There was a palpable atmosphere of dissatisfaction with YouTube this week at an online video conference where it should have been the star of the show.

An interview with Steve Chen, co-founder, at NewTeeVee Live was preceded by panels where YouTube’s business model and popularity were questioned.

“The lack of monetisation on YouTube today is astounding,” said Dennis Miller of venture capital firm Spark Capital.

“You’ve got the single best monetising machine that can’t figure out how to monetise all those eyeballs. There’s some paltry number out there for the millions of streams they serve.”

Mary Hodder, the founder of video search engine Dabble, said there was now enormous fragmentation of the market with a proliferation of online video sites.

She cited how six months ago she surveyed videos being referenced by Digg members and found nine out of 10 were sourced from YouTube. Now only one out of 10 were from Google’s $1.65bn acquisition.

Steve Chen’s interview was interrupted by a heckler shouting “HD! HD!” in a criticism of the quality of YouTube’s videos and its failure to innovate with high-definition offerings.

“Someone scream out ‘Better Content!’,” added an audience member nearby.

Mr Chen, sporting a Kim Jong-il style quiff, argued there was little need for HD quality when YouTube clips were generally less than 90 seconds long.

He said YouTube was focusing on improving playback quality with technology that would detect whether a user had a broadband connection – many of its overseas users still lacked one.

The YouTube co-founder was vague on monetisation, but said that with users spending on average 15 to 20 minutes on the site, there would be revenue opportunities.

Asked about Viacom suing Google over copyright infringement, he said content owners could ask for material to be taken down or keep it up, use it as a marketing tool and work out ways with Google to monetise it.

The fact remains that YouTube has been months late in introducing Audible Magic’s content filtering and has missed out on high-quality content deals as leading media companies have lost patience with the service and set up their own sites, such as NBC and Fox’s

It is still a young company but is now within a much larger one, and smaller rivals are beating it to new features and high-definition content.

But while there may be dissent among the videorati of Silicon Valley, YouTube’s status in the public’s eyes is still considerable. According to Nielsen Online, YouTube was the seventh most popular brand online in the US in October with a unique audience of 57m users.

Get alerts on Viacom Inc when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article