Why Niche Blogs Should Ditch Custom Video Players & Embrace YouTube.

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Recently someone sent in an email asking why The Come Up has never pursued a custom video player like the ones all our competitors use. In this blog I’ll answer that.

First I guess you need to ask why all those sites use a branded player in the first place. There is one answer and one answer only to this question: MONEY. you can run your own pre-roll advertising on it and you can charge companies a much higher CPM (CPM is the amount of money a publisher receives from a firm per 1000 impressions of their ad, in this case the pre-roll ad popping up before a web video plays counts as one impression) than you can on YouTube.

So why stick with YouTube? There are a lot of valid reasons but the most important one is distribution. YouTube does a lot to get your videos seen:

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One way they do that is via recommended videos. 4 of the top 6 videos here are ours. One is an ad and the other is Adam LZ. YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world. A lot of TCU’s videos get thousands of views a day as a result of search and suggested videos like you see above.

So basically we get a ton of views on our videos that we wouldn’t get otherwise because YouTube does such a great job enabling content discovery.

(Side note: Why do we have a specific How To channel? Because we want to maximize the odds of young kids discovering The Come Up. What do young kids do? They search stuff like “how to bunnyhop” or “how to 360″ on YouTube. Ideally they will find our videos first)

But what about money? Virality is great but if you can’t make any money off of your content, then you’ve got to question the value of any amplification in distribution.

Our YouTube channel makes us money in 2 ways:

1) It promotes our website. The Come Up makes money when people look at our website. More specifically, we make money by selling ad inventory to companies who want to advertise on The Come Up. The more traffic we get, the more companies we can sell advertising to. And the more unique visitors we can report to advertisers, the more assured they are that their ads will reach a large demographic.

So what’s YouTube got to do with that? A lot of our videos shout out The Come Up by name or at least show the URL on screen. We put the URL to our site and all our social networking channels in the descriptions of our videos. Anyone who looks at our YouTube channel itself is immediately reminded that we have are not just a YouTube channel, but a blog that is updated daily.

Does it work? Well here’s a graph of TCU’s unique monthly visitors ever since I started working hard at growing our YouTube channel in November:

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We’ve gone from 170,000 or so unique monthly visitors to close to 270,000. I can chalk up some of this growth to our added focus on Facebook as well, but YouTube was responsible for most of it.

YouTube helps our business by getting us more blog traffic.

2) We run ads through YouTube. I already said that you can make more cash using your own player and selling your own ads but it’s more complicated than that.

If we were to sell our own pre-roll ads we would probably be able to sell that inventory for approximately 4x what we get from our YouTube ad network (actually the advertisers would probably be paying the same amount, we’d just keep it all instead of splitting it with YouTube and our ad network). A 400% increase in CPM is tempting right? Not really. In order to make that transition at least break even, we’d have to be assured that we could maintain at least 25% of our existing video views.

As much as I’d love to believe that my blog is capable of such a feat, it’s simply not possible. When you use your own video player to publish video content on your blog, it soon vanishes into the ether. Sure people search on Google and others search internally (by typing search terms into TCU’s search bar) but this provides very little traffic in comparison to YouTube.

An example: 

Back in November we released a How To video in which Broc Raiford teaches the viewer how to nose manual. I knew going in that this would be a popular video because “how to nose manual” is a common search term and one that appeals to BMX riders, skateboarders, scooter kids and mountain bikers alike. It currently has 70,000 views which makes it the most popular video on our How To channel.

The post in which I unveiled the video on The Come Up got a bunch of traffic at first but it gets very little now. Which isn’t surprising.  Our blog posts typically have a pretty short half life and they are unlikely to show up prominently in Google search unless the user is searching out a specific video or just Googling a rider’s name.

The video itself on the other hand got 20,000 views in just the last MONTH. That’s right, a 6 month old YouTube video went from 50,000 views to 70,000 views in just 30 days, 6 months after it’s release. Did it go viral somehow? Did it get featured on a prominent blog that I don’t know about? Nope:

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Almost all of these views are from YouTube itself. The orange represents the views that came from an embedded player (like the kind that you’ll find on the TCU blog post, which is mostly ranked highly on Google because the YouTube video is so popular) and the blue is direct traffic (ie; traffic of mysterious origin like email, which is likely influenced heavily by YouTube search) but the rest is direct from YouTube. And even most of the blue and orange traffic is probably as a result of YouTube in some way too.

How many views would the how to have gotten if we had used our own player? We’d have been lucky to break 10,000 lifetime. There’s simply no comparison.

An added bonus: in the same month we got at least 96 subscribers from Broc’s video. This is very valuable to us because those 96 people will now be notified via either their email or their YouTube dashboard every time we upload a new video. There’s no way to tell how many people viewed the video and then went on to follow us on Twitter or Facebook as well, but that sort of thing is a big win for us as well; those users are essentially giving us to market to them at will, probably forever. See: Permission marketing.

Oh and another nice thing: if you rank well on YouTube, you’re more likely to show up in direct search via Google:

how-to-nose-manualAs you can see we’re outranking Ride BMX’s blog post, which uses a custom player. Ride has a far better pagerank than TCU and Chad Kerley is a far more well known rider than Broc but we got ranked higher. Because Google owns YouTube and Google wants you to use their player and if you do, they will treat you nicely in return by giving you prominent real estate in search results.

YouTube just makes sense for us. I love the interface and the rich analytics. We have a decent following on there with over 12,000 subscribers between our two channels. We appreciate all the views that YouTube gets us. We appreciate the platform they provide that has allowed us to grow our fan base so much. We consider growth and ubiquity more important than eeking out a few extra dollars per 1000 views. And yes, of course, we appreciate the money that we do make from YouTube and we especially appreciate not having to do our own ad sales.

So that’s why we don’t use a custom player. I guess my question is, why would we?

My name is Adam Grandmaison, better known as Adam22. I write about stuff on this blog and if you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, I’ll make sure you hear about it. It’d also be pretty cool if you subscribed to my YouTube channel and my How To YouTube channel.