Google Nichecasting Networks

Just to demonstrate the point, I recorded this post as video — quickly and clumsily — and uploaded it to YouTube.

In the explosion of the new television, what we need now is not more content or distribution — we have plenty of both on YouTube alone. What we need is a way to find the good stuff, the the stuff we want to watch.

And where do we find everything else in life these days? Google, of course. So Google’s acquisition of YouTube makes perfect sense. It can be the world’s biggest TV Guide.

But that will not work if all Google brings to this is search. For video is not about information. It is about entertainment, about taste. And though some algorithms have tried, none can yet program the perfect network for me. Neither, for that matter, can television executives. But my friends can.

And that is what YouTube brings to its deal with Google: people. Though Google depends on the wisdom of the crowd, it still respects us only in aggregate as a mass.

YouTube made the new TV social. It enabled people to recommend the good – or at least amusing — stuff not just by their clicks and ratings but also by their actions: YouTube allowed us to put good videos up on our blogs. YouTube enabled us to become network programmers.

I believe that the serving of 100 million videos is the least valuable service that YouTube provides. Serving all those videos was an important and insightful step in the process of exploding television as we knew it and handing its power to the people. But I believe the end of that process will have us serving videos from wherever — from Google or our own blogs and servers or via peer-to-peer technology that vastly reduces the cost of distribution.

So then how does Google make money on those videos? How does it serve advertising? The same way it does now: Google does not make us come to it and its ads; Google takes its ads to where we already are. It serves ads on my own blog.

If the Google purchase of YouTube is successful, it will learn how to listen to people as individuals with taste and timely opinions and use that to enable us to find the video we each want to see wherever it is. It will make YouTube a key channel of distribution even for old, big networks (witness this deal, announced yesterday, between CBS TV and YouTube). And then Google will sell advertising on that new TV screen, powering the explosion of the new television.

Welcome to Google Nichecasting Networks.

(Here and here are earlier Media Guardian columns I wrote about this explosion of TV.)

  • Jeff,

    I’m trying to figure out if I like reading you more than I like watching you.

    I have decided that I enjoy both.

    That said, the couch potato in me was drawn to the more passive viewing experience!

    Which brings me to a bit of speculation…

    Don’t Apple and Google seem cozy these days?

    And wouldn’t it be nice to watch YouTube through… the recently announced iTV (which will let you stream music, video, and photos from your computer to your TV)?

    It also occurs to me that it might be nice to watch all of this (in addition to browsing the Web, listening to music, and managing your contacts and calendar) on your 3G iPhone!

    (See recent statements by the T-Mobile brass.)

    Just speculating…

  • Of course Google bought YouTube because of the huge community of users. My guess is that they’ll build it out as a rival to MySpace. Google is notoriously bad at building community, so they just paid out the nose for one. Now, they are casting about for other video properties. I think they’ll go for Revver or, sites that host stronger, more compelling content. What do you think about that?

  • Great stuff Jeff,

    I really like the video too!

  • Doesn’t google already have a social community called Okrut or something? And isn’t the only way to join is to have someone invite you? And isn’t it completely unsucessful?

  • chico haas

    67 employees, 1.6 billion….67 employees, 1.6 billion….

  • Sometimes companies buy other firms just to prevent others from doing so. Microsoft has a long record of doing just this. After the purchase they either add the product to their own suite or just include it as a feature in their operating system.

    Google is probably near the point where its growth rate will start to taper off. This is inevitable because 10% of one million is easier to do than 10% of one billion. Wall St. looks at growth rate, not absolute size or profitability. A decline in growth rate will cause a sharp drop in Google’s stock price which is selling at a huge P/E. Knowing this is coming can make business leaders do all sorts of strange things…

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  • Brilliant way to illustrate the absurdity of the niche-casting frenzy.

  • If search provides input that shapes tastes of producers then the input becomes the output. The question then is how to stay relevant without preaching to a shrinking, variety starved choir.

    You need a knowledge of personality type so that someone who likes chess isn’t recommended a video about checkers. Instead they would be recommended a video about military strategy.

  • Google bought the audience – they already have the advertising pool and infrastructure to monetize YouTube’s Web pages.

    The YouTube audience is young, creative and has loads of spare time and ready cash. Google could have bought perhaps the New York Times with that wad of cash but that is not the online audience that their advertisisers want.

    They are smart to now leverage their ability to deliver a tightly-focused audience to people who want to pay to be in front of them.

    We are in a disruptive time for established mass media. Call it the rise of the niche verticals but developing niche expertise will be critical.

    From the experience I have gathered building social media (and 20 years in print developing niche and new news products) I can say that not many news execs are savvy yet as to the many ways these new media story assets can be produced, packaged and monetized.

  • Google sure paid a bundle, but they paid using a risky security that has substantial probability of rapid and severe devaluation.

  • Clint G

    +1 on the videopost. -1 on the orange background.

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  • one who knows copyright


    Just as I said in a comment on one of your ealier rants “Deaf and Dumb” regarding Doug Morris at Universal Music… you seem to have forgotten – now that YouTube and other have cut deals with the Record Labels – and done it in a way that benefits all – you do not even make one mention of these intitiatives which was part of the Google YouTube story – in fact the opening line from Eric Schmidt on the conference call announcing the YouTube deal…. in case you forgot here is your quote “This is your audience you want to attack, fool” ……who’s the fool now?

  • Jules

    In regards to the statement of how TV networks can’t program the perfect network…

    I believe that the future of television begins with the broadband network (ie. MTV Networks’ broadband channels in which people can select what they want to see and in what order) and will evolve from there. Once we’re using one machine for television and internet, consumers will be able to personalize their programming beyond what exists now and beyond “networks” and networks won’t matter- they will only be content providers.

    Just my two cents!

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  • Why not just an Mp3 audio file? I mean, I don’t want to be disrespectful, but the talking head on an orange background with poor frame rate isn’t a compelling visual. Just doing audio could mean a better mic and cleaner sound…

    …am I missing something

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  • Ally Barstow

    To categorize the video, Content Pop has the ability to create an unlimited amount of communities based on anything that you can imagine. Within each community is the content links, ranked by the users, so the most popular is on top. Web 2.0 – Content Pop Site

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  • Ronald

    Jeff, agree totally with your observations. But it still doesn’t explain why they have to buy Youtube. Does Google own all the blogs on which they advertize? And do they need to? Don’t think so…

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