Why the History of YouTube is Great News for Marketers

by Elizabeth Blessing

In the history of YouTube, this headline published by the company on its site in 2005 marks the beginning of a video sharing revolution: "YouTube opens Internet video to the masses."

The founders of YouTube -- 3 young, enterprising former PayPal employees -- uploaded their first video to the site on April 23, 2005. This unassuming 18-second clip titled "Me at the zoo" shows co-founder, Jawed Karim, at the San Diego zoo discussing what he likes about elephants:

Fast-forward a mere 18 months to October 10, 2006 and this New York Times headline proclaims: "Dot-Com Boom Echoed in Deal to Buy YouTube." The accompanying article lays out the details of YouTube's purchase by Google, Inc., for a staggering $1.65 billion in stock.

Just what happened at YouTube that caused it to gain the attention of Internet giant Google and become the envy of well-established media and technology companies?

Let's take a peek back at the history of YouTube to see what we can find . . . 

YouTube in the Early Days

From its beginning, YouTube gained a huge following of avid viewers and video creators. People enjoyed using YouTube and this showed in the numbers. 

In July 2006, Ad Age reported that YouTube was the fastest growing website with traffic nearly tripling since January of that year. In May 2006, 20 million U.S. users visited the site, far outshining Microsoft's MSN Video which came in at 11.1 million users.

While impressive, it wasn't just numbers like these that attracted attention from Google. YouTube proved it knew how to tap into an audience of millions of users who were eager and willing to collaborate with and spend time on the site.

YouTube's "Broadcast Yourself" theme and easy-to-use interface made it a hip place to post and share videos with friends, family and the world.

YouTube in 2006 was unpretentious and cool, an egalitarian site where anybody with a simple video camera could post their amateur video. In this paradigm, the user was king -- creating, sharing, rating and interacting with the site's ever-expanding content. 

YouTube's active and growing user base was an advertisers' dream. By the summer of 2006, both Disney and NBC had signed advertising deals with YouTube. 

What the History of YouTube Might Mean for its Future . . . and for Yours as a Business Owner

Today, YouTube's stats continue to impress:

  • YouTube has one billion unique monthly users

  • Viewers watch 6 billion hours of video on YouTube per month

  • YouTube reaches more U.S. adults aged 18-34 than any cable network

With numbers like these, it's easy to see why all the Ad Age top 100 brands advertise on YouTube today.  

As a marketer of your own products and services, you might want to consider adding a video component to your next campaign (if you haven't already). If you're new to online video advertising, you might find YouTube the ideal place to start.

YouTube is now the world's #2 search engine, second only to its parent company, Google. A huge number of people use YouTube when searching for products, services, how-to information and entertainment. These people are looking for relevant video content.

If you haven't posted video online representing your company, brand, products or services, you could be missing out on a huge potential audience and income stream.

The good news is that it's easier than ever to create videos and post them online. If you decide to create your own videos (as opposed to hiring a company), you'll find quality, inexpensive video cameras and video editing software that will help you create and post good-looking content. 

The YouTube platform itself is relatively straightforward to use -- millions of users have set up accounts, created their own channels and posted videos.

Since setting up an account and posting videos is free, many business owners have jumped at the chance of promoting their products and services to the YouTube audience. If your budget allows, you can also purchase advertising time on other YouTube channels, creating short commercials that appear before the viewer's selected video plays.  

Acknowledging the many people who surf the Internet using smaller devices (tablets and smart phones, for example), YouTube recently implemented their One Channel design, which ensures channels and videos look good on the many screen sizes and browsers available to viewers. This is another boon to the marketer who is looking to tap into the growing audience who watch their video on-the-go.

If the brief (but impressive) history of YouTube is any indication, the future for the company should be pretty bright.

We can look forward to more creators producing innovative content to attract viewers and subscribers... more channel owners making a good living from content they produce themselves... and more opportunities for marketers to get their message out to an audience that is actively searching for their products and services.

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