YouTube vs. Vimeo: Which Should Churches Use?

YouTube vs. Vimeo: Which Should Churches Use?

June 30, 2014 by

YouTube vs. Vimeo is like Mac vs. PC. Sure, hipsters love their Macs because owning one makes you a million times cooler than stuffy boring PC owners. But in the U.S., there are about 10 PC users for every one Mac user. If “cool” was our standard of measurement, then Macs may win (OK, would win). But if we are measuring by reach and impact, PC is the uncontested victor.

The same is true for YouTube vs. Vimeo. Most churches and church leaders primarily use Vimeo because it’s cleaner, sleeker, cooler, whatever. But YouTube’s reach and impact far exceeds Vimeo’s, and that gap is increasing in YouTube’s favor.

One thing every church leader I know agrees with is that we are called to reach and impact people with the gospel. So when it comes to which platform churches should use, YouTube trumps Vimeo hands down—YouTube is where the people are.

So why should churches and church leaders be using YouTube? Here are a few reasons:

1. People
Right now Vimeo gets 60 million unique visitors per month. YouTube gets over 1 billion unique visitors. That’s 1,566% more visitors per month. YouTube is where the people are.

YouTube gets over 1 billion unique visitors. YouTube is where the people are.

2. Search
Vimeo search is like chewing gum in the morning instead of brushing your teeth. It kind of works, but ultimately, it still stinks. On the other hand, YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet, which is saying a lot because it’s not primarily a search engine. And because Google owns YouTube, those videos often show up in Google searches anyway, many times on the first page.

3. Discovery
One of the strengths on YouTube is sharing and discovery. If you optimize a YouTube video well, you can get new traffic month after month, sometimes for years. Social sharing is also integrated into YouTube, meaning videos travel person to person throughout the other social networks. Vimeo is weak on all of the above.

4. Features
This point may be tit for tat. Vimeo definitely has some great features, but I believe YouTube is still much stronger, especially for churches.

YouTube offers great playlist features, innovative annotations that allow you to interconnect videos and drive social engagement, a great subscription model allowing you to build your audience, and channel trailers that promote the why and what of your channel. YouTube also takes it a step further by including a royalty free music library and an online video editor offering stabilization and effects for your videos. Armed with just a smart phone and your message, you can shoot and upload a video and then up the production value right there on YouTube. This is a huge advantage for churches and church leaders with limited resources.

5. Community
Both YouTube and Vimeo are social networks. Both have integrated commenting systems, as well as legitimate communities. However, YouTube is much larger and arguably a much more social, social network than Vimeo.

YouTube is kind of like the Mos Eisley Cantina on Star Wars—a melting pot of strange and hostile humans, haters, trolls and those you will assume are from another planet. But we are not called to perfect places or perfect people. We are called to meet people right where they are. YouTube is a quirky community, but a community all the same that needs digital missionaries who “get it.”

6. Cost
This one is pretty easy. You can upload unlimited HD videos of any length or stream HD content on YouTube for free. Vimeo has a monthly or yearly membership fee that increase if you add more content than you are allowed. That’s why our church switched to using YouTube as our primary online video platform—to save money.

Are You Anti-Vimeo?
It may seem like I’m anti-Vimeo—I’m not. Both my church and I use and embrace Vimeo. It’s a great platform. But I want the videos I create to reach and impact as many people as possible, and I believe that churches and church leaders are missing a major opportunity with YouTube.

Objections to YouTube
There are certainly objections when it comes to churches using YouTube. I can’t cover all of them here, but I do address them in detail in my book, YouTube for Churches. YouTube is not perfect and should be approached with wisdom and discernment by church leaders. The waters of YouTube can be stormy at times, but smooth seas don’t make good sailors.

So let’s embrace YouTube and create remarkable content that shares the gospel with the world in creative ways!


