I ran into Grouper Networks CEO Josh Felser and Director of Business Development Scot Gensler today. Grouper (PC Mag review here) is number two, behind YouTube, among the fast growing, new crop of video sharing and tagging sites, according to Felser. After a year of development, Grouper launched in December last year and had 300,000 unique users that first month. Today Grouper has 300,000 unique users per day, 6 million per month and serves about 1.6 million pages per day, Felser said. About a quarter of Grouper's traffic comes from Grouper videos posted via a single click (no cutting and pasting HTML) to MySpace (and a small amount to Friendster), Felser said, and he plans to add other one-click destinations, such as Word Press.
Scot Gensler and Josh Felser of Grouper Networks
By comparison, YouTube CEO Chad Hurley told me in March that his site serves up 30 million videos a day and uploads 30,000 files a day, and has about 5 million unique users per day. Nielsen/NetRatings clocked YouTube at 9 million unique users in February. (Update: Currently, YouTube is serving 40 million videos per day, uploading 35,000 per day and has 6 million daily unique users, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.) Both are funded to move to the next round of competition. YouTube just received $8 million from Sequoia Capital (in addition to $3.5 million from Sequoia in November 2005), and Grouper has about garnered $5 million to date, mostly from angels investors. Felser was a co-founder of Internet music service Spinner.com, which was sold to AOL in 1999 for $320 million.
Unlike YouTube, Grouper has a downloadable application (Windows XP) for uploading videos to Grouper.com, where they can be viewed or downloaded. Grouper also has a P2P network for connecting to hard drives of friends to share media files. Videos can be downloaded to PCs, iPods and PSPs (Playstation Portables). Grouper also has editing tools for 'power users.'
I asked Felser about copyright issues, which have plagued YouTube and other content-sharing sites. "People don't typically upload [copyrighted material] on Grouper. If they do, they get banned. Since December we've only removed about 30 files," he said. The much larger YouTube is struggling with monitoring the content flow to weed out uploaded material that attracts the ire of big companies with deep legal pockets.
As you might expect from any content sharing service, the content varies in quality and subject matter. The "Hottest Downloads" and "Most Viewed" slices on Grouper have a healthy dose of soft porn. Like YouTube, Grouper has an advertising model, and will face similar hurdles in making a big business out of user-submitted videos, mostly created by amateurs, as Greg Sandoval reports. On the other hand, as MySpace has proven, where there are lots of users in the coveted 18-to-34-year-old demographic, advertisers find an way to reach them that will enrich the coffers of startups like Grouper and YouTube.