YouTube.com and the death of a website

A little lunchtime blogging. 

In 1999, when I created bobstricktips.com, bandwidth was expensive, few people had broadband, fewer people had camcorders, there were not really any free video hosting services on the web, computers didn’t come with video editing software, and blogs (as they are known today) didn’t exist.

Until this year, my site got about the same traffic every day and every week, regardless of my infrequent updates. This year my traffic took a huge hit. Why?

I have some theories. First, almost every computer you purchase now – especially Macs – comes with good video editing software. Almost every family seems to have a digital camcorder. So it is easier than it has ever been for any skateboarder to create a pretty cool video. I’ve seen videos by kids with virtually no training that look nearly as good as a professional job.

But once you have a cool video, how do you share it? In 1999, you needed your own website. There was no YouTube.com to slap your stuff into. And if your video content was popular you needed massive bandwidth, which at the time was expensive. BTT was pulling about 9 gigs a day of bandwidth at one point, which is a lot for a one-man show. Youtube has solved the problem for the average web-user.

But YouTube has gone beyond simply supplying bandwidth and storage space — it has created a social-network/search mechanism. Not only can you put your videos there, but if they are good you have an instant audience. Pretty neat. My own experiment with social networking involved putting a phpBB bulletin board on BTT, but after over a year I removed it. The quality of the conversation detracted from the overal quality of the site.

Back then it was even a little harder to create a website. You had to get an account with and hosting service, get your domain name, create the site, and upload it. You might even have to know — GASP — HTML.

Now free services like this (wordpress.com) allow anyone with two functioning brain cells to create a site, have a domain, upload images, link directly to Youtube videos and other content — pretty much without knowing any HTML or CSS at all. Perhaps best of all, WordPress takes care of controlling comment-spam for you, keeps the software updated, adds new features, etc.  Amazing. If your are a photographer, you can upload photos to a Flickr account with the same kind of built-in social network. With the nearly global change to digital cameras, you don’t even need a scanner.

So when I look at the traffic decrease at BTT in the last year, I can’t help but think that all these factors have come into play. And that’s really OK. I built BTT to teach some basics of skateboarding and it continues to do that very well. Everyone has a limited amount of time, and as the marketing people might say, there is just more competition for the same number of eyeballs now.

For me, if I want my traffic back, it means I’ll have to provide more than a kid with a camcorder and a YouTube account. I’m not sure what that is. Longer, better quality videos? Probably. I kept my videos short back then because bandwidth was expensive and connection speed was slow. Neither of those conditions applies anymore. whoisadamcolton.com, a site run by Adam Colton, contains great videos — high quality, long, well-thought-out, and entertaining. A site developed under the current conditions, unlike BTT.

I guess this is all a long way of saying I have been sitting on my lazy ass while my site slowly fades to obscurity. The question, I think, is whether it is worth my time to really re-invent BTT or leave it there, serving its original purpose, and move on to a more modern web-project.

3 thoughts on “YouTube.com and the death of a website

  1. Wow you sound really angry that other people have the same access that you’ve had for quite sometime. What ? Because you’ve had money and access, makes your opinion anymore important than anyone else!! Stop your raving and allow others the same rights of freedom, of free speech and expression you’ve been enjoying!! Your not unique.

  2. Sorry if it sounded angry — it was absolutley NOT intended to sound that way. Let me quote myself:

    “So when I look at the traffic decrease at BTT in the last year, I can’t help but think that all these factors have come into play. And that’s really OK.”

    My point really is that if someone wants to provide good content these days and have a readership, you have to provide REALLY good content. Slapping up a few shoddy videos is no longer enough.

    Actually, upon re-reading my post, I don’t think it reads like a rant at all. I think you may be a kook. Go take some valium and call the psychiatrist in the morning.

  3. Tim Wu over at Slate has a interesting article along this vein
    http://www.slate.com/id/2158392/ He posits whether or not the Web will make film festivals obselete in this age of decentralized media.

    What’s interesting about your post is that is similiar to the sentiments being echoed at what were once the traditional media outlets (readers of a certain age will remember when there were only 3 network channels and maybe a couple of local station–and those local stations, with their sometimes less than professional technical standards and lack of “sophisticated programming”–much of which would not make it on television today. One could argue that the local stations are the predecessors of today’s DYI website in their intent) whose market domainance is being eroded by such sites as youtube.

    What has been interesting to see is the effect of trying to enforce copyright laws on youtube and other sites. Traditional media has the capital to take on copyright infringers, while those less endowed content providers (read: 14-year old in his/her basement with a camcorder and a computer) will have a harder time controlling use of the content they create (provided it is something someone would want to “steal”).

    As the Internet evolves, one can only speculate as to where content creation and control is going. There are fears that big media will try to take control through various measures–mostly legislative. The paranoid would say that too many folks have too much invested in traditional media to let upstarts take that away–I would say they are correct, somewhat.

    I still applaud you for actually taking time to create something back when access wasn’t as affordable (read: democratic) and not charge anyone to look at it. You seem to have read your market well at the time. I wouldn’t want to drive a metaphorical stake through your website, but you seem to have realized that the paradigm shift in the creation and distribution of content has affected nearly every site that has come before (see The New Yorker article on Wikipedia vs. Ency. Brittanica from a few months ago).

    The web has that Heraclitian quality to it that seems ever changing. Adaptability is key when dealing with a phenomenon such as this.

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