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‘Over the last few years the web has fundamentally shifted towards user-driven technologies such as blogs, social networks and video-sharing platforms’. (Smith 2009). Since the birth of YouTube, the popularity of the social based website has grown to extraordinary levels with latest statistics from the website showing that on an average day, more than five hundred years’ worth of video content has been watched worldwide. YouTube was founded by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim who were all employees of the company PayPal. The men decided to leave PayPal and start their own website dedicated to video sharing after seeing a rise in popularity of people watching videos online but also the difficulty that there was to share that content. After purchasing the domain name ‘YouTube’ in February 2005, they spent the next few months working on building the site where in April of the same year, the very first video was uploaded. This video was called ‘Me at the Zoo’ and was used as part of their beta trial of the site. This particular video is still available to be watched today. In December of 2005, the website finally went public and 8 million video views were seen each day. (YouTube 2012). A month before the site went live however; the founders of YouTube secured an investment deal of 3.5 million dollars from company Sequoia Capital. Less than a year after YouTube went live in October of 2006 the website giant Google saw the popularity in YouTube and bought the company for 1.65 billion dollars.
Since its creation, YouTube has grown rapidly with over 42 hours of video uploaded to the social media sight every minute (Parr). In comparison to when it first began, YouTube has expanded to a global audience, with billions of videos watched by audiences every day. Over the years it has gone through changes to improve its design, interaction and communication in order to maintain its popularity. The very first major company to sponsor YouTube was Nike, with a video of a Brazilian soccer player going viral in late 2005 (Lidsky). In 2006 it entered an advertising partnership with NCB, developing its financial credentials. Furthermore, it was bought by Google in in October that year for $1.65 billion (Lidsky). This can be said as the main factor to announcing YouTube as a serious threat in the online social media world. Not only had it been recognised, it was viewed as a tool for expansion and utilization. However, in 2009 YouTube was gaining only $240 million when it was spending ‘$700 million storing and serving all that video’ (Lidsky). Later in 2009, YouTube signed companies including Disney and some Hollywood studios organisations in order to launch its ‘YouTube Rentals’ idea, an online service where ‘full length movies can be viewed instantly after payment’ (Article Alley). Contrastingly, in terms of its popularity, things appear successful for the site as in January 2012; YouTube stated that the site had over 4 billion views per day.
The way in which YouTube differs from a standard blog is with the interaction the content producer is able to have and deliver to their audience; this interaction allows for developers of this content to gain a better understanding of their audiences ‘like/dislikes’, direct feedback from their audience through ‘comments’ and even other users ‘video responses’ that can add to or debate the original video. Content producers are able to utilize other various features that can help them keep within interaction of their audience through the ability to live steam with them which allows for direct communication throughout the live stream via chat. Webpage imbedding is also another way in which the developer of the videos is able to connect with the community; having their videos placed up on related webpages or forums allows for communities relating to their content to stay informed without directing them away from their regular websites.
While YouTube offers the usual features found on most social networking sites such as like/dislikes for videos these statistics have more of a meaning done through this medium with video statistics. These statistics give information to not only the content producers but to also the viewer; for the content producers the statistics page allows them to understand where their viewership mostly come from over the world; it is able to track locations, time of day for highest views, age and sex of their audience (if they are logged in when they view the videos), even if there has been any drop off in their video and when so the producers are able to know what might be disinteresting their viewers. As for the audience they are able to receive information through their own viewing habits through information gathered and used from the statistics of YouTube; this is done through like/dislikes that feed back to the user showing videos more along the lines of what they’ve liked and less of what they haven’t, advertisements through the forms of featured videos also play a role in catering themselves to a viewer general preference.
One of the bigger features enticing greater video output for developers is the partnership system laid out by YouTube; a lot of this system had been originally only for users with large viewership. These benefits have been more so recently opened up more for public use to allow users who develop videos a monetary payment for their content through advertisements. Users who agree to a content contract that all of their content produced is completely owned by the producer they can then go into a standard partnership with YouTube allowing up to three different forms of advertisements into their videos and if clicked or the video advertisements fully viewed they are then able to receive a small monetary payment in return. This service becomes more beneficial for users with higher classed partnership as they can also be paid on viewers that are brought to their video as well as other abilities such as the option to live stream and also set up a series mode for their videos where users can watch them in succession to each other.
What makes YouTube different to other social networking sites? Entertaining marketing manager for YouTube, Sara Pollock, believes it is not necessarily the site itself which makes it different, it is the viewers. She claims users ‘not only watch content, they rate it, they share it, they comment about it…’ (Couvering). It provides audiences with a unique communication and interaction experience that is not available in some social media sites. She also asserts it is the freedom that YouTube offers which is distinctive to it. The concept of a ‘YouTube Partnership’ can be adopted between individuals/groups that create the videos and YouTube itself. As Google owns YouTube, they decide who ‘have enough of the right kind of content to partner with you, in which case you are deemed “monetizable,” and YouTube can begin selling ads to appear in and around your videos’ (Couvering). In an interview of Benjamin Faes, Managing Director of Media and Platforms at Google, he believes one of the major aspects that separate YouTube from other networking social media sites is that ‘it has the biggest reach and has the highest user engagement of any other video platform’ (Fernandes). He backs this up by explaining how its appeal derives from its ability to interact and connect with audiences while providing them with a great digital experience.
YouTube is without question, one of the most popular and widely used forms of social media as a way for people to upload and share videos of various situations. Its popularity is so great that it is one of the most viewed and visited websites worldwide. Society has taken on board and embraced this new way of communicating with such enthusiasm and the statistics behind YouTube support this. YouTube videos once used to only be able to be viewed on a computer, however now, the traffic from mobile devices such as iPhones and Android phones, has increased and now ‘More than 20% of global YouTube views come from mobile devices’ (YouTube 2012). YouTube has only been available to the public for six years; however in that time YouTube has undergone some very important milestones. Some of these include in 2011 where it was estimated that over 1 trillion videos were watched worldwide. This equates to being about 140 views per person on Earth. Also, according to the YouTube website, over 72 hours of new content gets published onto YouTube every minute. With statistics like this it is very clear that society has fully embraced YouTube.
Clearly YouTube is becoming a major part of our everyday lives, providing us with entertainment and interaction each time we use it. Its development since 2005 has been rapid, a result of its ability to reach its audiences expectation and desires in the social networking world.
2010, ‘History of YouTube’, Article Alley, viewed 1/10/12
Couvering, A 2012, ‘Pay to Play’, Filmmaker Magazine, New York, Brooklyn, viewed 1/10/12
Fernandes, I 2012, ‘Social Media Technology Thought Leader Interview Series’, Mediacom, Canada, viewed 1/10/12
Lidsky, D 2010, ‘The Brief but Impactful History of YouTube’, Fast Company, New York, viewed 1/10/12
Parr, B 2010, ‘Youtube Surpasses Two Billion Video Views Daily’, Mashable Social Media, New York, viewed 1/10/12
Smith, T 2009, ‘The social media revolution’, International Journal Of Market Research, 51, 4, pp. 559-561, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 2/10/12.