  • Check out our review of YouTube for Churches: How to Make Better Videos, Grow Your Church and Reach More People with YouTube by Sean Cannell.
  • Buy a copy of YouTube for Churches: How to Make Better Videos, Grow Your Church and Reach More People with YouTube by Sean Cannell.
Post By:

Sean Cannell

Sean Cannell is the campus pastor of The Church OC, co-founder of church leadership blog and well-known YouTube channel THiNK International, and author of YouTube for Churches. Access a free, four-video YouTube training course at
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16 Responses to “YouTube vs. Vimeo: Which Should Churches Use?”

  • Karen Kubiak
    June 30, 2014

    While YouTube is great for all the reasons you’ve listed above, we quickly switched to Vimeo when “suggested videos” that appeared at the end of our videos on YouTube showed some, um, sketchy content. We had no control over what showed up. A paid Vimeo account was a no-brainer for us.

    One of the reasons I’ve been a long time Mac fan is that viruses strike Macs much less frequently than PCs. Extendng the Mac vs PC analogy, we prefer Vimeo’s built in protection from toxic content. :-)

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    • Sean Cannell
      June 30, 2014

      Great point! However, I think there is a way around that.

      Using the YouTube share/embed feature…
      1. Uncheck the “Show suggested videos when the video finishes.”
      2. Embed the video (or playlist) on your website.
      3. Only drive traffic to your website pages / not to YouTube.

      Example: (The video embedded on that page has “Show suggested videos when the video finishes” turned off. You’ll notice that the end of the video loops back to the play button/thumbnail image.

      Example: You can play the weekend message with the little video camera icon. Same result at the end of the sermon.

      Then YouTube becomes win-win! You get the free service, the great features and you get to “control” what your church sees.

      If people “stumble” on your content when they are already on YouTube, they are there anyway and already around the wide spectrum of appropriate and inappropriate content. But at that point, we as churches and church leaders have the opportunity to be “salt” and “light” and to be “in the world, but not of it.”

      I love your heart for #churchcomm at Elmbrook Church. I appreciate what you guys are doing to reach Wisconsin!

      Keep crushing it!


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      • Lincoln Parks
        July 7, 2014

        This is great. I do still prefer Youtube because of the things Sean mentioned. Also, there is a way to stop the video at the end after its done watching and go back to the splash screen. If you add this code it will do it all for you.

        Just copy the ?rel=0&autoplay=1 and you should be all set.

        Autoplay = it will autoplay your video or not.
        Rel = 0 means to turn the related video stuff at the end off and 1 means turn it on.

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  • Dave Shrein
    June 30, 2014

    Sean, great post and super valuable information.

    We employ both Vimeo and YouTube solutions. We load up videos to both networks but use vimeo for embedding non-social videos on our website because of the control it does offer. For videos that has social value, we use YouTube. In other words you won’t see a share to a vimeo but you will find YouTube shares.

    It’s worked for us

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  • Jason
    June 30, 2014

    We use Youtube and Vimeo at @tphdallas and we see the benefits of both platforms but just like you say, we use YouTube for social purposes and Vimeo for control and web embedding.

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  • Chris Jones
    June 30, 2014

    Sean Cannell is definitely right about YouTube. YouTube can reach a wide audience, very quickly. It is easy for people to get sucked in and watch more videos than initially planned, which is not the case for Vimeo.

    People tend to use Vimeo as more of a portfolio of what kinds of videos a church or organization is capable of making. The church I work at uses Vimeo to showcase things such as bumpers, intros and other videos. These type of videos don’t always make since as a standalone videos but are formalistically appealing.

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  • Mark Grice
    June 30, 2014

    I couldn’t agree less. This is not a “We do it to be cool” thing at all. We used to use YouTube. We switched to Vimeo and are not going back and here’s why:

    YouTube’s “guilty until proven innocent” approach to copyright is draconian, and unacceptable.

    In our sermons we use a lot of movie clips to keep things relevant and interesting. We use nothing that is longer than a few seconds, and every clip we use is already on Youtube — usually dozens of times. Yet YouTube would flag our sermons and remove them making us file a “Fair Use” claim, that then Google would “investigate.” That would usually take somewhere around a week. *In every instance* the copyright holder said what we were doing was fine, and the claim was released.

