“The play button is the most compelling call to action on the web.”
– Michael Litt, co-founder and CEO of Vinyard
Content isn’t king of the web anymore; unless it’s video.
Even advertisements can’t escape the demand for video; Business Insider predicts that online video, “. . . will account for 41 percent of total desktop display-related spending in 2020.”
Social media powerhouses, Facebook and YouTube, are looking to cash in on the impending supremacy of video content.
For over a year, the two social juggernauts have been going toe-to-toe in the video realm.
Back in January 2016, Facebook, which had already been pushing video content heavily, announced users were consuming more than 100 million hours of video every day.
As a measure to push video to even greater heights on its platform, Facebook began prioritizing live video in its algorithms.
Then, in an effort to bring influential figures to Facebook Live, the company began paying celebrities and media companies to stream content.
Following this move, in April 2016, Mark Zuckerberg announced via his Facebook page that live video was available for all of its users; furthering the network’s attempt to capitalize on the growing video trend.
Not to be outdone, YouTube revealed in June of 2016 that it too would be rolling out live streaming mobile features.
In September of that year, YouTube took a page out of Facebook’s…. well, book, by implementing social features via YouTube Community.
While a little late to the game, YouTube’s live feature is now rolling out to creators with more than 10,000 followers, with wider access coming in the following weeks.
This, however, is just the beginning to what is sure to be a long and hard-fought battle.
Objectively speaking, for either platform to win this war, content creators are going to be the keys to the kingdom. And these social authorities are likely to go with whichever network is willing to tout the biggest financial benefits.
As YouTube boasts a tremendous amount of creators, this seemingly bodes well for the company; but not so much for those looking to build an audience.
YouTube’s network is so competitive that the platform has become saturated with folks looking to grab a fist full of YouTube money, meaning that many videos never see the light of day.
This also means that creators are more likely to venture to other platforms (Facebook) where their content can be better seen and they are more likely to rake in larger revenues from ads.
As it currently stands, YouTube influencers gain the bulk of their earnings from advertisements displayed before the video plays via its partner program. Even in that respect, however, YouTube has faced some recent hurdles with creators threatening to leave due to its “ad-friendly” content policy.
Moving in to capitalize on this backlash, as well as pushing to gain more influencers on its platform, Facebook recently began testing mid-roll ads for its live and non-live videos.
This ad placement is arguably better than YouTube’s pre-roll option because viewers become invested in the video they are watching and are more likely to stick around until after the ad is over.
YouTube has also found its own way to monetize its live streaming efforts with Super Chat. The feature, which allows YouTube viewers to pay money to have their comment appear at the top of a live chat box for up to five hours, allows creators to earn additional revenue during live streams. As for how much of a profit creators earn from this feature, Barbara Macdonald, a YouTube Live product manager, stated that, “…the creators are the vast majority share.”
This feature is currently available to select channels, but there is a good chance it will become more widespread as its live video element moves into full swing.
This form of monetization, however, does not benefit creators in significant ways — users only pay $5-$10 to have their comment featured.
Additionally, Facebook still touts more video advertising options. The social network also enabled video ads to appear inside articles through its Audience Network last year. That does not take into account the vast array of ad experiences the website flaunts which can be used to push video content to new heights.
And with Facebook’s recently introduced video search feature, it seems that YouTube is losing the number of unique features that it has over Facebook’s platform.
On the other hand, while Facebook has enabled its videos to be embedded on other websites, such content does not appear in the search engines.
Since YouTube is owned by Google, much of its content appears in the SERPs, giving it a massive advantage in discoverability because the search engine is responsible for driving millions of views for its video network.
Outside of that, and its sheer number of creators (which Facebook is attempting to sway onto its platform), it would seem that YouTube is currently losing a lot of ground to Facebook.
All of this trouble, added to the YouTube’s late arrival to the live arena, could result in major problems for the video giant.
Facebook has been continually ramping up its video content and repeatedly updating its Facebook Live features to keep people engaged and producing more videos.
And engagement is where Facebook is taking a massive lead. A number of amateur studies, as well as one from Moz, points to the fact that video creators receive significantly more shares and views than through YouTube. This means that for people who are still in the process of building their brand, Facebook will help their content spread further, faster.
So that brings us to answer the ultimate question: Who wins?
The answer, for now, is: Everybody wins. Content creators and video consumers alike can reap the benefits of this epic social battle.
As of now, digital video is a raging phenomenon and people just can’t get enough of it. With Facebook and YouTube’s struggle for supremacy, it is only fueling greater benefits for content creators as each platform vies for their loyalty.
When it comes to businesses and creators, both platforms have their advantages, but Facebook does possess a slight edge. Between the YouTube video vacuum and Facebook’s higher engagement rates, diverse ad experiences and mid-roll ads, influencer acquisition, new video-focused features, and extreme investment into video content, YouTube’s power will likely begin to wain in the years ahead.
That said, Facebook and YouTube won’t oust each other any time soon; with video the mainstay diet for digital consumers, there’s plenty of market share for both to enjoy. Right now, there will be no crowned king. But it sure is fun watching them duke it out.