Rumble’s video site rises for confrontation with YouTube

An injection of new users and cash into Rumble has fueled its fight to break Google-owned YouTube’s grip on the digital video market.

Rumble has added millions of users in recent months, gotten a large undisclosed investment from a group that includes billionaire Peter Thiel and conservative author JD Vance, and has sued Google for antitrust violations in federal court.

Conservatives are pushing for Rumble’s rise, but the Canadian-based company’s founder and CEO Chris Pavlovski said he is less interested in American politics than in dethroning the big rigs. Pavlovski values ​​content from small creators and argues that big tech platforms like YouTube prioritize top brands and influencers over others.

After Google acquired YouTube in 2006, Pavlovski said he saw the company’s competitors decline, including sites like Dailymotion and CollegeHumor, and that he wanted to get rid of Google himself.

“I’ve always had a pulse on this and it’s always been one of my passions where I always wanted to compete, and to come back and compete in a really meaningful way, against existing platforms,” Mr. Pavlovski said. “I really believe strongly in having a lot of good and healthy competition in the market and not having monopolies.”

Pavlovski started Rumble in 2013, but his big break came in the fall of 2020 when many disgruntled supporters of former President Trump began searching for new digital places online to speak freely.

The platform had roughly 800,000 monthly visits last August, according to the Wall Street Journal, but has since risen to tens of millions as of last fall. Pavlovski said that Rumble has roughly 30 million monthly users and its user base is growing 10% month-over-month.

He said that engagement, watch time and growth of connected TVs all increased in May.

While the site’s front page features a combination of viral animal videos and news and commentary, its “featured” channel section includes stories from prominent Republicans such as Donald Trump Jr., Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.

Thiel, Facebook’s first outside investor and founder of PayPal, invested in Rumble alongside Narya Capital, a Cincinnati-based venture capital firm led by Vance.

Thiel was a supporter of former President Donald Trump’s first presidential campaign and Vance is considering running for Ohio’s Republican US Senate nomination next year.

Pavlovski said he would not disclose how much Thiel and investors were providing, but the Wall Street Journal has estimated the investment was significant and likely consistent with a $ 500 million valuation of Rumble.

Thiel went after Rumble and connected with his leadership about two months before the investment was announced in May, according to Pavlovski.

Pavlovski said he had no prior relationship with Thiel and said his company’s obsession with distributing and monetizing content from small creators was attractive to investors.

Also, new Rumble fans are likely to be drawn to the platform due to its willingness to mix things up with bigger competitors.

In January, Rumble filed an antitrust lawsuit in federal court in California alleging that Google had illegally prioritized its own product, YouTube, over its competitor, Rumble.

“By unfairly manipulating its search algorithms so that YouTube is the first link” above the page “of its search results page, Google, through its search engine, was able to mistakenly divert massive traffic to YouTube, depriving Rumble from extra traffic. , users, uploads, brand awareness and revenue that you would have otherwise received, ”Rumble said in the lawsuit. “Google has also forced Android-based smartphone manufacturers to include YouTube as a pre-installed application on their phones to acquire the right to use the Android operating system, which constitutes an illegal linking agreement.”

The litigation is ongoing and Pavlovski declined to comment on his company’s case.

Warning signs abound for insurgent companies adopting aggressive strategies to dethrone major tech companies. The Parler social media platform’s less restrictive approach to its users’ speech resulted in Apple and Google removing Parler’s app from their app stores and Amazon Web Services taking Parler offline.

Parler sued Amazon but later dropped his case, and Parler has since returned to the web and was restored to the Apple App Store.

Pavlovski is quick to distance Rumble from Parler. He noted that his company has strong policies around restricting content that involves things like racism, anti-Semitism, incitement to violence, pornography, terrorism, and much more.

Unlike Parler’s reliance on Amazon, Pavlovski said Rumble has made sure it doesn’t rely on a single cloud infrastructure.

“We’ve done it the old-fashioned way and we have servers all over the world and we don’t depend on any major cloud players,” Pavlovski said. “In fact, one of the things this investment is going to do is [it is] It will really allow us to build our own cloud infrastructure and offer cloud solutions to the market and other companies. “

Other platforms that have tried to compete with YouTube have later revised their entire business model to be successful. Vimeo, a video platform that started more than 16 years ago, went public on NASDAQ in late May as the company charted a new direction away from competition with YouTube.

Vimeo CEO Anjali Jud recently told CNBC that her company has completely moved away from being a viewing destination that competes with YouTube and is now focused on selling software that includes its video offerings to other companies as a service. .

Despite the track record of those who have previously stood up to Google, Pavlovski is not deterred by the failures of Vimeo and others. You intend to keep your business focus on being a place to distribute user content and a destination for consumers.

“I think a lot of the traditional platforms are no longer interested in helping the small creator and that is a market that we can really capture and help in a way that the other traditional platforms no longer help,” he said.

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