YouTube (And Much of Online Video) Needs to Grow Up


      Bookmark and Share

BEST PRACTICES SERIES

Earlier this year, I decided something was wrong with YouTube. I was watching a short vlog from Shane Dawson, one of YouTube's biggest sensations with more than 13.3 million subscribers across three channels. He was vehemently ranting about Sony issuing a takedown notice for one of his Taylor Swift parody videos. The 26-year-old Dawson is only a few years younger than me. But his video made me feel as if he were a 2-year-old throwing a temper tantrum.

Now, I'm not trying to belittle the frustrations of creators, but Dawson just made me want to slap him and say, "Stop cussing! Don't you realize there are kids watching how you handle this thing?" That's when I stopped watching and asked myself, "Since when did YouTube become so childish? Or am I now simply too mature for what it has to offer?"

YouTube is, of course, only 10 years old-and online video, as a whole, is a very young industry. And yet, within that time frame, digital stars, multichannel networks, and branded entertainment have risen exponentially. This growth has been mostly driven by tweens (ages 8-11) and teenagers who obsess over online video creators the way that people used to obsess about the Beatles. It's why multichannel networks, such as AwesomenessTV, have their own young adult book imprints, and why DigiTour Media is doubling the amount of in-person shows it hosts this year featuring social media stars.

This teen focus is a problem plaguing much of today's online video, because if the industry hopes to grow profits during the next few years, it has some work to do. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on how YouTube is only breaking even in terms of profit, despite 1 billion viewers a month, likely due to its narrow young adult audience. And while there are stats proving teens are more likely to buy products endorsed by their favorite digital stars, brands that advertise in the online video industry aren't reaching people who are likely to have even more spending power-Millennials and older adults.

Without reaching more than just teens, how are online video outlets supposed to attract advertisers? How will sites such as YouTube grow their profits and stay afloat instead of just breaking even?

There are, fortunately, more places adults can go to find quality video content aimed at their intellectual level and at their entertainment or practical needs. For example, Kin Community is a lifestyle-focused online video network for women, and Break Media's Made Man has some decent content for male viewers. Both of these networks are rife with advertising opportunities aimed at adults.

Also, in terms of family content, Netmums co-founder Siobhan Freegard just launched a multichannel network called Channel Mum, aimed at British Millennial parents who want quality video from mommy vloggers. And other companies such as Nickelodeon, which just launched its own subscription service aimed at preschoolers, know people my age who grew up with YouTube are starting to look for online video products our entire families can enjoy.

These kinds of companies are the ones YouTube and other online video companies must start to emulate if they hope to grow revenue. Currently, many of the popular online video companies or networks are not working to gain an adult audience. There's a clear distinction between what tweens and teens are going to watch versus what people 24 and older will view.

Don't get me wrong-there's certainly a place in online video for teen-focused content. I also know how difficult it is for brands to even get eyeballs on their pre-roll or on-page video ads. It doesn't help that we Millennials tend to be distracted when we're watching video; in 2013, 49% confessed to multitasking. So simply creating "grown-up" online video outlets, companies, and networks doesn't completely solve the industry's long-term profitability problem.

But it's a good start.