Many media producers are flocking to YouTube for their digital video initiatives as they realize the value that the platform has for capturing audience attention. Look at Psy’s Gangnam Style hit song, which garnered more than 1 billion views, or the countless productions that started on YouTube and have amassed followings large enough to move beyond the channel, such as My Drunk Kitchen or Annoying Orange. But what many media companies don’t seem to realize is that YouTube is just one publisher in a vast ecosystem of publishers. A strategy beyond YouTube must be implemented to allow for audience expansion and sustainable monetization. In other words, YouTube is a great starting place for building your video presence, but it shouldn't be the only place you syndicate or publish.
The benefits of publishing through YouTube can’t be ignored. YouTube has the potential for large viewership (more than 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month, watching 4 billion hours of video). It has the second largest search engine in the world next to Google and is owned by Google. YouTube also offers useful video hosting features, such as SEO, social integrations, and embedding and batch uploading for websites. And, let’s not forget the big F word – FREE! But for companies that are serious about building their audience and generating real revenue, YouTube should be part of a larger whole. Media companies that build their entire strategy around YouTube will face some major limitations and infrastructure obstacles when they are ready to grow.
- Monetization – You can earn money from advertisements on YouTube, but it’s a very closed system. When you establish a channel on YouTube, you have the option to become a YouTube Partner and have ads shown on your videos for a payment. However, these payments average out to $2 per 1,000 views at scale. Psy made an impressive $4 million on Gangnam Style, BUT, he had more than 1 billion views; this isn’t the norm. Furthermore, YouTube has requirements around the minimum price that may make it difficult to sell into your own content. Don’t get me wrong – Google has your back and will sell against the inventory, whether directly or through the Google AdX, but you have very little control over the economics. YouTube should not be your only source of monetization.
- Syndication – Syndication presents similar challenges to producers. Say another publisher wants to embed your content onto their site to engage their audience; they could easily embed a YouTube player. However, you do not control the economics of this type of distribution, nor is it you who is syndicating to the publisher – it’s YouTube. On the other hand, if you control embedding of your content into publishers’ sites, you’ll be able to build new relationships. And if you also have them embed your player, you’ll be able to control the ad monetization (whether sold by them or you), lowering the barriers of entry for ad prices (see point 1).
Yes, you should have a YouTube channel, but its purpose should be to tap into the YouTube audience, not serve all of your video publishing and syndication needs. In fact, with their new channel-level subscription service, it would be shortsighted not to have a channel. But, in today’s fragmented environment, publishers need to be everywhere because monetization isn’t limited to just YouTube. You will need a video solutions partner that can provide a platform for your video workflow and distribution, as well as help you reach audiences through as many publishers and platforms or give you the control to do it yourself. It take a lot more work than simply building a channel on YouTube, but with audiences going everywhere, you need to follow.