YouTube is the uncontested king of online video hosting. The brand is so powerful and well-known that most people aren’t even aware that alternative video sites exist, and some of these sites are actually better than YouTube in various ways.
Take Vimeo, for example. Vimeo has grown a lot over the last decade, so much so that it has surpassed well-known sites like Dailymotion to become YouTube’s closest competitor. While YouTube brings in 1 billion viewers per month, Vimeo is catching up with its 280 million viewers per month.
So given the smaller viewership, why would you ever choose Vimeo over YouTube? Here are a handful of strong reasons to consider — reasons that are contributing to Vimeo’s steady growth.
1. Better Encoding and Video Quality
YouTube’s mantra is quantity over quality. Over 300 hours of footage are uploaded to YouTube every single minute, and all of those videos need to be processed before they can go live. In order to handle that kind of load, YouTube must balance compression speed with compression quality.
On the other hand, Vimeo’s mantra is quality over quantity. Because Vimeo has stricter guidelines for acceptable videos, its processing load is far lighter than YouTube’s — and that means it can focus more on maximizing the quality of each video using better encoding techniques.
The bottom line: If you upload the same video to both YouTube and Vimeo at the same resolution, the Vimeo version will look a lot better because it will have a much higher bitrate. The audio will also sound much better because Vimeo supports 320 Kbps. Unfortunately, these higher quality settings are only available to subscribers of Vimeo Plus, Pro, or Business.
2. Greater Prestige
Take a second to ask yourself what comes to mind when someone says “YouTube video,” then consider what comes to mind when someone says “Vimeo video.” If you have any experience with both sites, then your perception of each brand should be radically different.
YouTube is basically a video dump. You can upload anything you want as long as it isn’t sexually explicit, gory, excessively violent, etc. No one will stop you if you want to upload low-quality content that’s pointless or spammy, whereas Vimeo is very strict about what it allows.
This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, this limits the kinds of channels you can run on Vimeo (e.g. you won’t find any Let’s Plays or other gaming-related content beyond documentaries). However, Vimeo videos are often perceived as more professional and tend to be better received.
In other words, if you fit into one of Vimeo’s video niches, then being on Vimeo means something. It’s certainly more prestigious than being on YouTube. And don’t forget about Staff Picks! Vimeo loves to curate high-quality content, and being selected as a Staff Pick is a respected badge of honor — many careers were launched after being discovered by curators on Vimeo.
This is why Vimeo is better for short films and documentaries. Whereas YouTube is biased towards channels that produce a lot of content, Vimeo is biased towards creators who put a lot of work into each video. Quality, not quantity.
3. Sophisticated Audience
Because Vimeo limits the kind of videos that can be uploaded, and because Vimeo is seen as a more prestigious site than YouTube, it attracts a different sort of audience.
So even though YouTube has more reach than Vimeo, each of your Vimeo viewers is more likely to engage more deeply with your content. YouTube’s audience is one of low attention spans, lots of distractions, and a penchant for rapid-fire viewing, whereas Vimeo viewers are more receptive to slower and more thoughtful content. The expectations are different.
This is made most evident when you compare the comments sections of both sites. YouTube is infamous for its terrible commenting atmosphere — it’s tough to find a comment that isn’t from a die-hard fanboy, a die-hard hater, or someone who’s trying too hard to be funny.
It’s a completely different story on Vimeo, whose commenters tend to be more constructive, mature, and insightful. As a creator, this can be quite refreshing.
4. Greater Artistic Freedom
There are two aspects of YouTube that can prove frustrating for those who want to create certain kinds of artistic content.
The rules for sexual content are inconsistent on YouTube. You can find videos that verge on the hardcore that have been up on YouTube for many years, yet sometimes a video that’s nothing more than suggestive can be taken down for being sexual. What if you’ve made a mature music video? YouTube might take it down, but Vimeo welcomes it as long as it has artistic value.
Music is another big issue on YouTube. In particular, the Content ID system that automatically scans each upload for copyrighted tracks and silences anything it deems as a violation. The system is too aggressive and operates according to a “silence first, fix later” policy. Even if you’re authorized to use a certain track, you’ll have to jump through hoops to restore audio. Not so with Vimeo.
5. Unique Features and Customizations
If you don’t care about any of the above, then here are a handful of practical advantages to using Vimeo over YouTube — in terms of features and flexibility, Vimeo beats YouTube in several ways.
Replace video but keep URL. This is one of Vimeo’s best features. You can replace any of your existing videos with a new upload without losing its URL, thus keeping all of the likes, comments, stats, and not breaking any embeds that may exist on third-party sites. (Free feature)
Password protection. You can set a password on any video so that only those with the password can view it. YouTube doesn’t have this feature, only allowing videos to be Public, Private, or Unlisted. (Free feature)
Domain-restricted embeds. Vimeo lets you set which domains are allowed to embed your videos, and you can do this on a per-video basis. This way you can hide your videos on the Vimeo site itself and only make them viewable on your site. (Plus feature)
Web player branding. Vimeo lets you alter the appearance of its HTML5 web player by inserting your own logo and branding, which is great when embedding videos on your site, whereas embedded YouTube videos always look the same and end with that unsightly suggestions page. (Plus feature)
Advanced analytics. Depending on your subscription level you can get various levels of analytics, starting with a traffic dashboard and custom reports, going all the way to engagement graphs and Google Analytics integration. (Plus feature)
Make money with pay-per-view. Vimeo On Demand lets you create dedicated VOD pages where viewers can pay to watch videos. You can sell worldwide or only in certain countries, and you keep 90% of revenue. This is a convenient way to make money from your work without ads. (Pro feature)
What are Plus and Pro features? Unlike YouTube, Vimeo is funded by its community rather than advertisers. You can use it for free, but free accounts are limited to 500 MB upload per week. Plus costs $5 per month and Pro costs $17 per month. See the full plans comparison for more.
Are You Going to Start Hosting on Vimeo?
To be clear, Vimeo is NOT always the right choice. If you need to maximize total reach, or if you want to create content that’s not in line with Vimeo’s niche, or if you don’t want to pay monthly to lift the free account restrictions, then YouTube might actually be a better fit for you.
But if you’re going to focus on short films, documentaries, music videos, interviews, journalism, or travel, then Vimeo will serve you much better. You may get fewer views than if you had used YouTube, but you’ll get significantly more engagement out of each view. For more options, we’ve looked at the decentralized DTube platform as a YouTube alternative, as well as other free video hosting sites.
Explore more about: Online Video.