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May 18, 2010

Online video: is YouTube hurting your brand?

YouTube, LLC
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Online video is one of the most effective and personal ways you can communicate your arts and cultural messages. And YouTube continues it’s reign as the most popular online video sharing site. After five+ years in business the company recently announced that YouTube’s viewership now exceeds that of all three networks combined during their “primetime” evening time slot, with more than 2 billion views per day. That is a lot of “backyard wrestling” and “check out the world’s fattest cat” videos.

But it’s not all videos on YouTube are sill time wasters. Many arts organizations use YouTube as their video hosting service of choice, listing clips from shows, interviews with staff and artists, audience reactions, informational pieces, and much more. But I’ve had several organizations ask me if they should move to other video hosting services, with a variety of explanations for why this should be considered — some strong arguments, others not so much.

What does YouTube have going for it?

YouTube is free — Quite possibly the most compelling reason to use YouTube is the fact that you can store unlimited videos (of a defined file size and length) for free. In comparing any service, free is a great place to be, and YouTube has effectively cornered the market (thanks to help from parent company Google) on free video hosting. A lot of arts organizations can’t afford video hosting and bandwidth charges (which can be quite high based on the number of videos being served x the number of people watching them).

YouTube is easy to use — YouTube is used by millions of people every day, and has been improving technology for five years — it is a stable system that has been polished by heavy use for a long time. Consequently, people find YouTube easy to use when watching and uploading and watching videos. And as some organizations don’t have a great number of “tech people” on staff, this low barrier to success is useful and appreciated.

People know how to use YouTube — Another very important feature of YouTube is the years of experience users have using it. There aren’t very many options to watching or even uploading a video, and people can easily figure out how everything works. You may find more whiz-bang features in other video hosting services, but if people need to stop and scratch their heads as they try to figure out how to watch your video, you’ve become penny wise but pound foolish.

YouTube is fully social — It’s super easy to embed and play youtube videos on social networking sites such as Facebook. Being able to play a YouTube video in a newsfeed on Facebook is what people expect.

YouTube is doing the software work for you — Hosting your video on your own server is not the easiest thing in the world, and over time it requires you to maintain software that you don’t need to worry about when you’re using YouTube — they take care of all the nuts and bolts so you don’t have to. You just upload video, and share it.

Arguments against YouTube

Video quality — While generally YouTube videos “look pretty good,” there are other video hosting solutions, such as vimeo.com, that have a much higher video quality. And this makes sense when you think about it — YouTube is trying to provide unlimited video hosting for free, and to do that, they have lowered the quality of the videos on their site so that everybody can have more. Sites like vimeo offer paid services, so for that money you’re paying, you’re getting higher quality, more customized features, and larger video sizes.

Length of video/file size — YouTube limits your videos to no greater than 10 minutes in length, and/or 100mb file size. Again, this is an effort to reduce resources that they are providing for free, and YouTube shouldn’t be faulted for it — they are trying to run a business, and are limiting their expenses. The good side to this rule though, is that videos stay short (and stay interesting). This helps people to focus on the idea that they are trying to present, and just get to the point. So if your clips are short, YouTube will work great, and if you need longer videos, you’ll have to check out some other video hosting service (and probably get a paid account).

Other “related” videos show at the end — YouTube wants the user to stay on YouTube and watch more videos, which is why they created the “related video” feature, that shows other videos you can watch at the conclusion of the video you’re watching. Many people don’t know that this feature can be turned off in YouTube, and there is a great article on how to do it.

So all in all, I’m a YouTube fan. The service works well, and the price can’t be beat. For everyday online arts video segments, there is no reason to go with any other hosting provider, unless you have unique requirements (such as needing longer videos or more customized video quality/interfaces). If you’re using YouTube now, stay put. Get yourself a nonprofit YouTube page, and brand it like your site (as an example, Artsopolis as a good looking YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/artsopolis.

If you’re still looking for some other hosting providers to compare, here are a few I’ve had good experiences with:

Vimeo.com | Blip.tv | Dropshots.com

-Ron

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About Ron Evans

I am an arts marketing and consumer psychology researcher, and principal consultant at Group of Minds. I advise leaders on behavioral psychology, marketing & technology to nudge audience behavior. Get in touch via email, on Twitter, or Google+: +Ron Evans