viewers with videos. Right now generic videos are matched to a generic audience. It would be more efficient if there was a finely-tuned way to match sub-audiences with the videos they would find enjoyable. I’m not sure if that’s really possible…

  24. Mirtheous Says:

    I just dugg it, or digged it, or whatever, go Alan!

  25. vanawesome Says:

    well that’s some serious amount of suck right there. Damn it youtube. :(

  26. battim Says:

    i agree with phil. its dream worthy to think they have any other choice. new media is still media. and media still plays by the same group dynamics wired into our nervous systems. its not as different as you want to believe it is. really. it is not.

  27. Chris Says:

    Very well written dude. Everyone who’s a partner on youtube and a regular viewer needs to see this.

  28. Seamus Says:

    I’m a small vlogger. I make videos about politics and stuff and over the time i’ve been youtubing have gained my only little following of 400 subscribers. There are literally thousands possible hundreds of thousands of people out there around my level. I know that i myself would gladly allow youtube to place ads alongside my video from which they take 100% revenue. That money is never going to add up to be anything to me, but when you get hundreds-of thousands doing the same thing, thats a fair little cash boost for youtube, at the very least it’s infintely more than what they’re making from us at the moment.

  29. custommadness Says:

    this is a very well thought out plan alan, if google/youtube had any forethought they would be able to see that this would be a superior idea to what they plan to implement. Not saying that movie tv and music aren’t gonna generate money, but like you said that’s not youtube. it’s like you sister trying not to be easy, she is easy so why try and pretend…right?

  30. FantasticBabblings Says:

    To Alex - the percentage of content generated by users is a meaningless statistic without correlating it with the number of views per unit of content and the cost per unit of monetizing it. Advertisers don’t pay per unit of content. They pay based on views. There has to be a break-even point, and most user generated content falls below that. If you are losing money per unit, you can’t make that up with volume.

  31. Vee Says:

    YT could also offer “premium” packages to users, like what livejournal does. I know I wouldn’t mind paying $20 to have more features.

  32. FantasticBabblings Says:

    To Alex - I certainly am open to the possibility that I am wrong. I don’t know the numbers. But since I am sure Google has a slew of accountants and MBAs and such, my guess is that they do know the numbers. If they have not considered Alan’s idea, then they should investigate and see if it is feasible. My suspicion that it isn’t is just that and not an assertion of fact.

  33. Dennis Says:

    I have been a YouTube Partner for over a year with about 40,000 views per day and doubling every 5 months. I have spend a lot of time filming, editing, uploading, annotating, linking, commenting. I hope this is not the beginning of the end for us! Remember Googles motto “DO NO EVIL”.

  34. alex Says:

    you’re right alan. I think it’s horrible that youtube would just turn its back on the people who made it so popular. Although you have no doubt already sent this to them in an email,i think i might send it as well. The more people who email it, the more chances we have of them reading it.

  35. Architectural Technology - Youtube redesign « The Konstrukshon Weblog Says:

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  37. Surviving the YouTube Redesign » Viral Video Wannabe Says:

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  38. John Lacey Says:

    YouTubers rarely react well to change. I’ve been a little bemused by the sheer quantity and the sheer intensity of responses (mostly ranting vlogs) to things as seemingly as inconsequential as the audio preview button.

    A friend of mine recently suggested that perhaps YouTube videos were going to be phased out in the same way that the humble cassette tape was. What I tried to explain to him was that while the cassette is no longer being produced, there is still considerable demand for music! (And DFTBA Records is a great example of this truth.)

    What I am trying to tell my friends is that it is not all doom and gloom. Don’t Panic! This is not the end of the world. We survived YouTube Live without the sky falling, we can work with these adjustments too.

    I wrote this article about some of my thoughts on the impending changes and some suggestions for YouTubers wanting to maintain contact with their audience. I’d love if you could check out it Alan and let me know what you think.

  39. YouTube Channel Redesigns » Viral Video Wannabe Says:

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  41. TW Says:

    Andrew said:”I think the site youtubers would all go to in an event like this hasn’t been invented yet and we’re still waiting for it.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always wondered why places like LiveVideo or LiveLeak didn’t catch on. Both of them offer similar things to Youtube but I’ve always found the navigation difficult (Liveleak anyways) and the site design horrible. Ok, I’m biased as a web designer but still, they are bad. :P

    If a site came along and offered as much as Youtube and it had a user friendly, open design with just the right amount of ads that it could survive (along with the above mentioned ideas in the article) I think Youtube wouldn’t exist. But then, seeing how they are positioning themselves to be Hulutube, I somehow think they’re heading in that direction full steam ahead.

  42. Mark Says:

    Alan, I could not disagree more. Your ideas are highly suspect. Rather than partner everyone as you suggested, the opposite needs to be done. The partnership program is just a cash drain on youtube. Paying youtube users to upload videos of their cat, doesn’t help the bottom line. It subtracts from it. Youtube became popular because the public could post their homemade videos for fun. It was not done to generate google checks. The percentage of YT users who are partnered is microscopic, in any case, yet the accumulated monies sent out in checks is huge. So canceling the partnership program would simply cancel a tremendous negative cash flow. Really the partnership program makes no sense for youtube.

    Ultimately, though, youtube, like Facebook or twitter, has no viable business model. It become popular because it was a free hosting site. Free doesn’t work in the real world, regardless of how popular it it. The idea in 2005 was that they would make a profit from the ad revenue. That never happened. Ad revenue can’t even pay for the bandwidth.

  43. Patrick May Says:

    At this point, they really ought to remove ‘You’ from the name now. They’ve forgotten how they got to the top, and from here they can only fall backwards.

  44. BLAH Says:


  45. Candida Cure Says:

    Are they going to be updating again in the future? I love youtube but sometimes it almost feels like its become too commercial and the partnership program only further exemplifies this. They’ve gotta go back to their roots, maybe have a chat with Craig from craigslist : )

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