In Depth

Build Your Own Brand, Not YouTube's

YouTube is not the most important online video distribution partner.

Sounds like a pretty crazy statement, right?

After all, Nielsen Online said YouTube delivered 3.8 billion video streams to 68 million unique visitors in May, more than 11 times the volume of its closest competitor.

Yet YouTube is not the most important online video distribution partner.

That statement sounds even loonier when you consider this fact: Hitwise reported just last week that YouTube accounted for 75% of all U.S. visits in May to video Web sites, with MySpace a distant second at 9%. What’s more, YouTube’s market share of visits to video sites rose 26% over last year, while MySpace’s fell 44%.

To top it off, YouTube also has a loyal audience: 82% of the site’s visitors in May were returning visitors from the prior month.

So if YouTube has a ridiculous lead over the competition and a vastly loyal audience, how could it not be the most important online video distribution partner?

Because the most important distribution partner for your show is your site. And that applies to the biggest television network and to the smallest Web series producer.

A broadcast network wants views on NBC.com, CBS.com, ABC.com or Fox.com, where it can sell the ads and build the brand and drive people to its other shows. Or it wants your views to come from Hulu, or maybe Yahoo Video or Comcast.net. Same goes for a Web-only series, like “Ask a Ninja,” “Diggnation,” “Moblogic.tv” or “The Retributioners.”

While the Hitwise data shows that YouTube is the most popular destination for consumers to find and view videos, most are going there for the viral video du jour, the latest music video, or maybe even great sketches from George Carlin, prompted by his recent death.

We go to YouTube when we don’t know what we want. We go there to surf, to look around, to see what others are talking about. Or we go there to find that “Grey’s Anatomy” clip from when George kissed Izzie in the elevator or the Halle Berry sex scene from “Monster’s Ball.”

But when we want to watch a show—the entire show—we usually go to that show’s site, be it a TV network show or a Web-only show site. That’s good for content creators, who can build their brands better on their own site and sell the ads better on their own sites.

That is why YouTube is not the most important online video distribution partner.