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Backlash Unveils Bigger Issues with YouTube

by: John Frazier

Over the past few weeks, a number of U.S. corporations, including Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, AT&T, PepsiCo, and McDonald’s have pulled their ads from the video-sharing site, YouTube. The reason? The companies have complained their ads are appearing next to offensive content, including videos posted by American white nationalists, anti-gay preachers, and terrorism-affiliated groups.

On a recent webinar, Jim O’Neill, principle analyst at Ooyala, a video technology and services company for over 500 companies, said he was surprised the unrest took so long to become an issue. So what took so long for businesses to figure out the behemoth Google-owned content delivery network, YouTube, may not the best place to publish ads or even content?

The allure of YouTube, a site which boasts 1.3 billion users and 30 million visitors each day, is understandable. Currently, there are over one billion videos on the platform and, more importantly, publishing on the site is free. As we all know however, nothing is truly free. A quick glance at YouTube’s Terms of Service for publishers reveals that with every video posted a publisher grants YouTube a “royalty-free, sub-licensable, and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works” his or her content. Are these the types of terms brands should be agreeing to for their video content? Moreover, I’m not 100% sure all content creators own the all-inclusive rights to agree to these terms in the first place.

As mentioned above, the backlash was largely based on ads appearing against videos promoting hate and terrorism. The issue doesn’t stop there, however. Businesses posting videos on YouTube have always been subjected to having competitor videos appear as suggested content to its viewers. This is part of YouTube’s stickiness strategy that grabs your audience’s attention in an effort to keep you on the platform – and just maybe entice them to place an order with your competitor instead of you.

This is where the distribution of video content should be in play for Corporate America. While YouTube undoubtedly has an enormous audience, it may actually make more sense for businesses to distribute its content across more content delivery networks than rely solely on YouTube as the simple, all-in answer for getting a video viewed. If you don’t believe me, check out your own business’ total views on YouTube. Now imagine what that number would look like if your content was available on multiple platforms. In theory, more eyeballs means more sales. That’s a good thing, right?