We first established a presence on YouTube in 2006, but didn’t go all-in until 2012. That is the difference between WatchMojo being a success or a mere footnote

In 2012, I wrote for Ten Ways YouTube Went From Pariah to Belle of the Ball for Mediapost (now behind a paywall; reposted in the Context is King archives here).

Fast forward a decade: today I read the LA Times piece on how YouTube exec Kerry Merryman helped change YouTube from a “Hollywood pariah to partner.” I won’t lie, if I do nothing else in my professional life, I will be happy and fulfilled in having recognized the revolutionary nature of YouTube (along with three other bets we made) and built a business on it.

There’s a lot of interesting excerpts in the LA Times article: for one, Merryman moved from a career in consultant to Netflix, and then to YouTube because “she didn’t want to be the person just creating the slides that helped someone else change their organization.” That echoes why I didn’t pursue a career in banking and consulting in 2000 and gravitated towards business… but wrt YouTube in particular, it’s crazy how back in 2012 when I wrote that (you can read the 10 reasons I cited them), some of the reasons were actually not even a reality then, but more embryonic seeds and largely, shifts in how YouTube was thinking six years after Google’s $1.65B acquisition). Today people ask me “how can I grow my presence on YouTube?” and often times my conclusion is to find a new platform to strike platform/format fit.

At a higher level, the real takeaway is whether “Being Too Early The Same As Being Wrong?”

When we launched in 2006, YouTube was one of many belligerents:

but I could see them lapping others for a few reasons:

But we didn’t actually go “all-in” on YouTube in 2006. In fact, we sheepishly treated YouTube as “just another distribution platform” in our hyper-distribution phase (shout out Tubemogul!)

It wasn’t until YouTube excluded us in their $100 million content pilot, that I paused and re-evaluated our strategy. I then, a bit like Rupert Murdoch (i.e. not necessarily first in market, but quick to mobilize), recognized the opportunity and decided to go all-in, issuing an internal “fatwa” of sorts and made it our preferred trading partner.

The reality was, many before us had gone all-in and were “one-trick” ponies on YouTube. We had wide distribution on the portals Yahoo, AOL, MSN and one of the first digital media producers on Hulu, but I knew that the audience was on YouTube and the economics would catch up. I would paraphrase Warren Buffett’s “you never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes down,” inverting it to capture the reality that “if the audience is real, the economics would catch up,” because advertisers always follow the audience.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened had we married our original horizontal, wider editorial strategy properly on YouTube with (as per our original business plan) ArcadeMojo, FoodMojo, MdMojo, etc. but by the same token, the economics were so poor, that we may have also had to shut down in our money-losing phase from 2006-12.

Suffice to say, I’m beyond grateful for where we landed… but when I say success is a function of Vision, Ambition, Execution, Persistence, Luck, Timing, Focus, Resiliency – the timing is a reflection of my YouTube timing. In that sense, indeed being too early is the same as being wrong.

You can watch my Business Battleground analysis (where those snazzy images above were taken from) Rise of YouTube or see my Vidcon keynote on the evolution of YouTube below: