Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

YouTube Is Going Mobile First, Too

Remember last year, when the YouTube app disappeared from iPhones, then returned, as part of YouTube’s effort to overhaul all of its mobile apps?

Now we can see why YouTube placed such high importance on controlling its mobile experience: It is well on its way to becoming a mobile-first company.

During yesterday’s earnings call, Larry Page announced that 40 percent of YouTube’s traffic was coming from mobile devices. That’s up from 25 percent a year ago, and six percent in 2011.

You can see where this is going.

YouTube confirms that Page’s traffic number includes both phones and tablets. While they won’t break out the difference split between device types, my hunch is that the majority of mobile YouTube viewing happens on phones.

Do keep in mind, though, that “mobile” viewing doesn’t necessarily mean “on the go” — there’s a very good chance that much of YouTube’s “mobile” views happen in living rooms and bedrooms.

But, just like everywhere else, “mobile” also means “less ad money.” In this case, it’s not that advertisers are paying lower rates for ads on YouTube’s mobile apps, since the company prices all of its stuff at the same rate, regardless of venue.

The problem, at least for some of YouTube’s content partners, is that there are a bunch of different ways to buy ads on a conventional YouTube Web page, but only one way to do it on a YouTube app — a skippable “TrueView” ad that viewers can turn off. Net result: Fewer ad dollars per mobile view.

That may be a much nicer experience for YouTube users, and it could well be better for YouTube, and even its partners, in the long run. But, right now, it means that the move to mobile may give video makers even more reason to gripe.

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— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle