Everyone knows that print newspapers are our generation’s horse-and-buggy; in the most wired cities, they’ve been pummeled by competition from the Web. But it might surprise you to learn that one of the largest and most-celebrated new-media ventures is burning through cash at a rate that makes newspapers look like wise investments. It’s called YouTube: According a recent report by analysts at the financial-services company Credit Suisse, Google will lose $470 million on the video-sharing site this year alone. To put it another way, the Boston Globe, which is on track to lose $85 million in 2009, is five times more profitableâ€”or, rather, less unprofitableâ€”than YouTube. All so you can watch this helium-voiced oddball whenever you want.
YouTube’s troubles are surprisingly similar to those faced by newspapers. Just like your local daily, the company is struggling to sell enough in advertising to cover the enormous costs of storing and distributing its content. Newspapers have to pay to publish and deliver dead trees; YouTube has to pay for a gargantuan Internet connection to send videos to your computer and the millions of others who are demanding the most recent Dramatic Chipmunk mash-up. Google doesn’t break out YouTube’s profits and losses on its earnings statements, and of course it’s possible that Credit Suisse’s estimates are off. But if the analysts are at all close, YouTube, which Google bought in 2006, is in big trouble. As Benjamin Wayne, the CEO of the rival video-streaming company Fliqz, pointed out in a recent article for Silicon Alley Insider, not even Google can long sustain a company that’s losing close to half a billion dollars a year.