YouTube Vs. Facebook Video: Two Titans Face Off

he card has been set, and it appears that Facebook will be taking on YouTube in a bout of epic proportions for the title of King of the Video Ring.

If this really was a boxing match, the slew of new video announcements from Facebook at F8 was like Floyd Mayweather Jr. shooting promo videos before he gets ready for his next fight.

It looks like Facebook is really stepping up its efforts to out-YouTube YouTube. But who measures up when you look at the tale of the tape? Let’s take a look.

Content Discovery

One of the biggest differences between Facebook and YouTube is intent and discovery.

Users go to YouTube with the sole intent of watching videos and to search for them on their own, creating their own personalized viewing experiences. YouTube is considered to be the No. 2 search engine in the world, according to Mushroom Networks. And when people find a video, related videos and the right rail are still the main drivers of discovery once someone is inside watching videos.

Facebook, on the other hand, curates videos for its users: The videos show up in the news feed based on what the Mighty Algorithm decides that particular user might want to see. There’s no real way to search for video: You either watch what it gives you or you don’t.

This is a great move for Facebook — more than anything, it will get users thinking of the platform as a video source.

In many ways, the contrast between the two services is like the difference between Spotify and Pandora. YouTube is like Spotify: While there are channels and pre-selected playlists, the beauty of the service is in being able to do your own thing and choose the exact videos you want to see.

With Facebook — like Pandora — you are relying on the service to curate for you. If they’re accurate most of the time, you’ll stick with them, as it’s a lot easier than sorting through things yourself.

Facebook’s announcement of embeddable video is a clear move to compete with YouTube since it’s a way for videos to be discovered outside of Facebook, then brought back into the social graph with commenting, liking or sharing.

How Facebook surfaces videos will be most interesting: Will they be at the top of subscribers’ news feeds every morning, or will they just appear randomly in the news feed according to the algorithm? The former will let viewers know that this is something new and different and should be better at getting them to change their behavior.

Advantage: None. Most people will likely make use of both, depending on their mood.

Content Distribution

YouTube, as a video-first platform, has built out an ecosystem of application partners distributing their creators’ content. YouTube apps are available on nearly any mobile device: inside of Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, and so on. There’s also a built-in platform with the Chromecast, which for better or worse is the Trojan horse for pushing YouTube content into the TVs of millions of homes.

Even Amazon, Netflix, Apple and Hulu all have apps already delivering video to new devices, a spot where Facebook is currently lacking.

Does Facebook need to re-brand before it can be considered a viable TV platform? The conversations surrounding the possibility are surely happening already. With a track record of unbundling its experiences, or removing core features from one app and turning them into multiple apps, it’s not a stretch to say that we’ll see some type of Facebook TV app sooner than later.

The idea is an interesting one. The trick here will be to get users to start thinking of Facebook as a media outlet, not just a social network.

That’s easier said than done: How do you train people, who are used to going to Facebook to see how many “Likes” their latest vacation photo got, to go there to watch “Epic Meal Time” or MSNBC? And while the content is still short form (one or two minutes at most) the habit is a new one.

Marketing Land’s own Danny Sullivan noted that you can’t point people to your brand’s “Facebook Video” page like you can on YouTube, which could be a weakness. Facebook is much more of a multimedia cornucopia as opposed to YouTube’s single focus on video content.

Advantage: Facebook for social, but YouTube has the clear connected device edge.

Premium Content

Years of premium content from hundreds of thousands of independent creators, numerous MCNs, major media companies, and even full-length movies and TV shows have become the backbone of YouTube’s content library.

At the end of the day, YouTube was made for video, so its community of creators is already years ahead of Facebook’s generalist community.

But don’t tell Facebook that. It’s working harder than ever to bring high-quality content into users’ streams.

For the second year in a row, Facebook partnered with HBO to host the red carpet live stream of the U.S. premiere of the show “Game of Thrones.” It also recently announced it will be running original programming from MSNBC and other news organizations. In fact, MSNBC’s two newest programs will debut on Facebook before they appear on TV or anywhere else.

Facebook is also going after YouTube’s content creators in an effort to steal away some of the loyal fans of “Epic Meal Time,” Ali Spagnola (pictured below) and others.

With the creators in the driver’s seat more than ever, we’ll see Facebook and other platforms working hard to court these premium content creators and the agencies that represent them with favorable revenue splits, better analytics, and other tools to build their media brand and publish high-quality content.

Advantage: YouTube, but this is a creators’ marketplace, and they will eventually dictate who wins.

Scale Of Viewership

According to Facebook, the number of video posts per user has increased 75% year-over-year globally and 94% in the U.S., and the service is already delivering 3 billion videos a day.

This is a strong pattern of growth for Facebook when compared with YouTube, which saw unique desktop views decline by 9% year-over-year in September 2014, according to comScore. But overall, it’s still a far ways off from the vague “billions of views” that YouTube reports on its press page.

It’s also important to note that Facebook records a view after just three seconds, whereas YouTube records a view somewhere around 30 seconds. (The exact science of YouTube view counts is still unknown.)

But the dark horse in this battle could be the type of premium content that Facebook is ramping up with. According to stats shared at F8, 88% of millennials get their news on Facebook; half get it there every day; and 53% of all video views come from shares.

As people become more used to consuming video content inside the news feed or other devices, Facebook’s credibility as a platform could drive a lot more views in short order.

Advantage: Too close to call. It’s YouTube today, but it could be Facebook very soon.


While Facebook’s attempt to challenge YouTube is moving full-speed ahead, it’s not the only one looking to unseat the champion. Twitter, Snapchat and Meerkat are all waiting in the wings, along with startups like Vessel, all happy to give creators more than just 55% of revenue.

YouTube won’t go down without a fight. But right now, Facebook seems to be a formidable competitor.

As the media landscape continues to evolve, technology isn’t shifting to the cord-cutting trend, but toward savvy consumers with appetites for serialized content on their own terms.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.