When YouTube Decided that Fitness Videos weren't Good Enough

Going Virtual

YouTube is the center of mass for all things video. There are now over 30 million fitness videos on YouTube - it’s an astonishing number. There’s a ton on Instagram and other social platforms too, but YouTube is truly the king and queen of creator video.

So why would YouTube decide that YouTube isn’t good enough for fitness videos? The problem is interaction - watching fitness videos on YouTube just isn’t that interactive or compelling, and some extra interactivity can really help improve the user experience during fitness classes.

Motus was created in the Area 120 incubator inside Google.  The original focus was creating a more interactive fitness experience, and influencers like Ashley were signing up to be coaches.  The goal was to add programs, emoticons, leaderboards, even form analysis and other features to make the experience more interactive, with the plan (according to some sources) to make this available as part of YouTube.

From the Motus website today:

Motus classes are instructor-led, require little to no equipment, and feature a variety of formats and skill levels. You can find all types of classes covering disciplines such as boxing, yoga, HIIT, strength training and more.
All classes premiere as live classes with a live chat with the instructor and community, real-time workout metrics, and interactive features like “high five” and a class leaderboard.
All our live classes are later made available on-demand, so you can catch a class you missed or enjoy your favorite classes again, and again!

You can also learn quite a bit by reading the Motus Terms of Service, which was of course created for the original idea and never updated as the service offering evolved.

So what happened?
Well the idea was to create an advertising funded model for fitness creators, where they could post content, see massive views and get the ad revenue. The problem was that this is not how fitness companies think about using YouTube and social platforms like Instagram. YouTube is a marketing platform for fitness creators, and the end goal is always to get the users into their own branded apps.  There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Brand is tremendously important for fitness creators (both individuals and studio brands).  Every one wants their own website, their own app, etc - not their premium content somehow mixed in with thousands of other fitness creators.
  2. Advertising just isn’t enough revenue for most fitness creators - they want to charge subscriptions, have buy up programs, etc, and YouTube doesn’t really support that.
  3. Most generic creator platforms don’t have the right features that fitness creators are looking for - it’s just vanilla video streaming.

It’s interesting that quite a few tech startups have attempted branded fitness content marketplaces, and they have all failed:

  • Twitch tried fitness as a category and never really reached critical mass.
  • Salut (founded by a Twitch alum) tried it and also struggled to reach critical mass, so the founder has moved on to new projects.
  • Moxie was another coach content marketplace where the founder gave up.

What’s Motus up to today?
You can see a quick video about what Motus has become now (for Googlers).  It’s a cool in-house fitness ecosystem for employees at Google, but the idea of a broader product offering merged with YouTube has been shelved.

Justin Marston

Thinker, writer, innovator, runner, Star Wars fan

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