How YouTube is Broken (And How Video Curation Will Fix It)

Consumers Value Services That Help Them Stumble on Interesting Video

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If you have ever looked for something specific on YouTube, chances are you found it. The company's owner, Google, is a search-engine company, so it makes sense that YouTube Search is good at figuring out which keywords relate to which videos and which videos should rank the highest. Search for "how to tie a tie." Bang! You've got it.

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn't help a viewer's natural discovery of content. It can be nearly impossible for average users to find interesting videos when they are not exactly sure what they are looking for and just want to see something good.

People also have preconceived notions of what they will find on YouTube. If you are searching for cat videos, YouTube is a likely source. However, if you are after two-hour long concert recordings or a serious physics lecture, you are unlikely to associate those things with YouTube -- even when the content is there.

Video curation start-ups such as 5by, Redux and ShowYou have all seen the opportunity in becoming the missing link between YouTube and internet TV. They are essentially Netflix, but built mainly on the YouTube library.

Their curators handpick the most interesting videos available and organize them into easily approachable categories. In addition to the expected themes, 5by is courting viewers with more offbeat topics like Weed, Not Okay, Hip Stuff and Face Palm.

5by also has dedicated channels for programs such as "Epic Mealtime," an experimental cooking show with over 5 million YouTube subscribers. They teach viewers how to prepare delicious dishes like 'dishwasher lasagna' and 'bacon Oreo cheesecake sandwiches'. The edgy series is very YouTube and a far cry from made-for-TV cookie-cutter programming.

It's interesting that the services treat user-generated, branded and TV network-produced content equally. Less weight is given to who produced it and more on whether the curator thinks the audience will like it. Flipboard's Cooking TV fluently mixes YouTube videos produced by established players, such as the Food Network, with ones created by passionate amateur chefs like Tokyo-based Ochikeron, who offers recipes for home-cooked Japanese meals.

In this new ecosystem, there are curators, producers and consumers, while video platforms like YouTube act as facilitators. The natural role for brands is as producer of branded content, but they should also be curators in the channels they have control over. For example, Double Tree by Hilton highlights great travel videos shot by regular vacationers on its YouTube channel. User-generated videos that communicate the brand's point of view will likely resonate much better than polished 15-second TV spots. And the company is saving money not having to produce everything itself.

Still, curated content has the same challenge as original content when it comes to finding an audience. That is why brands and other video producers should continue to build a strong subscriber base across social networks and e-mail, or partner with tastemakers that already have a solid following.

Videos that get shared by sites like Upworthy or Facebook powerhouse George Takei are on the fast lane to viral stardom, while others fade into oblivion. The same will be true with video curation services as they gain more users and their curators will come to dictate what audiences watch on their smartphones, tablets and TV screens.

Got your video on 5by's Hip Stuff playlist? Well, that might just be your winning ticket.

Vilja Sormunen is online video manager at KLOK in Helsinki, Finland, and previously worked as social marketing manager at Nokia, where she focused on YouTube.

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