YouTube vs. Vimeo for Colleges and Universities

A question that comes up often from friends in higher ed is “YouTube or Vimeo? Which should I be using?” To help you decide, provided here is a brief comparison. 


  • Your content is more discoverable on YouTube than on Vimeo. YouTube is the second largest internet search engine, Google being the first. Note they are both part of the same. YouTube is also the world’s most popular video sharing platform/network. Vimeo gets less traffic.
  • YouTube is popular, and therefore well-supported, especially for embedding just about anywhere. 
  • There are options to promote a video as an advertisement. 
  • Vimeo requires payment for a pro/plus account to access some features, while many features are available on YouTube for free. 


  • Vimeo gives a more beautiful experience, due to the fact that its default player fills the width of the screen (unlike YouTube),  If you’re planning on having people view the video in the Vimeo platform (instead of embedded), Vimeo’s default setting is clearly more visually pleasing, and doesn’t have all the “related video” noise surrounding the player, as on YouTube (“cleaner layout” - Mashable).
  • Vimeo has a reputation as an artistic venue for video (documentaries, video art projects, etc.). Your video will take its place among some great work. This means that if you upload a not-so-great video, its low quality will be more conspicuous. 
  • Vimeo promises smoother viewing because it supposedly takes less bandwidth for a user to stream it (“beautiful HD playback”). 

Vimeo is the place where you go see quality video like the Holocaust Survivor Band (NYT video) or La Petite Maison (award-winning animated short); YouTube is where you go to see viral content produced by just about anyone, like Charlie Bit My Finger. This is of course a generalization — there exist artfully crafted works on YouTube.

What does this mean for higher ed? 

Sometimes it means YouTube is the dumping ground for a department’s raw footage (full lectures, events, etc.), and on Vimeo they post the curated and better-produced items. Sometimes it means that the more innovative/creative/visual departments are on Vimeo solely, and other departments find they’re more successful on YouTube. Some examples of university videos on Vimeo: 

Case study: Harvard Graduate School of Design

Harvard Graduate School of Design has both YouTube and Vimeo accounts. Notice that usually their best quality video media is posted to Vimeo, such as Airport Landscape Exhibition, and only select videos are uploaded (28 in the last year). On YouTube, they upload much more (49 videos in the last month), including long lecturespresentations with bad sound quality, etc. 

The strategy here is that videos uploaded to Vimeo are for an audience that is more visually and artistically keen; they desire a high-quality experience, and search specifically on Vimeo because they’re looking for that specific experience away from the noise of YouTube.You will have a different audience on Vimeo than you will on YouTube.

“Vimeo has a specialized audience.” - Variety

While YT is certainly bigger, you’ll find that there’s place for something more graceful, thoughtful, beautiful, crafted, innovative, and high quality on Vimeo. Just view “12 Gorgeous Vimeo Videos for Design Inspiration” and you’ll see what I mean. 


So, you may put the whole lecture on YouTube, but maybe the presenter shows off their innovative technology for a moment of that lecture, and that moment will be produced as a short clip and only posted on Vimeo. 

On one hand, when looking for video from your department, most people's instinct will be to search on YouTube. It may be that you reach the most people there.

On the other hand, I worked with a university where students approached a department and ask why the department wasn’t on Vimeo. The students argued that the department had a high potential to produce really innovative, beautiful, high-quality video showcasing really cool moments of genius and creativity.