Has hulu killed YouTube?

May 4, 2009

News: Someone wrote to me: “Now youtube is a social disaster, No one gets recognized anymore and its all about the bigger companies that pay google to have themselves on the front page….Google=PHAIL! If you agree lemme know.”

I’m not sure whether I agree, but YouTube definitely is changing. I do agree it’s more difficult to find amazing amateur talent on YouTube, as in the lonelygirl days of before. But whether the reason lies with the lack of talent or YouTube’s decisions, it’s hard to say. The big amateur hits were never really the product of YouTube’s own promotion. They just bubbled up from massive views.

But YouTube has changed the design of its site in a way that has not been helpful to promoting amateur talent. Because of its inability to generate serious ad revenue, YouTube has taken steps to promote more professional content and basically to become more like hulu, the joint project between Fox and NBC Universal that was first touted as the “YouTube killer.” Now ABC/Disney have joined hulu, too.

YouTube still has a commanding lead of the video market share and percentage of videos viewed online (40%); hulu places 3rd at 2.6%. There is a growing perception, whether justified or not, that hulu is more successful in generating ad revenue, given that all of its videos are professional media content (and not the risky or edgy user-generated content). It’s pretty evident that YouTube is trying to copy that business model and generate more ad revenue through professional (not amateur) content.

What this means for the future of user-generated videos is hard to say. It seems unlikely that YouTube will abandon UGC and stop offering free server space to millions of amateur videos. But it also may be that YouTube will continue to redesign its site in a way that will focus on and feature much more prominently professional media content. And, in the process, the free spirit, “broadcast yourself” ethos of the startup YouTube will be lost…perhaps forever.