Is YouTube the Future of Online Information Marketing?

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Six years ago (October 2006), Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion.  At the time, Wall Street analysts said it was insane.  Overpriced.  Google was “nuts” to use the medical term.  I wasn’t sure if it would pay off, but I recognized how new and innovative YouTube was at the time.

Fast forward 6 years.  YouTube is everywhere.  Internet marketers view it as a free way to host promotional and educational videos.  Big networks post content.  Every major brand in the world uses it.  Most videos posted inside of Facebook are from YouTube.

In fact, YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world after Google.com

Prediction:  YouTube will become more important than Google.com

I remember working at a large bank not so long ago.  The corporate IT policy was to block non-work websites.  YouTube was among them.  This made sense very early on.  But before long anybody involved in industry research needed to watch all of the interviews and other videos that bloggers were embedding on their sites.  I was able to find great content via the Google search engine, but I wasn’t able to consume any of the great videos as part of my day job.  Epic fail.

I predict that it will soon become impossible for IT departments to block YouTube.  Anyone using the Internet for job-related research will need to access its content.  That will mark an important step towards YouTube being more relevant than Google.com

I realize it’s a bit silly to say YouTube will matter more.  We all know Google is creating hybrid search results.  But it’s obvious that YouTube videos rank high in organic search, hence Google is becoming YouTube.  Maybe that’s a better way to put it.

As I write this blog post, Google is worth $243 billion.  They paid $1.65 billion for YouTube.  I’m not sure if YouTube is profitable yet (because Google has been investing in it like crazy).  So Wall Street likely isn’t attributing much actual value to YouTube in Google’s market valuation.  I think this is going to change a lot in the next decade.

YouTube has already made great strides in allowing content partners to monetize their videos.  But this monetization strategy has been limited to simple things like overlaying a text ad and sharing the revenue with Google just as you would as a Google AdSense participant.

Monetizing Videos by Subscription

Earlier this week, AllThingsD had an interview with Robert Kyncl, the guy behind YouTube’s premium channel strategy.  This strategy involves YouTube investing in content creation by known names and brands.  YouTube is expanding the strategy further.  There were some hints, during that interview, that paid channels were a possibility.

Then The Hollywood Reporter posted this article.  It sure sounds like YouTube is exploring the idea of letting quality content partners charge a subscription for their video channels.

Think about Amazon and the Kindle platform.  At first it was major authors.  But now there’s a huge Kindle revolution going on and every Internet marketer under the sun is training people on how to publish Kindle books using the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) platform.  There are tons of successful authors who are not traditionally publishing books under a label.  They’re independent.

Think about Apple’s iOS App Store.  It used to take millions of dollars to create a cool game for a platform like the XBox or Playstation.  Now it takes orders of magnitude less, and you can list your games (or apps) for a couple of bucks in the App Store and sell to the world.  Rovio is famous for Angry Birds.  They came out of nowhere.

I think Google’s YouTube platform is the next big thing for information publishers.  Video is already a proven format that marketers use.  There are TONS of skilled people with great information to share.  And YouTube may be just the ticket for them to monetize their talent without sticking ads on their videos.

Savvy marketers have been selling DVD and online streaming video courses for years.  But if YouTube actually created a simple way for people to sell video content, we have a whole new ball game on our hands.

Think of all the steps required these days to monetize a video product.  Assume you already have promotional videos in place on YouTube or on your own website (likely embedded video from YouTube also).  You want to sell some quality information in the form of videos?  You need a payment mechanism.  You need a delivery mechanism.  And you have to deal with the hurdle of earning someone’s trust before they pay. The fact is that people still worry about getting ripped off should they buy something through your website.

But Google, via YouTube, is a trusted name.  They’re as trusted as Amazon and Apple.  If Google gives information marketers a way to post content to YouTube and charge for subscriptions to a channel, it becomes incredibly easy for anyone to monetize content.  And Google can take a very reasonable cut of this revenue in much the same way that Apple takes 30% of app sales and Amazon takes 30% (or more) of Kindle sales.  This commission is something most vendors of information would be more than willing to pay if it means simplifying the sales & delivery process (and getting rid of the trust issue).

My wife watches amazing YouTube videos that teach her how to craft cool hair styles.  She tries these out on my daughters.  She watches other videos that teach neat make-up tricks.  I’m more of an entrepreneur, so I watch videos that explain how to produce higher quality video, or how to plan live events.  There is a lot of amazing content out there and given the chance to monetize it through a subscription process, vendors will flock to YouTube.

Learning how to produce quality video is a must.

Information marketers have no choice but to start making quality videos if they want to succeed.  The world has shifted, and there is no going back.  Luckily, it is not that hard to get started.

  • Cameras are pretty cheap.  Digital SLR cameras that shoot incredibly good quality HD video are now well under $1000, and if that’s too much a Kodak Zi8 or flip camera is still good enough. Even the iPhone shoots very good video and has microphone accessories available for little money.
  • Lighting:  If you’re doing video of people, make sure to use appropriate lighting.  Buying a few “softbox” lights on Amazon won’t break the bank and will make an enormous difference to video quality.
  • Sound:  Get your hands on decent microphones for the job, too.  If you’re talking on camera a simple lavalier microphone will work well.  The Audio Technica ATR 3350 costs under $20.  I own two of them and they’re great for what I do.
  • Consider hiring a film crew to shoot content. Here in Toronto I just hired a 3-person crew to shoot a live event.  My cost was $150 per hour ($50 per person).  Three hours of work + editing down to a one-hour DVD that we can sell online will cost me about $1000 in total.  Money well spent, if you ask me.  Oh, we spent an extra $50 to rent a light reflector and two wireless lavalier microphones.  Insanely cheap.
  • Screen capture videos are incredibly easy to produce on your own and you never have to show up on camera at all.  Screenflow for Mac and Camtasia Studio for PC are the gold standards in software.  Supplement that with a decent USB headset or stand-alone microphone, and you’ll get great audio quality along with perfect video. I personally use a Blue Snowball USB mic.  It cost me about $100 and the sound is great if I take care to record in a quiet environment.
  • Learn how to organize a content storyboard and write a basic script for videos that you’ll be publishing.  It isn’t that much different from traditional copywriting.
  • Invest in getting help.  If you have no clue about what you’re doing how hard would it be to find a local film school student to help you out?  Post a job on Craigslist or look online for people who can consult with you for a reasonable fee. And if you’re completely lacking interest in learning how to do this stuff just hire other people to do everything for you.  You’ll spend more, but you’ll get video you can actually use.
  • Use offshore talent.  If you save your raw footage in DropBox, or Google Drive, or some other cloud storage system, you can easily recruit someone in a low-cost country (Philippines, India, etc) to help you edit.  I’ve hired people from $3/hr to $8/hr with great results.  You don’t need Hollywood quality work, and you don’t need to pay through the nose to get it.

Whatever you do, make sure you have a video strategy. 

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