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Scraping around YouTube

The Wall Street Journal’s Lee Gomes has been scraping around YouTube and comes up with some fascinating numbers:

  • In one month the number of videos posted on the site grew 20% to 6.1 million
  • Number of video views reached 1.73 billion
  • 70% of YouTube’s registered users are American, roughly 50% are under 20 according to self-reported profile data [this point is especially relevant to marketers considering using YouTube as a media channel]
  • The total amount of time people spent watching videos on YouTube since it started last year is 9,305 years

These metrics are impressive, but there are a few points which I feel need further exploration (hint, hint Hitwise folks…)

  1. How many of those videos are related to brands or products? Of those, how many were UGC vs. brand promo content?
  2. Of the user-base how many are active participants vs. passive users?
  3. Of the videos posted how many reside in the long-tail and how many are at the head? What is the percentage of overall videos with less than 2% traffic?

Gomes also makes note of the types of terminology used within the video titles to infer popularity of subject matter, and finds that the standbuys of “love”, “music”, “dance”, and “girl” are at the top of the list (as to be expected from the majority youth demo). However, he then completely over-reaches with this interpretation of his findings:

Also, nearly 2,000 videos have “Zidane” in the title. Who at a desk anywhere on the planet didn’t watch at least one head-butt video in the days after French soccer star Zinedine Zidane’s meltdown in the World Cup final? For all the talk of the Internet fragmenting tastes and interests, YouTube is an example of the Web homogenizing experiences.

This conclusion warrants further thought from a few angles as it’s quite broad with little context. Yes, there are 2,000 videos with Zidane in the title, but are they all the same? Or are they each a reflection of an individual’s perspective on the incident? Some are funny, some are nothing more than the clip itself, some are shorter, some are longer, etc. Is that homogenization or is it embracing a shared experience, making it your own and expressing it back to the community? Metrics alone, as marketers know, rarely provide a full picture, but rather a directional basis for analysis and interpretation.

Additionally, the Zidane example actually proves the point of fragmented interests – out of over 6 million videos on the site ONLY 2,000 have Zidane in the title. Is that not the definition of niche interests? Finally, user-generated videos are not “The Internet”, but rather one part of a much larger and more complex whole.

[H/T - Micropersuasion]

[photo credit: Al-Fassam on Flickr]

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Comments (5) to “Scraping around YouTube”

  1. Your three points for further investigation are very interesting and would tell quite a story.

    I am interested that self reported data has 50% of Youtube users at under 20. I came across a chart from eMarketer a few weeks ago that has 50% of Youtube visitors in the 35-64 age bracket.

    http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?1004105

  2. Quite interesting Kathryn – I’ll need to dig further into how eMarketer/ Nielsen gathered those stats. I wonder how much of a skew the 30% of traffic reported by Gomes as coming from outside the US may skew the Nielsen numbers, all things being equal?

  3. Just to play devils advocate to these obvious trends – when do we think the popularity will taper off? Meaning, when will it hit its peak? If this occurs before they really figure out how to monetize it, this may be an open window for a competitor to take some marketshare. Since I do not believe we will see a saturated videosite market from the USER side anytime soon – they have time to figure out a solid business model.

  4. Good question Eric, I’m not sure I’d put YouTube into the same category as a MySpace in terms of youth abandoning or moving the trend since it’s much more fluid and not as contrived as a “community” in my opinion. But, like anything I’m sure it will reach a saturation point and start to decline in popularity in which case a ‘newer and better’ competitor will take over (I’m wondering if this might happen with MTV Flux…).

    The “Brand Channels” YouTube’s implemented may go a way towards establishing a base of monetization, but if they become too prominent and the site becomes just another ad vehicle they can be sure to lose users, so it’s a balancing act in the end.

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