Is Google’s YouTube unfairly dominant? European rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so

The Media Column: The US is ruling the digital world and Europe should react

Nothing has been done for companies like us who are challenging Google’s subsidiaries,” complains Giuseppe de Martino. “One third of our traffic is coming from Google at least.”

Mr de Martino is angry because his company, Dailymotion, is struggling to compete with Google’s YouTube, the behemoth of online video that clocks up more than a billion monthly users. He claims that sometimes when internet users search Google for Dailymotion videos they mysteriously don’t appear – yet YouTube-hosted alternatives appear among results. Google denies this.

And he is frustrated that the European Commission, after eight years of investigating allegations of Google malpractice, has not been tougher on the Silicon Valley giant. “Europe should be aware that the US is ruling the digital world and Europe should react,” he says. Google was given an all-clear over its search practices this year after a long-investigation by EC anti-trust chief Joachin Almunia.

We are in Paris’s 6th arrondissement at Dailymotion’s new film studios, an asset that has reinforced its position as Europe’s most-visited website and the Western world’s second-largest video site after YouTube. Some 135 million people visit Dailymotion each month, with 155 million finding its videos embedded in Facebook and other social-media platforms. The site specialises in live streaming of events and curated content based on user tastes.

Later this year Dailymotion will open a second studio operation in London, close to the offices it already has in the tech hub of Shoreditch, east London. It will mean that the “motion makers” who agree to share their content on Dailymotion’s site can pitch for the use of professional facilities that would normally cost around €10,000-a-day to hire.

Dailymotion, a 2005 start-up, is now wholly-owned by the telecoms giant Orange, in which the French government has a 27 per cent stake. But De Martino says that the company has a global outlook, partly because of the lack of support it receives on its home continent. “Each time we try to invest in a country, we see the local authorities protecting the interests of local players – but we have never felt the same situation in Europe,” he says.

The online video market is starting to heat up. Wonder PL is a new challenger brand, backed by the music giant Universal and with some investment from British media entrepreneur Andrew Creighton (president of Vice Media). It is aimed at skilled film-makers and charges $300-a-year to users for its high-end content, claiming to be the “Whole Foods” of video compared with YouTube’s “Wal-Mart”. Vimeo, another leading video site which is already popular with professional film-makers, has recently introduced a pay-per-view for its $199-a-month Pro Vimeo service. YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month

Dailymotion, which is overwhelmingly a free service, is not especially well-known in the UK. That may now change. Last week, Wasps rugby club moved its broadcast output of interviews, behind-the-scenes action and press conferences on to the platform, following the recent lead of FC Barcelona. When Paris St Germain unveiled David Beckham as its new signing last year, 3 million people watched the presentation on Dailymotion.

Live streamed press conferences are an example of the site delivering global audiences for niche events. Concerts are another. The Derbyshire-based Bloodstock heavy metal concert was one of several music festivals streamed on the site last year, alongside France’s Rock en Seine and Rototom, the world’s biggest reggae festival, based outside Valencia. London’s prestigious Roundhouse music venue is also a Dailymotion broadcast partner. “A festival is easier than a concert,” says De Martino. “You have one contact, the festival organiser, who wants to promote the event to get more people to attend the year after.”

While UK politics is feeling its way in pre-election broadcasting, eight out of 10 candidates in France’s last presidential race were, at one point, simultaneously live streaming on Dailymotion.

Despite the interest from Wasps and Barca, the site’s ambitions in sport are often thwarted by the fierce battle for broadcast rights. It screens French football highlights but British leagues are sewn up. So it targets minority sports, such as handball and judo. The Vendee Globe world sailing competition was a noteworthy hit, as skippers including Britain’s Samantha Davies submitted daily films. While the footage’s 50,000 views was largely lost among YouTube’s vast video output, Dailymotion’s curated home page drew an audience of 30 million to the yachting contest.

Live electronic sport – what might be described as filmed computer gaming – has been another great generator of traffic. De Martino was stunned that 500,000 people logged on to watch two teams competing on Dota 2, the gaming equivalent of a melee at a medieval joust. The Paris and London studios will bring more original content to Dailymotion, with film-makers taking a cut of revenues from advertising campaigns that precede their content. The Paris facilities also enable the filming of ambitious shows before a studio audience with the back-up of a technical support team. One studio, designed for a round-table discussion format, has five camera positions but requires only a single engineer.

“When we first opened, these guys had been doing short films in their rooms with webcams,” says De Martino. “They can now use this studio and have the technical means to follow their ambitions.” Although Dailymotion – which has just released its first original series, a food show hosted by American chef Mario Batali called Feedback Kitchen – will never have a production budget like Netflix, he claims: “We are ready to invest if we trust the product.” At the same time, De Martino cannot assign professional facilities to people making material that doesn’t stand out from the morass of user-generated video online. One of his hardest tasks is to deny “motion makers” their studio access when films fail to find an audience.

Dailymotion, founded just a month after YouTube, has so far failed to match its American rival’s growth. Early this year, Google’s fierce opponent Microsoft, which hosts Dailymotion on its Windows phone and Xbox platforms, was reported to be about to take a stake – something which would have made for a fairer fight. That coveted Microsoft interest doesn’t appear to be real. But while many YouTube challengers have fallen away – think Joost and Babelgum – Dailymotion keeps going. And British film-makers will soon have fresh opportunities to be a part of its story.

The Guardian: praise where it’s due

Congratulations to The Guardian on the Pulitzer Prize it won with the Washington Post last week for its reports on National Security Agency surveillance.

Although the paper won recognition from its British peers earlier this month when it was named Newspaper of the Year for its handling of the Edward Snowden leaks, its reporting was far from well-received at the time of publication. Amid a calculated backlash from British intelligence over the impact of the stories on anti-terrorist operations, some papers saw a chance to bring down Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, who is still blamed by some rivals for the discomfort of the press following the phone-hacking scandal.

 Later, when the story was more widely acknowledged as being one of global significance, it was suggested that the scoop had somehow “fallen into the lap” of the paper, as Rusbridger recently complained when arguing that it was the result of The Guardian’s decision to invest in journalism when others were making cuts.

The Guardian might have been given more credit if it had not built an industry-wide reputation for snide coverage of the performance of its rivals. But its Pulitzer is well-deserved and reflects well on British journalism as a whole.

Welcome back, Tony Gallgher

Former Daily Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher’s return to the Daily Mail as joint deputy editor is a coup for Mail Editor-in-Chief Paul Dacre, who welcomed his protégé back to his “spiritual home”.

Unsurprisingly, Gallagher was quickly anointed “editor in waiting”, but the boss always likes to keep things interesting. The prodigal son shares the deputy role with Jon Steafel, another devoted Dacre lieutenant.

Then there is Martin Clarke, head of the Mail Online site (which he originally established with Gallagher), who was last week celebrating having recorded more than 6 million UK users in a single day for the first time. All, along with Mail on Sunday editor Geordie Greig, are credible future editors of the daily. Meanwhile, two alumni of the Dacre school – Chris Evans and Ian MacGregor – are running the print operations at the Telegraph. It’s quite a talent pool.

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