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Column: YouTube Is a Search Engine

Sep 28, 2008  •  Post A Comment

As video has become ubiquitous online, the path we take to the billions of Web videos has started to mirror our online routes to other content.
By that I mean search.
Search has become one of the most popular ways to find video online. But I also believe that not only is search the tour guide to Web video, YouTube itself is becoming something of a search engine for video.
For starters, let’s look at the broader consumer behavior online.
In August search engines were responsible for sending 29.5% of all traffic to video sites, up from about 22% a year ago, according to data from online audience measurement firm Hitwise.
The trend is similar for YouTube specifically. Over the last year, traffic from Google to YouTube has grown by more than 70%. Currently Google is responsible for 23% of all traffic to YouTube.
“YouTube is a repository of videos and where you go to search for videos,” said Bill Tancer, global head of research at Hitwise and author of the recently released book “Click.”
And because it’s a repository, it’s becoming a search engine. Can’t remember who kissed whom first in last season’s finale of “Grey’s Anatomy?” Go to YouTube and search. Want to see Sarah Palin spoof videos? Take a look on YouTube. Your kid hankering for a “Pokemon” fix? Find it on YouTube.
But let’s give credit where credit is due. This idea of YouTube as a search engine came from Joy Marcus, general manager, North America, for the video site Dailymotion, during a recent interview. I asked her how she differentiates her site, which she deemed a “programmed environment,” from the competition. “The YouTube differentiation is simple. YouTube is an amazing search engine,” she stated.
And you know what? It kind of is.
Sure, I know there’s a lot more to the site. In fact, YouTube spokeswoman Kathleen Fitzgerald pointed out that YouTube has many other features, such as annotations, sharing, video responses, contests, personalized recommendations, channels, voting and ratings, as well as search, she said.
“YouTube has some features of a search engine, but it’s more of an entertainment destination with search capabilities,” she said.
YouTube, then, is in the eye of the beholder. So how do you use YouTube? Is it becoming a search engine for you? Post a comment on TVWeek.com and let me know.

38 Comments

  1. Whiteny I agree with you totally. Few days ago I read in an article which was about campaign centric website. The author of that article stated that people now search internet they dont surf internet. The same behavior is being carried out with YOUTUBE. It is being treated more of a search engine rather than surfing it.

  2. Hi Daisy — YouTube is becoming a gateway to video search simply because it has such a huge portion of the videos on the Web. I use Google video search (six of one, half a dozen of another perhaps) but I like that it allows me to see videos from other sites. I don’t see YT losing its dominance anytime in the near future; however, as high quality video creators pursue exclusivity windows with individual platforms for 12 or 24 hours (e.g. “Back on Topps” on FOXSports.com and “Pink: The Series” on Vuze) and specialized sites like 5min and Howcast keep growing, I like to pull from a broader bucket when I start looking for something.

  3. I agree with the core of your thesis-You Tube is still only as good as the content uploaded and the tags added.
    So while it is a huge DB of video-it is short of being a true search engine.

  4. Definitely agree! In my office we default to youtube for everything from music videos to politics to humor to sports clips.
    I go to youtube for everything EXCEPT nbc videos that is. For those, I hit up Hulu. :) They’re very diligent about taking them down and I think I’m already trained to know that.

  5. I agree more with Alex Gordon. YouTube is more of an aggregator of certain types of online video that happens to have search functionality. Google is still king of online video search given it shows results from Hulu, Break, Vuze, etc.

  6. While YouTube may have a great search engine for video, until it crawls and indexes lots of other video sites with richer attribute modelling, it’s not a place to look for:
    * longer formats
    * genres not indexed in its’ category model
    * higher def P2P video on Miro, Blip, or Viddler
    http://richreader.blogspot.com/

  7. You hit the nail on the head. I was looking for some video clips today and I started with Google and after a couple of searches went straight to YouTube and found the videos I was looking for.

  8. I always search YouTube for video first.
    Now if they can just sell some more inventory life will be good for all of us. 😉

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