You’ve probably heard it about a million times in the last few months: Facebook’s video platform is gaining on YouTube in a big way. The world’s largest social network has been making a major push to unseat YouTube as the premiere destination for video sharing online, and with its targeted algorithms already trained to deliver the kind of content users want to see, it’s got a major advantage over YouTube’s perpetually glitchy subscription box. Facebook has made some major strides in luring brands to jump on board and it’s been giving YouTube’s stable of online stars the hard sell. However, until now YouTube had one critical advantage helping it hold on to its homegrown talent: cash. With the announcement that Facebook will now join YouTube in sharing a percentage of video ad revenue with content creators, YouTube might want to start watching its back.
YouTube has been king of the online video mountain for almost a decade due, in large part, to the fact that it’s one of only a few major platforms where creators can share in the monetization of their content. YouTube was among the first social sharing sites to cut creators in for a percentage of the profits. The partner program allowed YouTube to surpass all of its early competitors by creating a whole new class of career content creators devoted to producing quality video and earning a living in exchange. In recent years other platforms have tried to improve on this model with VOD or subscription schemes, but none of them have been able to match the scale and reach of YouTube. Facebook is one of the only platforms that can match YouTube and Google in both resources and reach. If it also helps creators to monetize, than this is a bona fide game changer.
Facebook is far from perfect. It still doesn’t have YouTube’s extensive content ID system, meaning that the problem of freebooting, stealing and reposting content is still rampant. YouTube has been buttering up creators for years, and Facebook will have to show them the same kind of love if it plans to inspire a mass exodus. Then again, YouTube has been falling down on the job lately when it comes to creator loyalty.
A number of creators, like YouTube’s prince of pranks Jack Vale, have already been experimenting with sharing content on Facebook. With a large captive audience and the ability to target content to the most receptive viewers via its algorithm driven “suggested videos” feed, Facebook will likely be able to match or even exceed the number of eyes that YouTube can deliver for top content creators. The promise of comparable or superior earnings could turn the tide, but after 10 years of cultivating creators, don’t sign YouTube’s death certificate just yet.