CBS is justifiably bragging about its decision to put up content onto YouTube, aka the network of the future. They uploaded 300 clips, which got 29.2 million views in a month, averaging 857,000 per day. They also note an increase in audience for shows that are doing well on YouTube: David Letterman up 200,000, Craig Ferguson up 100,000. Rafat Ali is unconvinced that these are necessarily connected; I’m not nearly as skeptical. I say this is, first, a brilliant marketing means and, next, the start of a new generation of distribution.
I can’t find anything about this online, but on the local NBC news this morning, they reporrted that Comedy Central was not asking YouTube to pull all the clips from its show, only full episodes — a reasonable and wise position. It seems that cooler heads prevailed. YouTube is a magnificent new means of distribution and promotion. Now the key will be for Comedy Central to also make money on those clips; once that happens, the networks will fall over themselves to put their own stuff up.
The Sunday papers are reviewing the YouTube deal. Richard Siklos The New York Times says it’s a loopy deal that still makes sense. Dominic Rushe in the Sunday Times of London gives the overview of the phenom while Andrew Sullivan admits addiction. But the best indication of YouTube’s power is the effort and development that goes on around it — the ways people adopt it as their own; see this list of YouTube aps [via Steve Rubel]. If you want to be big in media in the future, make yourself into an API.
: And Rachel Sklar just told me that a snipped of the video appeared on Reliable Sources (I watch when it comes up on my iPod). I was supposed to be on the show this week but the virtual me preempted the real me!
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.)