Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

How to Spend a Billion-Plus on User-Generated Content, Google Edition

youtube dogSuper-charged growth? Yup. Fueled by user-generated content that comes with potential copyright headaches? Got it! Barely there revenues? Of course!

Billion-dollar-plus price tag? Check!

Yes, all of that describes the Yahoo-Tumblr deal. And it also describes Google’s move to buy YouTube in the fall of 2006.

Which doesn’t mean the two deals are parallel, of course. For starters, the $1.6 billion Google spent on YouTube was a drop in the bucket for the search engine. But $1.1 billion is spending is a very big chunk of Yahoo’s cash pile.

And even back in 2006 it was clear that video would be a crucial part of the Web. You can’t use the same certainty when you talk about cat GIFs.

More important is that, then and now, Google viewed YouTube as a nice complement to its core business, which has never flagged. For Marissa Mayer, it’s a crucial part of her strategy to bring new eyeballs to a faded brand.

Still! Fun to compare and contrast.

Here’s what we know about Tumblr: It’s seven years old, has a lot of users, and last year it lost money on $13 million in revenue. And for YouTube: It turns eight tomorrow, is reportedly on track to generate $4 billion in revenue this year*, and Google executives keep murmuring that it either is or could be profitable.

More interesting for today: Here’s what YouTube’s financials looked like for a two-year period ending August 2006 — shortly before Google bought it (the document comes courtesy of the never-ending Viacom-YouTube copyright fight). Note the sharp uptick in revenue, users and costs at the end. Perhaps Yahoo saw something similar:

youtube pl

*As with all YouTube revenue estimates, take Morgan Stanley’s most recent one with a big chunk of salt.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik