YouTube or Vimeo? Seeking Maximum Exposure for your Video

There was a time — just after dinosaurs roamed — that broadcast TV was the only way to distribute video. Back then, only big-moneyed productions found their way to an audience. Fast forward to 2013. Now almost anyone with a mobile phone can be the next Fellini. Once you create your masterpiece you want an audience, a big one. You could try to sell DVDs or, better yet, upload to YouTube or Vimeo.

The first online video-sharing site that pops into most folks’ minds is YouTube. Founded in 2005 and bought by Google in 2006, YouTube is unquestionably the most prolific video site. You probably didn’t know that another video-sharing site actually beat YouTube to the Web. In 2004 Vimeo launched a video-sharing site and began its journey to becoming a vibrant community of indie filmmakers.

If you are wondering whether you should upload your future blockbuster to either YouTube or Vimeo, there are both advantages and disadvantages to both for serious video producers.

Similarities and Differences

The first thing you’ll notice about YouTube and Vimeo are the visual differences in the user interfaces. Vimeo has less clutter than YouTube which crams each page with suggestions of other videos and ads. The ads might be a video preceding your work, pop-up banners over the top of a video or a banner ad on the page.

Both sites use Adobe Flash Player to play video content. They also use HTML5, which allows Web browsers to present video without extra plug-ins. HTML5 is the magic that enables video to play on Apple devices that don’t support Flash like the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

YouTube and Vimeo both offer apps that run on most mobile phones and tablets; stand-alone Internet boxes like Apple TV or Roku; Internet-capable TVs and DVD players; and game consoles — though YouTube is available on a few more devices. Both do a great job of integrating with social media sites.

screen shot of Vimeo’s user page layout
screen shot of Vimeo’s user page layout
Vimeo allows users to enter production credit information like editor, sound design, talent and more. Data entered is searchable, but overall YouTube — thanks to its Google lineage — has more powerful search capabilities. YouTube videos with captions are easier to search. Automatic transcription of videos that make the resulting text searchable has yet to become reliable — look for this in the future.
Want a custom URL for your video? Vimeo lets members choose a memorable URL that helps viewers find your content.

The Eyes Have It

No one can deny that YouTube does the best job of delivering the most pairs of eyes to your video. After all, YouTube reports more than one billion users visit each month. YouTube members upload 100 hours of video every minute. According to Vimeo, its service reaches an audience of more than 100 million each month and has least 15 million registered members.

screen shot of Vimeo’s user page layout
screen shot of YouTube’s user page layout
More eyes potentially translate to more income for the filmmaker. You can generate cash through ads associated with your YouTube videos.  Vimeo uses a unique viewer “tip jar” and also offers a pay-per-view option for your work. Vimeo gives yet another way to generate income with Vimeo On Demand, allowing creators to rent out their video.

Both sites use high quality audio and video codec systems. Vimeo’s free version allows one 720p upload per week. While uploading, Vimeo uses the Web browser tab to display a numerical percentage indicating upload completion. Always free, ad-supported YouTube allows unlimited uploads of higher quality 1080p video. There are no video length limitations on Vimeo; YouTube restricts most users to 15 minutes, though that limitation is removed fo  verified partners. Both sites have a limit on file size.

To get 1080p video on Vimeo you’ll have to shell out $10 per month to upgrade to Vimeo Plus which allows 5GBs of uploads per week. A Vimeo Plus subscription also offers faster upload speeds compared to the free version. For $199 per year you can upgrade to Vimeo PRO and add private video review pages for clients, custom portfolios, advanced stats, a branded player and more storage. The paid subscriptions allow Vimeo to avoid painful ads placed in or around your content.

For an example of exemplary work, Kyle Kappmeier, public relations representative for Vimeo says, “Vimeo released the Top 12 of 2012 on Vimeo. These videos were handpicked by their curation staff and truly represent the best from the site in 2012. You and your friends can definitely burn through some free time here:

Beware, some sites allow, or even encourage, adult content of questionable artistic value. That content could sully your reputation as a filmmaker. Our best advice is to browse the site’s content before you upload.

Copyright Issues

YouTube is very effective at spotting copyright infringement in both audio and video content. I uploaded a video to YouTube that included a popular song playing in the background. YouTube was able to identify the artist, song title, music label and the exact spot in the video where the violation began — impressive! Vimeo did not detect an issue with the same uploaded video.

Copyright cuts both ways, you also need to protect your own work. Vimeo offers Creative Commons licensing which allows artists to define usage rights. For instance, you might choose to allow others to distribute or make derivative works from your production. This enables filmmakers to maintain their copyrights while allowing others to use their work giving proper credit and following the simple conditions of the agreement.

Your Look Your Way Your Choice

The web abounds with other video-sharing sites. A site named Oanim ( specializes in animation. Others like Dailymotion ( and Metacafe ( offer a more generalized spot for your content.

Beware, some sites allow, or even encourage, adult content of questionable artistic value. That content could sully your reputation as a filmmaker. Our best advice is to browse the site’s content before you upload.
If all you produce are viral video remakes, then YouTube is for you. But, if you produce more serious works, Vimeo might give your production a professional edge.

David G. Welton instructs college media production courses.

screen shot of Vimeo’s user page layout
screen shot of Open page of “bloodwood Cannibals” video
SIDEBAR 1: Advice from the Pros

Joshua A. Siegel is the young producer/director of Arcadian Entertainment that produced an internationally released horror film entitled Bloodwood Cannibals — with a budget of only about $10,000. Siegel is quick to point out that he prefers filmmaking to promotional work — but it turns out that he is good at both. Proof of success includes his feature-length film being distributed through Walmart, Target and Amazon.

He used a “shotgun approach” to promote the Bloodwood Cannibals trailer by posting it to YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, and others. Siegel offers some simple advice, “When you post films, make sure you include a link back to your website.” He points out that YouTube’s annotation feature makes this easy.
Arcadian Entertainment’s latest project is a web series called Dream Raiders. We spoke with

im as he was putting final touches on the pilot. If Siegel can’t find traditional financing for this project he will try crowdfunding sites like and to raise funds. He’ll promote the series on both YouTube and Vimeo.

Siegel views Vimeo as the best place to share work with other serious filmmakers. He adds, “If I was looking for a cinematographer to work with me I would look on Vimeo.” In the past Siegel thought that Vimeo had the best video quality, now he’s convinced that YouTube has caught up.

Steve Arnett is a professional still photographer and budding filmmaker. This San Francisco Bay Area — self identified “pixel wrangler” — uses his DSLR camera to capture video used in short documentary productions. Arnett thinks that YouTube is great for “unedited footage of a silly cat or attaching a GoPro camera to anything that moves,” but that Vimeo offers “a more polished interface and publishes more polished videos.”

Arnett observes, “Vimeo has a user base of filmmakers who really loves their craft and the site encourages them to continue growing.” For example, Arnett finds the Vimeo Video School tutorials offer him valuable tips and information on how to make a movie.

SIDEBAR 2: Eliminate Copyright Worries

You don’t have to be a musician to create an original instrumental music score for your video. All you need are some music loops and software. Macs come pre-loaded with GarageBand that is a powerful, yet easy-to-use, way to use loops to make music.

On a computer running Windows, Sony offers ACID Xpress — a free version of their popular Acid Music Studio. Or, for about a hundred bucks, you can own FL Studio Fruity Edition (formerly known as FruityLoops). Both FL Studio and GarageBand offer low cost versions for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Music created with purchased loops generally belongs to the creator and is usable in any manner — including for profit.


screen shot of Vimeo’s user page layout[/caption]


A really hoopy frood.

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