YouTube Is Bigger Than France

CIQ Headlines

No really. I just learned that at the OMMA Video Conference in New York, put on by Media Post.


Here’s how those numbers work. According to Brian Cusack, Sales Manager of You Tube, France is a country of 68 million people. In March, You Tube’s Comscore number was 85 million visitors.


So, according to this logic, YouTube is the 4th largest country in the world, behind China, India, and the US. And, as I mentioned before, already well ahead of France.


YouTubers aren’t the only ones at this conference quoting YouTube numbers. Nor is it only this conference. In fact, citing stratospheric YouTube statistics is getting to be a sport among digital video enthusiasts. Here are some more…


A Levi’s viral ad placed on YouTube shows a guy jumping into a pair of 501 jeans. Literally, he’s bouncing on his bed while a partner holds the pair of jeans. Bounce, bounce, bounce, then WHOMP! He lands in the jeans. In the first day of this video being posted on YouTube, it got 1 million views.


Soulja Boy is a kid who created his own dance craze through posting his “Crank That” dance on YouTube. He got 26 million views. Then others, both amateurs and professionals, did their own Crank That dance videos. If you add up Soulja Boy’s views and his imitators, you end up with 500 million views.


And then (here’s the whopping number) in that same month of March– the one when YouTube beat France– the site had a total of 4.3 billion video views.


So, here’s the thing. Just as a point of reference: The population of Planet Earth is, at this moment, according to the World Population Clock, 6.75 billion. The population of the United States is somewhere around 310 million.


Is it just me, or do the online video numbers not add up? I’m willing to be convinced. I’m a huge fan of online video. Content must move into new formats if it is to survive.  But I have to ask, are the numbers real? If so, what on earth do they mean? Is there any way to compare them to offline numbers?


Put another way, if Soulja Boy’s knock-off videos got 500 million views, how come I never heard of it? Okay, perhaps I do live under a rock, but a lot of other people at this conference hadn’t heard of it either and I can tell just by looking at the attire here they are a LOT hipper than I am.


Jonathan Miller, former Chairman and CEO of AOL and now founding partner at VC firm Velocity Interactive Group, began today’s conference by talking about measurement. He quoted a former boss speaking years ago about Nielsen. That network executive said, “The numbers are absolutely wrong. But relatively correct.” Miller called for better measurement as a key building block to the eventual monetezation of online video.


Is it possible for numbers to be too large? Perhaps it is. How is a brand supposed to understand that YouTube is indeed bigger than France, and that its video views are regularly blowing away Super Bowl audiences? How does all that scale compare to TV audiences? Are products just flying off the shelves for companies that are creating these videos? If not, then what’s different? Is YouTube simply fragmentation aggregated? On an enormous scale? Maybe it’s not France. Maybe it’s more like the Milky Way.


Media buyers here say brands are scared. I don’t blame them.  I’m scared. “Billion” is a scary word, whatever way you slice it. They’re even throwing around the T word.


I concur with Jonathan Miller. Monetezation will require an agreed-upon metric. However flawed. But we also need much deeper analysis than we currently have of what all those numbers mean.


Fine. I buy it. Maybe YouTube *is* bigger than France. But if YouTube is now its own country then it needs a better Lonely Planet guide for marketers.