We had an interesting experience recently in buying a GPS device for our travels around the country. We went into one of the very large retail establishments and found a certain device for a surprisingly low price. Out of curiosity, we began searching online, using our phones, for information about the product. The original price of the device was around $300 but the device was on sale for around $50. In just a few minutes of looking online, standing there in the store, we found out the reason for the "sale" price. The item was receiving almost uniformly "one star" reviews. With this helpful information, we turned our attention to other, very much more highly rated products and soon made our choice for purchase.
As genealogists, we find ourselves in an interesting situation. The genealogy product market is infinitesimal compared to almost any other type of products sold today. In addition, almost the entire market is dominated by a very few large companies. Despite this situation, genealogists tend to congratulate themselves on the broad appeal of genealogy as a hobby or pursuit. In addition, I can find reviews online for almost any products sold in the world today. These reviews are usually very specific about the quality and usefulness of the products being sold. For example, we are planning a trip and need to make some hotel reservations. The first thing we look at are the reviews. So where are the genealogy reviews? How do we really know how popular or desirable the various "genealogy products" really are?
People tend to vote with their feet. What I mean by this statement is that they way people react to various "products" can be measured by their attraction to those products. We often measure the quality of a movie, for example, by the number of people who pay to see it and by the amount of money the movies makes when it is released. Where do we go to find out that kind of information in the genealogy community?
Let's look at some of the possible ways to measure popularity and get an idea of value in the genealogy market place. I suggest there are ways to measure the effectiveness of the genealogy products, if we really want to know about their comparative value to those who use the products.
There is probably no better way to judge overall popularity today than YouTube.com. This is a premier place to go to see exactly how popular some idea, person or product really is. The top YouTube.com channels today have millions of subscribers and billions of views. See "Top 100 YouTubers by Subscribed." This website also has lists of YouTube.com channel popularity by category. Now, all of the major genealogy outlets around the world have YouTube.com Channels. Yes, they really do. These channels include both large and small companies. Even if a certain product does not have a YouTube.com Channel, it will likely have some online videos of people either reviewing the product or explaining how it works.
The type of video channels that in the top 100 on YouTube.com are not what we are interested in. We are more intereseted in looking at the differences in views between similar products. Here is a sample list of companies associated with genealogy. This list is of total views of the Channels as of the date of this post and the total number of subscribers. This means the total for all of the videos uploaded by these companies.
- FamilySearch Channel - 1,602,701 views and 20,191 subscribers
- Ancestry.com Channel - 7,301,494 views and 38,183 subscribers
- MyHeritage.com Channel - 787,123 views and 2,270 subscribers
- Findmypast.com Channel - 1,298,515 views and 2,754 subscribers
- RootsMagicTV Channel - 295,424 views and 3,961 subscribers
- Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems Channel - 327,997 views and 6,126 subscribers
- Genealogy Roadshow - not a channel
- BYU Family History Library Channel - 59,885 views and 1,525 subscribers
- AmericanAncestors Channel - 73,620 views and 840 subscribers
- InclineSoftware Channel (Ancestral Quest) - not a channel
- Family History Expos Channel (Holly Hansen) - 22,451 views and 151 subscribers
As a reality check, I will give you a reference point. The PianoGuys have a mildly popular, mostly local, YouTube.com Channel. They have 976,709,363 views and 4,896,066 subscribers. One video added 5 months ago has over 10 million views.
Even if a product does not have its own channel, you can still find a video or two about the program or product. Perhaps it might be helpful to see how some of the larger libraries and repositories stack up. Here is a sample list.
- U.S. National Archives Channel - 6,306,827 views and 26,610 subscribers
- Library of Congress Channel - 12,593,727 views and 46,520 subscribers
- The New York Public Library Channel - 2,093,423 views and 7,621 subscribers
- Allen County Public Library Channel - 212,128 views and 440 subscribers
OK, you can go on and on with this, but the reality is that if you want to know about relative popularity and get insights into the programs for genealogy, you can start (or finish) with YouTube.com.