In February 2005, three guys out of PayPal started YouTube, the largest video destination site in the whole world. It is commonly acknowledged that one of YouTube’s key success factors was allowing users to grab a video from YouTube and place it on their blog or site, outside of Youtube.com.
What sounds obvious today was unheard of at that time. I can remember conversations with other leading video portals mocking YouTube for “being fools to allow it, as they are losing users.” Those video portals are no longer leaders. Distributing embedded videos around the web won. YouTube won. “Closed” sites lost.
In Google’s language, YouTube “did one thing well”: making video distribution through embedded videos around the Web accessible and easy.
Almost seven years later, AOL buys 5min to capture its network of sites and video catalog, CineSport is reported bigger than ESPN in video views on ComScore, and NDN is killing it in the news sector. What’s common to these companies is one thing: the power of aggregating content and distributing it to the Web in a relevant way to sites that don’t have that content.
So I must ask: Where is YouTube? In 2011, YouTube was focused on expanding its partner program in which major content owners place their content on YouTube, and YouTube pays them a share of ads that they sell. Nice.
However, while YouTube is spending so much time making its own tower a little taller, hundreds of millions of dollars are poured into this “syndication/distribution” space, essentially doing what YouTube was bound to do itself -- taking videos from one site and pushing them out in a relevant way.
Writing this article, I called to some very smart folks at Google and ex-Googlers whom I appreciate a lot, asking: “What’s going on with YouTube? Have they lost their cool and distribution ways?” They tell me that Youtube might one day just replace AdSense ads with YouTube videos. Interesting. However, this will not really increase the pie for Google -- which is quantified by real estate Google owns on web pages today-- but rather replace one slice of revenue with another.
If YouTube was to offer its phenomenal aggregated partner videos to third-party sites in a scalable and relevant way, YouTube would win new real estate on the one thing that made them to begin with:the Web.