death knell of youtube

Watch Is NOT the Death Knell of YouTube

When any upstart challenger enters into an established space, the old guard is put on alert. Rumors and whispers begin about the downfall of the old and the inevitable rising of the new. With the announcement of Facebook’s Watch, many were quick to trumpet the death knell of YouTube.

It is fascinating to watch Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a “video first” platform come to fruition. However, just because Facebook’s Watch is being rolled out does not mean Zuckerberg will overtake the video platform heavyweight also known as YouTube.

I’ve got a few thoughts on why Facebook’s Watch will not be the death knell of YouTube. No, it’s not simply a case of YouTube being too big to fail. (Remember Myspace?) Read on.

YouTube has Google Behind It

YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine. It’s also owned by Google. YouTube videos can and do rank on organic Google searches. When you own the platform, you can control how the algorithm shows the content.

Don’t expect Facebook videos to show up at the top of the results any time soon. Rather, don’t expect to find a video thumbnail as part of the search results for Facebook video content.

Also, Facebook’s search function for video is not terribly robust right now. Organic discovery of a video is more likely when a friend shares it than if you go looking for it.

It’s entirely possible as Facebook’s Watch rolls out to more users, we’ll see a strong search function for content. Until I get to explore Facebook’s video searchability for myself, I’ll remain skeptical.

Will Facebook’s Audience Want the Same Content?

The audiences for content consumption between Facebook and YouTube are distinct. Facebook users are conditioned to scroll down rather quickly. Right now, most successful Facebook videos are extremely brief – most are under a minute and thirty seconds. Facebook Live videos are a bit longer, with the most successful being at least fifteen minutes.

The most recent research from Little Monster and TubeBuddy suggests that the sweet spot for YouTube video length is between eight and fifteen minutes.

This difference tells us something very important – the audience behavior on the two platforms does not necessarily overlap. Facebook is for catching up and watching funny pet videos. YouTube is the powerhouse for how to and user-generated entertainment.

Plus, YouTube and Facebook aren’t like TV channels. For the time being, there aren’t any rules prohibiting cross-posting. It’s not like the days of “Must See TV” where different networks competed for exclusive rights to content. Perhaps Facebook’s Watch is the start of something similar, but without a huge return on investment, it’s hard to ask for exclusive content in perpetuity.

Furthermore, people are going to pick what they want to watch and when they want to watch it. Sure, timing will continue to be important. (Come on, admit it. How many of you stop and watch those food videos right before lunch or dinner because the dish looks amazing?) But, once that’s all accounted for … will people really go to Facebook for original content? Especially when there’s YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime? I’m not certain the audience will change their content consumption patterns that way.

Facebook has Burned Content Makers Before

Facebook has a history of rolling out new and wonderful offerings. At first, they are a boon to content creators and users alike. Then Facebook learns how people behave and monetizes the benefits. Think about the dreaded “Do you want to boost this post?” that happened to Page Posts.

On the other hand, YouTube is known for supporting and nurturing content creators, because the entire platform really does rely upon user-generated content.

I strongly suspect that after a year or two, once Facebook understands user behavior and triggers, Facebook’s Watch will come with more and more restrictions or more pay-to-play options.

If I were a content provider who rode the wave of Facebook’s Groups then got burned, I’d be hesitant to trust Facebook again with Watch. (I also predict that within five years, if successful, Watch will be a separate application like Messenger.)

My suggestion? Get in early. Get in as soon as you can. If you’ve got bite-sized, snackable content that is eye-catching and will have people stop their daily Facebook scroll, then hop right in.

Wrap Up on Why Facebook’s Watch is Not the Death Knell of YouTube

Facebook’s Watch is not the death knell of YouTube. It’s not that YouTube is too big to fail. It’s that with Google behind it, an audience used to watching for longer periods of time and Facebook’s history of becoming pay-to-play, Watch has a long way to go before it makes YouTube sweat. But YouTube isn’t resting on any laurels either – with Red and Live, YouTube knows it has to continue to grow to capture and retain viewers (and market share).