    But that wasn’t good enough for Youtube. After this happened a few times, our file limit was changed to fifteen minutes because we were a “frequent offender” of their Copyright policy. Never mind that we were *always* exonerated by the copyright holder themselves! We never had a “Fair Use” claim rejected!

    I hate the fact that I have to pay for my Vimeo account. I also really hate the fact that I am limited to 5 Gig of uploads a week — which refreshes at 12:01am on Sunday — meaning that we can never have our sermon online the same day it is preached.

    But at least we get our sermons online by Monday and don’t have to worry about jumping through Youtube hoops to keep it up.

    As far as searching goes, we’re not interested in people in Belfast, Ireland finding our sermons anyway. We’re more interested in people in our general vicinity finding them so they can get an idea of our services before they decide to check us out. We use our Facebook page to handle that. Youtube is great if I am trying to monetize clicks, but that’s not what we’re doing. We left Youtube not for “cool” reasons — but because it is the only practical alternative.

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  • Rob Britton
    June 30, 2014

    I started with YouTube. Our new website for our media will handle our ability to search for videos on our website, regardless of YouTube or Vimeo as the CDN. I really do not like the way YouTube only give you a short window to acknowledge third party content, when we have our CCLI # on our YouTube page. My other big issue with YouTube is the live streaming. I REALLY wanted to use them for live streaming. However, it lasted one service and then we were blacklisted as a copyright infringer and the stream stopped. We cannot have that. So, we use (great company and prices, I must say!) I still want to add YouTube live, but am now gun shy. They really need a way for the ‘broadcaster’ to enter their licensing info and then not be subject to their media mafia!

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  • DJ Chuang
    June 30, 2014

    Yes, I hear you, churches, those that find YouTube to be inconsistent with enforcing copyrights and fair use and what not…

    But, there is so much more to YouTube — the opportunity to be reaching millions of people on YouTube is so much bigger! There’s more to YouTube than getting your sermons online!

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  • Matthew J Peters
    June 30, 2014

    Sean, you’re spot on. YouTube is the 800 Lb gorilla when it comes to a platform that is out there to help you get found and elicit engagement. The sharing and engagement features of sharing, commenting and liking are nothing short of amazing. I do use vimeo for content that I want more control of for my websites when I’m not concerned about organic reach. Thanks for making the distinctions clear for us to choose which tool is best for our outcome.

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  • Brian
    July 1, 2014

    One glaring mistake: Vimeo now reaches about 170 million visitors a month. Still well below YouTube, but it’s growth rate is worth noting.

    I also think it’s important to point out that the comments in YouTube are totally hit or miss. You never know who will stumble upon your video and what they’ll say as a result. Vimeo has real people moderating comments.

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  • Joel Natalie
    July 8, 2014

    We make a pretty clear distinction of what we use Vimeo for and what we use YouTube for, and the key is in the social media strategy. For sermons and internal congregational communication, we use Vimeo. For shareable content, such as site welcome videos, promos for generational ministries, and general marketing videos, we use YouTube, shutting off the related videos grid at the end.

    For what it’s worth, when I promote a YouTube upload on Facebook, I don’t use the FB icon on YouTube. Instead I’ll pull an interesting frame and post the image on FB, and include the link in the description. I get more control of the images on our FB timeline and point the way to the video content.

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  • Christian
    February 7, 2015

    I have used vimeo for most of my needs for a long time. I have recently become more concerned about amount of adult content that vimeo allows to be hosted on its site including full frontal nudity. Obviously there is not the chance that your videos will link to any of this content but I do wonder if more churches were aware of this if they would continue to use vimeo.

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  • Mike
    June 22, 2015

    There one very important reason churches should utilize YouTube: Vimeo sucks. I can’t put it and simpler than that. It’s the worst streaming on the web (even worse than facebook’s video streaming, which is pretty bad) and there’s no excuse for this, considering how long they’ve been in business. Churches want to reach people, right? By the time you reach people with a video on Vimeo, the target audience will be dead from old age.

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  • Andy Robinson
    May 11, 2017

    So much good discussion, have you any updated thoughts, are churches reconsidering Youtube with the changes of the last couple years?

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