YouTube, NotYourTube, or YourBoobTube: This is What It Looks Like

by Marianne Richmond on April 23, 2006

YouTube users add 35,000 videos each day and viewers view 30 million videos each day according to Newsweek. Anyone can download a video, any video can be emailed; in minutes you can download a DIY video, a TV show, or a commercial or a combination of any or all of these.

Members can set up their own sites on YouTube, make comments, watch whenever and wherever they want and track the popularity of anything on the site. Videos can be tagged and each video has its very own identification  number.

According to Media Post, "Its the interface, stupid" that makes YouTube everyone’s  favorite tube. The speed of the download, courtesy of the intersection of technology and bandwith, is what drives YouTube. In this part of the  model, customers develop and/or create the content, organize and rate it by virtue of the number of downloads while the publishers build platforms that are designed to share well with others. There are no annoying where and whens. And  as Media Post points out, this is the Widsom of Crowds personified.

The Church of the Consumer says that, "YouTube has deftly designed itself around what appears to be one of the more significant contributors to the growth of an online product: Enabling a community of users to create content around content."

But, who owns the content?  Businessweek said that YouTube could be another NBC or another Napster. Hmmm? The article states that "Hurley and Chen think they are working on the future of TV." Lots of the content on YouTube is user created. Think Bowiechick’s Breakup. But, lots of the content is user downloaded. Think SNL. (Yes, its not there anymore)

Hurley states in Businessweek that they want YouTube to be a destination that promotes content from "these guys, " meaning copyrighted content and has tools and technology to protect against copyright infringement.

Om Malik says,  I believe that the growing popularity of You Tube (and other online video sites… about 95 in total as per Mary Hodder of Dabble) has less to do with amateur content, and more to do with copyright infringing content. Well, I guess it depends on which side of the copyright one sits and the definitions of ownership and control that one adopts.Or,  is that even a relevant question anymore?

Robert Young writing as a guest on Om Malik’s Blog says "The thing that I find most compelling about the Internet as a whole is its power to turn well rooted, traditional business norms upside down on its head." Repeat after me, the Internet has changed everything….we have stepped through the looking glass .Individuals, collectively, control the content.

Consumers are producing content and consumers are distributing content. If you have a URL, you are a content distributor. As Young notes, "if puts up a video on their site and I point to the URL in a blog entry, I have exercised my influence over the distribution of that content. And if my blog post subsequently starts a huge viral redistribution of that URL to millions of other people, my control and influence over the distribution of that NBC video will have been at the expense of all other distribution outlets that are under the control of NBC.

He nails it when he writes,  " As the worlds of media and technology collide with a force that can split an atom, such cognitive dissonance is a natural by-product of the fact that more and more content (and code) is being produced by the people themselves. At the same time, with the increasing digitization of media, the definition of “distribution” is also changing from channels previously rooted in the physical world to one where people themselves become the new distribution channels via tightly and loosely-coupled social networks connected together by the universal language of IP and bits."

The SNL clip on YouTube drove traffic to YouTube but also did much to generate a renewal of interest in Saturday Night Live.SNL said, Our goal on this is that obviously we want to find a balance between supporting the fan base that’s out there for these shows but also protect a significant amount of copyrighted material."

But wait, there is another issue.You Tube as the BoobTube. Lance Ulanoff coins the term iVideoism, and describes an addictive type state that viewers suffer from; the ivideoits will become alienated from others as well as from reality, which he declares a social problem. Did he possibily miss the reliance on the social network that drives the video sharing?

From the intersection of anthropology and economics, Glen McCracken disagrees and says that it is the same argument that was applied to TV in the 1950’s. Early TV he says had only a few channels, only a few brands to advertise and the advertising did not require deep thought. The process was that content was uniform, this induced conformity and social alienation would soon follow.

He says, "No, the reason YouTube is interesting is that it offers a fountain of invention from many thousands of people, pursuing a vast number of, some of them, deeply strange and cryptic projects.  YouTube is a mad house of inventiveness."

Ulanoff disagrees, and essentially says that the content on YouTube is stupid and watching it will make us stupid, ala TV as the Boob Tube. He writes, "Those sorry folks have no patience for the humor, sometimes subtle, of viral video or the "gee, wasn’t that amazing" response elicited by videos like the one of the autistic kid scoring 20 points in 4 minutes in his high-school basketball game. They just want skin and lots of it."

So, is YouTube the BoobTube or a mad house of inventiveness? Are the videos user generated content or copyright infringement content? It’s all of the above. More importantly, I am not sure that it matters. The value of the community to the individuals may not be in the content, anyway but in the social network that develops over time. Further, as Jeff Jarvis notes, its all about filtering and aggregation, "

"Value lies at the aggregation point." – I forget who said it, but it rings in my head daily. Newspapers’ value lies in aggregating readers for advertisers (not in some high-horsed journalistic elite). Google’s value lies in aggregating viewers. Conferences aggregate audiences. MySpace aggregates teens. Facebook aggregates college students. O’Reilly aggregates developers. Aggregation is where the value lies."

Filtering: Pure "news" (items being pulled off the AP wire) are along the same lines as stock prices, they’re commodities. But filtering, perspective, a trusted voice — that brings tremendous value. And people flock to the filters that appeal to them."

In other words, YouTube is a community of aggregated users and content creators providing a filtered perspective to other creators and users.

So, to repeat the quote from the This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics," the reason YouTube is interesting is that it offers a fountain of invention from many thousands of people, pursuing a vast number of, some of them, deeply strange and cryptic projects.  YouTube is a mad house of inventiveness…this is what it looks like. This is who we are."

And what is YouTube for marketers and advertisers? Well, as USA Today, the New York Times, and Business Week all note,  advertisers are seeding YouTube with commercial clips. According to USA Today, Nike’s Ronaldinho clip was downloaded over 3 million times. Cost to Nike? The cost of the digital video. The value ? Priceless.

Other uses can be seen at Brand Autopsy. And then of course, YouTube is a virtual goldmine for market research and trend spotting.


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