YouTube: One Billion Served (A Day)

Three years after the Google buy, YouTube still growing

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    It's been three years since Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion. (Photo Illustration by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

    It's almost McDonald's-like:  YouTube's new logo upgrade on the company home page, boasting of 1 billion views a day.  It comes on the day of another milestone:  3 years since YouTube was bought by Google for a then-staggering 1.65 billion dollars. 

    Come to think of it, it's a still today staggering 1.65 billion dollars.  Because, even with its amazing growth, and billion views a day, YouTube, as everyone knows, is still not making money.  And I'd venture to say it's not because of wasteful spending.  I've been to the company's headquarters, and yes, it's a big building, nicely decked out.  But to the casual observer, at least, there's not a whole lot of waste there.  Just people working hard to pump out video after video that's uploaded to the web.  What seems to be costing so much money that a billion videos a day isn't profitable must be the bandwidth.

    If that's the case, and it turns out that YouTubers aren't wasting money flying around campus on hovercraft, media companies should be taking a very close look at that one billion a day number.  Because all of them (I should say all of us - NBC included) have aspirations of making money by putting content onto the web.  So, let's say one of us can become the hot spot of all web hotspots, and get people to watch A BILLION VIDEOS A DAY.  Will we make money? 

    I'm reminded that not long ago, it came out that Google CEO Eric Schmidt admitted his company probably overpaid for YouTube.  I think the word he used was "premium."  As in, we paid a premium so nobody else would buy them.  And, three years later, this might be for the best.  Maybe YouTube belongs with a cash cow like Google.  I'd argue that YouTube has changed the web, and how we use it.  For the better.  And think of all the web-changing companies out there that might not survive without a deep-pocketed company to buy them up.  Even if it never makes money (and in fairness, its founders are hinting that it might soon actually make some), YouTube will doubtlessly continue to grow.  And continue to change the way we use the web.

    So, three years in, I'll leave it to those of you who own Google shares to decide if the deal makes economic sense yet.  But for those of us who have watched the web grow for more than a decade, it's hard to look at YouTube as anything other than a game-changer, that's earned the right to add to its logo.