Cuban speaks

Mark Cuban is about the speak at the Online News Association and I told the VP from the NY Times who introduced him that the Wall Street Journal reported just this second that Google is negotiating to buy YouTube for $1.6 billion. Cuban has been saying that anybody who’d buy YouTube is an idiot. So she asks whether Google is an idiot.

Cuban launches: “Rumors are rumors and just that… Today, in this day and age, rumors have a lot of currency and take on a life of their own…. Should Google buy YouTube? They’d be crazy…. YouTube: Mentos and Diet Coke is fascinating. [Laugh] I’m all for user-generated content, don’t get me wrong….” He talks about the copyright issues around YouTube and says content will be taken down. “The minute that acquisition takes place, YouTube couldn’t be YouTube.”

He’s asked what he would do if he ran a newspaper site. He answers that he’d first figure out what his core competencies are and what will keep others out of his business. He says the first asset is access and says that “we got Dan Rather for HD and he has access.” I’d say the asset is different but the point is right nonetheless. He says the challenge is not technology but marketing. He talks about his marketing of Akeelah and the Bee and “our marketing sucks.” He said they spent $20 million in marketing to get $20 million in box office.

“Going to the physical world, I don’t understand why newspapers aren’t more expensive.” Well, except the value isn’t in paper or disribution.

Asked what the benefit of user-generated content is for newspapers, he suggests putting up every high school concert. Uh, Mark, how about the copyright?

He complains about the length of copyright and also says that he put one of his movies out on DVD without copyright protection because he didn’t want to pay Macrovision for protection that “any 6-year-old” can break.

I left the keyboard to discuss YouTube with him. I argued that we’re losing the opportunities of the distributed world and that it will change when distributed media is ready for advertising. He says that won’t work, making the standard argument that ads would end up on porn sites. He says at the end that he likes Revver, which does have the infrastructure for ads and rights; he says YouTube is just flawed.

I then ask him to talk about Sharesleuth and journalism, which we’ve argued about via blog. Rich Jaroslovsky from Bloomberg follows up — knowing how to ask the question better than I did — and says that the arrangement from Sharesleuth wouldn’t pass the smell test with news organizations. If the Dallas Morning News did the same thing, would that be ok? He says yes, if the arrangement was known. That, I think, is where the split comes. A newspaper would not do that. The Bloomberg man keeps pushing his definition: It’s the transparency that makes it OK, says Cuban. I still don’t buy it. I wish I could hear what the people in this room think.

Asked what he does on his computer, he says he is a “slut” “sponge” reading everything: much news, starting his day with his RSS. [Note: I thought I heard “slut;” Cuban leaves a message saying he said “sponge.” Well, slut is fun. But sorry.]

He is asked whether ubiquitous wireless broadband will affect regular TV. He says “not at all.” He acknowledges that video is watched on computers, particularly in the office, on computers. “As far as broadband taking over television, ain’t gonna happen. They will be complementary.” He says the hardest part of TV is the last inch into the TV: “despite what Apple is trying to tell you, that’s not the easy inch, that’s the angry inch.”

Cuban proves to be a charming guy. We just disagree a lot of the time.

: Jonathan Dube blogged yesterdays citizens’ media summit at Cyberjournalist. And Staci Kramer is here blogging on PaidContent.

  • $1.6m would be a steal ;-)

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  • I think you mean 1.6 billion, right?

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  • First of all, Mark Cuban is a very articulate, passionate and insightful guy. But in this case, I still have to disagree with him on this copyright issue,
    “[Mark] talks about the copyright issues around YouTube and says content will be taken down. “The minute that acquisition takes place, YouTube couldn’t be YouTube.”

    I will bet two of my Canadian dollars against one of Mark’s US dollar that the content will *not* be taken down after an acquisition. It just happens that I have posted another comment on a different blog about this issue which I will excerpt (with minor changes) the relevant part here.
    In Canada, our Constitution has a “not withstanding clause” (section 33) which allows provincial (i.e. state) governments and the federal government to ignore some courts and supreme court decisions, renewable every 5 years. This is such a powerful tool that some provincial government (I won’t name names) recently tried to use it but the people screamed so loud and got so angry that the government backed down.

    Why am I giving this legal example here in this YouTube post? The reason is that I think the copyright laws (like section 33) give the power to the copyright holders to demand YouTube to take down a clip. But the screams that these copyright holders will hear from fans that watch these clips will be so loud and the negative publicity and news generated will be so big that essentially disable effective use of some part of the copyright protection in YouTube space.

    By the way, I am not claiming these copyright holders won’t get compensated eventually (they will and probably should) but my key point is that some of their copyright rights power (e.g. the power to remove clips that they don’t want viewers to see) are effectively gone. The bigger these copyright holders (CBS, NBC, Comedy Central), the less power they have. Because these big players have bigger audiences and are more susceptible to pressure from thousands and thousands of YouTube viewers that they want to please.

    Lastly, I am not a lawyer and I did this “legal” analysis for fun. And believe it or not, half of the time, I changed my mind 2 minutes later. (smile)

  • Robert: Bless you, my editor. (SLAP .. thanks, I needed that)

  • Has Cuban or anyone done the math on how much of YouTube’s content is an outright copyright violation? Sure an entire music video is such an example, but what about a small clip from Seinfeld, embedded in a home movie?

    My gut (and YouTube browsing experience) tell me that YouTube is not Napster, its content is much more diverse and far transcends mere copyright hijacking.

    FWIW, my son is not quite 2 years old and he spends hours watching YT (monster trucks, home made pac-man videos, and other obscure clips) but he won’t spend two seconds looking at a television.

    Cuban is a great guy, but sometimes he unfairly comes off as intellectually incontinent.

  • JJ
    i said sponge, not slut :).. But slut would have been more fun to say

    nice to finally meet you


  • Viewership and user statistics at YouTube, reported by Lee Gomes a month ago, seem suspect. Google would know this.

    But, it does make the daily comparisons with Hollywood seem pretty empty:

  • The YouTube copyright issue is an interesting one. But now that Google has embraced them they’ll have a war-chest to fight the inevitable actions. This could be the lawsuit of the century considering YouTube are flagrant breakers (albiet hosts) of International Copyright Conventions. Not that I’m complaining – I’ve had 270,000 viewers to my mashed vids and have just launched a weekly Television show for broadband and cellphones using YouTube as well as my own site

    But…I dunno…do you think Big Brother Google has the same fun vibe to business as YouTube? My bet is no. I see you have Adsense. If they think you’re cooking the books or I should say “cooking the clicks” they just close your account and don’t pay you. No redress. No compensation. So you can run their ads for a year( like I have) and have them threaten to close you down for what they see as click generation fraud. I wrote back saying “I haven’t, I wouldn’t and even if I did, do you think I’d do it for the lousy $5-10 I supposedly make off you guys each month?” And, of course, I get no reply. Not even an automated one. So yeah…I fear for YouTube. The Google lawyers are probably meeting right now…along with the Advertising/Marketing jerks. I’ve a new name for YouTube if it does come undone – “YouTanked”.

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