A YouTube Alternative: Be Your Own Boss

  • by June 7, 2016

Online video content is poised to explode over the next five years. Current projections from Cisco estimate that by 2019, 90% of all Internet traffic will be video. By 2020, 60% of all video will be digital.

This growth is hardly surprising given evolving consumer consumption preferences—according to comScore, last year mobile skyrocketed past desktop to reach the point of most used digital platform.

This presents a potential boon for online publishers and content creators. However, all too often an online video strategy starts and ends with YouTube—especially for small and midsize players in the space.

And while YouTube gets the job done in terms of offering a free and functional video player, it is remnant of a time when it was too expensive or complex for content creators to self-host their videos. This is no longer the case. Publishers looking to take control of their online video content can now profitably do so.

Monetizing content through YouTube takes 45% of a publisher’s revenues off the bat. As of October 2015, YouTube completely removed content of top creators who didn’t agree to the terms of its YouTube Red subscription revenue share deal. Partners who earned a cut of ad revenue, such as ESPN among others, were forced to remove its videos from all versions of YouTube. With increasingly strict terms, YouTube is becoming a less attractive—and less profitable—model for many publishers.

By taking even a small portion of video operations in-house, publishers can yield more revenue and drive higher CPMs with valuable video inventory.

Beyond more profitable ad monetization options, moving off YouTube has other benefits for content creators. Especially when it comes to branding. As online video becomes increasingly accessible for publishers of all sizes, effective branding and marketing efforts will play a critical role in helping content creators differentiate themselves from the competition.

Adopting an owned and operated video platform allows publishers to customize everything from page design to the player itself. Content creators are continually seeking to provide a minimally disruptive experience for their viewers, and the ability to customize page layout and design, and even the player itself, according to brand guidelines is critical.

But control over user experience doesn’t end with branding and design. As has been well documented, YouTube publishers have no control over which ads accompany their content, and similarly, no control over where viewers are redirected at the end of their content.

With no control mechanisms in place to determine the ads that accompany video content, a publisher may find that irrelevant, offensive, or even inappropriate advertisements may be playing before, during or alongside their content. At best, this means that ad monetization is less than optimal. At worst, viewers are potentially being alienated and not coming back to view further content.

At the end of a video, YouTube redirects traffic with videos that yield the highest advertising returns. When publishers take control of their video operations, they can leverage the recommended videos function to lead viewers to new, related, and most importantly, on-brand content. This promotes deeper brand engagement, more eyeballs, and increased views—all of which lead to more ad dollars.

From a marketing perspective, subscriber email addresses are critical for content creators looking to establish ongoing relationships with their fan base. At present, privacy policies prevent YouTube from sharing this sort of information with publishers. However, an owned and operated approach to video gives publishers the opportunity to collect subscriber information, and in turn, provide more targeted and relevant content and ads to ultimately foster long-term relationships with viewers.

There’s no getting around YouTube’s massive size that nobody can match. For some content creators, that’s all that matters and given the size of the audience, sometimes it’s hard to argue with that.

However, while a YouTube-only video strategy may have made sense for online publishers five or ten years ago, there are now other means available for profitable video content monetization. As digital video is poised for extreme growth in the coming years, publishers should consider the massive gains in terms of advertising revenue and branding to be taking an owned and operated platform approach to online video.

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