What 'extremist' controversy means for hosting on YouTube

Nathan Coyne looks at the controversy around YouTube and how giving up control of message delivery goes beyond advertising on the platform.

It hasn’t been a good couple of days for YouTube.

Marks & Spencer became the latest in a list of household brand names to pull advertising amid revelations that advertisements were being displayed alongside extremist videos.

It followed similar action by the UK government and HSBC, leading to an apology from Google’s president for EMEA, Matt Brittin.

The moves were initially prompted by a Times newspaper investigation which found public sector adverts appearing next to videos carrying homophobic and anti-semitic messages.

But what does this mean for how and whether you should continue to use YouTube as a video hosting platform?

Well firstly, if you use the website for video hosting rather than video advertising you are much less likely to be affected. You are not suddenly likely to find extremist videos being put forward as recommended content at the end of your videos, or vice versa.

However, it should act as a wake-up call for the way you approach video hosting and you should carefully evaluate the pitfalls of using YouTube versus paid-for hosting solutions, such as Wistia or Brightcove.

YouTube is an extremely popular choice for video hosting for many reasons. It’s free. It’s well-known and for many people a “go-to” destination when they think of online video. It’s easy to use and you can embed videos on your own website so on the face of it, you are not giving up any traffic.

Yet when you use it you are also surrendering control on a number of levels.

Most importantly you are surrendering control of your 'customer' journey. When investing (an often not inconsiderable sum) in video, you are typically doing so to convey a message and get somebody to take action once they have finished watching.

If someone is watching on YouTube, they will be surrounded by all sorts of distractions when they have finished watching whether it be a video from another channel auto-playing straight afterwards, or a panel of six suggestions which could be from anyone.


As the example screenshot shows from this Mercedes brochure video, suggestions afterwards include a comparison with a BMW and a Range Rover review video. Take this to a political context and this could be a video from an organisation with an opposing point of view.

The best environment for someone to watch your video is on your website. Granted this is possible with YouTube because you can embed videos on your pages. But search engines don’t count this as your video and Google will promote the YouTube video above your own, increasing the chances of people watching on YouTube and becoming distracted rather than converting on your site.

Again the below example shows the top result for this particular search will end up on YouTube, not the video owner’s website.


None of this is to say don’t use YouTube. We reported recently how the stereotype of millennials viewing cat videos had become updated with time spent on the platform growing most quickly among adults aged 55 and over.

But the way to use it is the same way you would approach Facebook or Twitter - as a social media network - rather than a video hosting platform.

Back to the recent controversy and Google has already said changes to its technology would be forthcoming to give advertisers more control over its platforms.

When the dust settles advertisers will no doubt return.

But don't be fooled into thinking this is just an issue for big brands. Take heed of the dangers of ceding control of message delivery and re-evaluate your video hosting solution starting from today.

Nathan Coyne
By Nathan Coyne