Online Video: Is the Party Over?

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A look at recent Compete data shows that just about every major online video portal lost traffic last month. Take a look at the numbers, from Compete's February 2010 data.

However, YouTube recently reported that users are uploading six hours worth of video per minute -- a new high. So, while YouTube's upload numbers support that online video is still going strong, its unique visitor count -- along with the other major portals -- shows a significant drop. What, exactly, is going on here?

The key word might just be "portals."

Take the case of Viacom and Hulu. While the major reason cited for Viacom pulling popular series' The Daily Show and The Colbert Report from Hulu was not seeing eye-to-eye on revenue and advertising models, there's an underlying theme; one that might help explain the dropoff in visitors to video destination sites. The thing is, if users want to watch the aforementioned television shows online, they already know where to go -- And if that's the case, who needs Hulu? Who needs YouTube? Well, unless you have the brand equity of a Comedy Central, or a hit show like The Colbert Report ... you do.

The fact is, users have become so accustomed to online video that they have come to expect it on websites across the Internet. And one of the biggest reasons users can find video just about anywhere is that publishers can embed video from portals and give users the option to play it directly on the page. And they do this liberally (rather than linking), in part because they want to keep visitors on their websites.

Consider these statements, from a recent YouTube blog post (my emphasis): "In fact, almost every popular video on the site is first made famous by embeds on the Web. That number can be as high as 50% of views in the first 48 hours, kicking off a great cycle." If this is a trend on the most popular video site on the Internet, you can expect it to ring true with other sites, too. That means your online videos need to be optimized and distributed across multiple portals in order to be found by those who might decide to embed it and share it with their audiences.

And don't count out the effect of social media. People are posting videos on Facebook, MySpace and through links on Twitter. In July 2009, Facebook hit the one billion videos-viewed-per-month mark.

Then there's this long-tail statistic from comScore's 2009 US Digital Year in Review: More than half (52 percent) of videos watched online are viewed on video sites that do not rank in the top 25 online video properties. Which all begs the question, where are your videos? Or, perhaps more important, where aren't they?

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JamesK 03-26-2010 4:07 PM

It appears that there may be a link to the saturation factor.  Just too many sites, many we never even hear of.

People I talk to are burned out by the onslaught  of new websites.  After awhile, it really becomes information overload.

Other tell me they are cutting back on their online usage just to get their lives back to a little more normalcy.  

DeborahW 03-26-2010 4:12 PM

I tend to agree with the "info overload' comment.  In addition, I believe so many other non-video sites are publishing their own video content or re-publishing content found on more traditional video portals.  This will of course, cause a decline in viewership on sites such as YouTube.

Nick W 03-26-2010 4:32 PM

One must not overlook the viral nature of good video campaigns, which when spot on can contribute significant amounts of traffic and exposure.

ReidP 03-26-2010 5:39 PM

There's so many factors to consider when analyzing the stat decreases. (sports- didn't the Olympics just happen? Isn't there two NCAA tournaments going on?) Online video sites are not on the decline (unless Youtube loses the Billion dollar law suit) but we all know people prefer video mediums more than audio or text.

JamesD 03-26-2010 7:45 PM

I have to identify with one of the reasons given for a drop off of views on sites like YouTube.   Just this week someone posted a full episode of "Undercover Boss" on Facebook.  I had never seen the show, so I watched it right there on Facebook - never even went to the network's site, YouTube, or any other site.  How many more times a week do I watch video that is NOT at YouTube, Hulu, or any of the other major sites.  Plus, with my clients videos, we host them on Amazon S3 exclusively because we want to maintain control of them - not leave that control up to YouTube, Vimmeo, etc.  Video is definitely growing and the sites to host it are growing along with it.  Some of those hosting sites are so great that they are actually growing.

JayW 03-27-2010 3:17 AM

Hmmm... let's look at the numbers. YouTube down 6.36%... which translates to: instead of people watching 80 gazillion hours of videos last month, they watched 75 gazillion hours of video... C'mon... seriously? Is this actually concerning to anyone?

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