Maybe content isn't king afterall?

by Rusty Tanton, June 12, 2008 - 10:16am

I remember a few months ago Griftdrift and I were discussing what makes a blog (or a podcast or a news outlet or whatever) popular. My theory was simply that the best content went a long way toward distinguishing an outlet. Alan Cooper called this Best of Market Trumps First to Market.

This article from Podcasting News makes me wonder if that theory is malarkey, and if there are other factors which are more important:

Internet research firm HitWise reports that, while Hulu is getting big shows, it’s not getting big audiences., the joint venture between Fox and NBC that provides streaming video content online, came out of beta on March 15 and has seen a steady share of US Internet traffic since:

The site ranked 33 among Multimedia websites last week and 84 among television websites.

While it is often compared with YouTube, YouTube is attracting nearly 300 times more traffic than

I say this because Hulu has some really excellent content. You can watch entire episodes of professionally-produced television shows from the major networks, including The Daily Show, Family Guy, The Office and The Simpsons. All legal and free and with high quality encoding, unlike on YouTube.

And yet, 1/300 of YouTube's traffic.

Podcasting News posits that the lack of alternative interfaces (podcasts, Apple TV, etc.) is holding Hulu back. I don't think that's true though. YouTube got huge without offering downloadable content or podcasts or access on Apple TV/Tivo/whatever, though some of that stuff has since been implemented.

Maybe you'll say Hulu isn't the best case study because of their early (and arguably ongoing) marketing problems. Fair enough. But that doesn't explain why YouTube is so big and everyone else is so small, despite YouTube's obvious shortcomings (crappy video quality, dependence on illegal content, etc.).

So, if best of market doesn't trump first to market, is it the other way around? Is being first the most important thing? I think one word is enough to discredit that idea: Friendster.

So what is it then? Is it just that YouTube has built a more active community than the other sites? If so, why did it succeed where others have failed?

Tags: alan cooper, content, hulu, podcasting, Podcasting News, social media, video, YouTube

Full a full index of blog entries, visit the blog entries page.


Thomas's picture

In part, it has to come down to time and portability.

YouTube offers immediate entertainment, and rare it is that any of the posted videos are longer than nine minutes. Most come in around three minutes and change. And really, that amount of time isn't too much to ask of anyone. Somebody tells me to check out a two-minute video called "Charlie The Unicorn" on YouTube, so at the next available Internet-enabled moment, I do so. LOLs abound and life goes on.

But tell me to go watch an hour-long episode of "House" on Hulu, and I'm going to have to do a little planning. Perhaps if I had a Slingbox or something similar to redirect the streaming video to the living room? But then I've got shows backed-up on the DVR that need to be watched. And then there's the Wii, the PS2 and somebody is going to have to do the dishes and feed the cats, because they're not going to clean or feed themselves, respectively.

For the little amount of episodic television I do watch these days, I tend to get it in a format that can be quickly encoded and made iPod-friendly. This makes the entertainment perfectly mobile, meaning I can watch the latest episode during a lunch break from start to finish, or in pieces over the course of a busy day. Unfortunately (for Hulu and the like), providing television programs as unfettered downloads remains the purview of websites that are decidedly less than official.

Posted on June 12, 2008 - 3:22pm

Joseph G's picture
Joseph G

I am with Thomas on this one. Unless Hulu gives me an easy way to watch these half-hour or hour-long shows on my television, I'm probably not going to use it. For me to watch something on my computer, there payoff has to be fairly quick.

The thing that makes content on YouTube interesting is that a lot of people are remixing audio and video from the mass media and making new things with it. Whether or not that's "illegal" or fair use is something that our culture is working through right now. Technical factors, like the quality of the video on YouTube, probably don't matter that much to someone who's casually browsing through videos to pass a few minutes.

I do think you're right that being first-to-market and the first-to-get-big is an important factor in all of this. Take ebay for example - I hate ebay. I think their fee structure sucks, I hate that they force you to use paypal, and they've got various other policies that have frustrated me in the past. Unfortunately, if I'm selling certain specialty items, I need to go through them because they are the biggest market & I'm most likely to get the best price there. It becomes a cycle. People shop there because they can find the things they want from sellers. Sellers sell there because there is a large market of people shopping there. I believe the same thing is happening at YouTube.

Posted on June 14, 2008 - 8:57am