YouTube (s GOOG) announced new milestones in the amount of video uploaded and viewed by its users Monday. With 4 billion video views daily and more than an hour of video uploaded every second, YouTube not only continues to grow, but its growth is actually accelerating. Here’s how YouTube did it — and what Silicon Valley can learn from it:
The beauty of YouTube, and its greatest strength, is that anyone and everyone can publish to the platform. There’s no hierarchy of decision-makers reviewing scripts and greenlighting projects. There’s no need for an agent. And most importantly, there’s no cost involved with participating on the site. All anyone has to do to become a YouTube publisher is to upload a video to the site.
That’s why YouTube gets an hour’s worth of video uploaded to the site every second. And it’s why people keep coming back, despite YouTube not having much of the Hollywood content that can be found on Netflix (s NFLX) or Hulu. YouTube is a democratic platform for distributing and consuming content. Its stars are discovered not by a studio exec, but elevated and popularized by its own users.
Another strength of YouTube its availability to users around the world, who are able to enjoy all the same content regardless of their location. Anyone with an Internet connection pretty much anywhere can watch the same videos that you and I enjoy. That’s important, especially as most YouTube views come from non-English speaking countries.
It’s also something Hollywood has been bad at managing as the world has gone digital. Much of piracy occurs simply because digital copies of films or TV shows are available online long before they make it to international markets. By geofencing or geoblocking certain content, today’s media companies are missing out on an opportunity to reach audiences directly that are turning to piracy instead. By being global, YouTube is addressing the largest possible audience at all times.
This is different from being global, and speaks more to targeting the wide proliferation of connected devices that have come into consumer’s hands than anything else. YouTube is seeking to make its content available on as many mobile and connected device platforms as possible, which will help its publishers reach audiences regardless of the platform they’re using.
That’s been another failing of today’s entertainment industry. On the studio side, there’s been no easy way to purchase movies that will work across devices until recently. While the UltraViolet initiative seeks to solve that problem, it still has a ways to go. And for the broadcast and cable TV networks, making shows available on new platforms means distributors generally having to secure new rights. That’s led to a hodgepodge of some networks and some shows being available on some devices, while others are not. Once again, the end result is that those publishers are limiting the addressable audience, at the same time that platforms like YouTube are enabling content to be viewed nearly everywhere.
Let’s not kill Hollywood, but offer something better
Some have suggested Silicon Valley should kill Hollywood. I think it’s naive to believe technology companies can or should destroy the current entertainment industry. But at a time when the technology and media industries are grappling over the issue of piracy, the success of YouTube can be used as an example of how other technology companies could make something better.
After all, the advent of self-publishing tools like WordPress or Blogger hasn’t killed the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, but has enabled a great number of independent blogs and technology news sites to also be influential in shaping the news. In the same way, YouTube is enabling video publishers to reach audiences at massive scale and creating a situation where in aggregate, those independents can rival the traditional Hollywood regime.
Being open, being global, and being multiplatform really just translates to being wherever the audience is. It’s about enabling viewers access to more content, not less — which is the real impetus behind YouTube’s accelerating growth. That could be a lesson to other tech companies seeking to offer an alternative to today’s entertainment offerings, or it could be used as a blueprint for some more innovative companies in the existing media regime. Take away the limits to accessing your content, and more likely than not you’ll find more people actually consuming it and more opportunity to monetize it.