YouTube Gamble Pays Off

Google isn’t saying much about the financial side of YouTube, but it has been widely reported that the parent corporation does report that YouTube’s revenues doubled in 2010 compared with 2009. It’s not clear whether or that is enough to be profitable — estimates put the 2009 losses at almost $500 million — but the trend should help the company get better in a big hurry.

One fact is clear; more and more video is being produced solely to be published on YouTube. Google also appears to be investing heavily in the company with lots of new hires planned for 2011. This should help speed development of new projects that they have on tap.

Much of the new development in online video has been moving toward subscription-based services: Hulu Plus, Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Video on Demand. In contrast, YouTube is still all free. And it has quietly rolled out new features such as episode-length programming, high-definition resolution, and more embedding options. So far, YouTube has done the best job of delivering lots of content for just about any interest you may have. (Some of my favorite topics are mandolin, wood-turning, and sailing, and I can’t think of any single site that can match the breadth and quality of selections on these subjects that are available on YouTube.)

YouTube is quietly becoming a major force in online video, and not just user-generated content. It could well be in a position to become dominant in episodic and movie progamming if it chooses to head in that direction.