What Came First: Content, Audience Or Ads?

As we unwind 2012, there are three strata of video: YouTube, Big Media, and everyone else.  “Everyone else” is being driven by intermediaries, be it ad networks or content networks, but also includes content creators.

For all of the huffing and puffing about Big Media not publishing more video online, the reality is, these traditional businesses are doing better than ever.  Yes, as former AOL and News Corp. exec Jon Miller says, audiences are fleeing online.  But, you wouldn’t know it if you looked at the companies’ share prices: CBS stock being up 10x over the past five years, Disney being at an all-time high – to name a few. 

Malaise?  What malaise?

I covered YouTube’s promise early on in 2006-08, and over the past few months have credited Google for taking YouTube to loftier heights.  When it comes to the “rest,” they are being driven by the intermediaries, be it ad or content networks that serve as clearinghouses between advertisers, content creators and publishers.

As a producer, we’ve always served two client constituencies: the individual users (otherwise known as end-users) who watch the videos but don’t pay for content; and the business users who underwrite the production of content directly or indirectly.

But this year I remind the various stakeholders in our company that even within the business class of clients, we actually have two sub-genres: YouTube and the “Rest of the Web.”  After all, YouTube has broken from the pack, now commanding over 400 minutes per month of video viewing per viewer in the U.S., over four times that of itspeers.

With that said, what are some of the differences between YouTube and “the Rest” of the Web?

Lifestyle vs Entertainment

Video lends itself naturally to how-tos, so it should come as no surprise that companies like Demand Media’s eHow, no-profits like the Khan Academy or personalities like Michelle Pham have leveraged YouTube’s size to establish a large how-to presence. 

But let’s face it: YouTube is an entertainment platform, with music being the leading category.  It should come as no surprise then that YouTube has decided to renew Channels in music, as well as humor, cars and sports.

However, with CPG advertisers underwriting much of the online video boom, no wonder that “the rest of the Web” is growing on the basis of lifestyle programming.

Polished vs Raw

Understandably, YouTube has sought to win over traditional media, with its polished, highly produced programming.  But more often than not, that kind of content has failed to light up the view-counters on YouTube, as the core audience on the site has favored an edgy, raw formula that centers around engaging hosts on a more shoestring production budget.

YouTube continues to be a grungier environment than what you find elsewhere, and marketers are reluctantly opening their wallets.  Why?

Advertiser-driven vs. Audience-driven

YouTube is the best barometer for what the average person watches.  This is not to say that YouTube’s audience is representative of the broader population, but that it’s the best “pull” environment where audiences naturally gravitate.  YouTube is an audience-driven community.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Web has risen with the tide but is a push environment, and is for all intents and purposes an advertiser-driven environment where marketers underwrite the flow of their ads through pertinent content to reach their targeted audience. 

Manufactured vs Real audience

In that context, YouTube’s audience is real, whereas the Rest of the Web’s is manufactured -- not meant in any negative context, but in that in this ecosystem, the content itself is secondary, a means to an end, a prop that relates to the marketers’ advertising, instead of the other way around.

This, in turn, is counter to how Big Media views the world, where their content is front-and-center. 

To summarize, to Big Media, the flow starts from the content; to the rest of the Web, it starts with the ads; and last but certainly not least, to YouTube it’s all about the audience.

Tags: video
Recommend (2) Print RSS