Shrinking pains: Blip upsets publishers by removing countless videos

Breaking up is hard to do: That’s a lesson that online video network Blip is learning the hard way these days. For a little more than a year, Blip has been trying to focus all of its energies on its most profitable publishers, and in the process has parted ways with thousands of smaller video producers. But in the last few weeks, that process hit some bumps, and now a number of publishers allege that their videos got removed with little or no warning.

One of the publishers affected by this was Headline Surfer, a small news website for Daytona Beach and Orlando, Florida. Headline editor Henry Frederick took to Twitter Monday to complain that Blip deleted 500 videos without any heads up. “Half of our video collection is gone,” Frederick said.

He’s not the only one who’s complaining. A Spanish blogger saw 31 videos about autism disappear. Chris Heuer’s Social Media Club lost all of its videos, and Heurer said that he never received a warning. Benjamí Villoslada, co-founder of the Spanish social news site Menéame, said he didn’t get a warning either. The list goes on.

However, Blip insists that it notified everyone beforehand. A spokesperson sent me the following statement:

“This is part of an ongoing program that has been underway since March to clean up old accounts, Terms of Service violations, and content that doesn’t meet Blip’s editorial standards. To ensure anyone affected was aware of the change, we reached out to all users with the contact information we have for them and posted announcements via social media and user dashboards. To ensure that they would have sufficient time to retrieve their videos, we gave people at least 30 days to retrieve files and provided information on how to move their videos another site.”

Blip’s spokesperson subsequently also told me that the site twice delayed the actual deletion of files and removal of accounts, and that the company is now scheduled to flip that switch in December 3rd.

Executives told me earlier this year that the video platform, which originally started out as a YouTube (s GOOG) competitor, at some point had 900,000 publisher accounts. The stated goal at the time was to scale down to 4,000 serialized shows that are marketable to premium advertisers. The site stepped up these efforts after it got acquired by Maker Studios in September, telling an unknown number of publishers that their accounts would be deleted by November 7th.

That strategy didn’t bode well with everyone., a group of internet activists that in the past tried to preserve digital history by archiving data from Geocities, Friendster and Posterous, began to archive videos from Blip in October. On its website, the group said that it wanted to save “about 228,000 videos before November 7th.” Except it didn’t quite reach that goal; instead of backing up 70TB of data, the group was only able to grab 7TB, which are now being uploaded to

In the end, the whole episode may  just be another reminder that cloud-based hosting isn’t always future-proof, but also show that overly lofty aspirations make reality feel that much colder. Back in 2006, Blip described its purpose this way:

“Our goal is to change the world by bringing excellent free video publishing services to people who are unable or unwilling to get outlets from major media organizations in the United States and throughout the world. Our passion is democratization. Our principles are the rules we live by.”

Those rules, one should have added, are subject to change.

This story was updated on 12/03 with additional information about the removal of files and accounts from