German Chancellor vlogs on YouTube

November 27, 2006

News:  Wired critiques the videos of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which are available on the German government site and, of course, on YouTube.  Wired reports:

“I don’t know who can take these seriously,” says Ivo Smolak, aka Ivo Lotion, a video artist and underground comedian whose spoofs of Merkel’s speeches have become a hit on YouTube. “I like her, but her body language is unintentionally so funny it’s just asking for satire. Maybe she just needs more time in front of the camera.” * * *

“Thursdays or Fridays, Merkel meets with a production crew and shoots for about 15 minutes somewhere in the German executive office building, sometimes using handheld cameras. Topics in the last few weeks have ranged from a heartfelt reaction to the kidnapping and murder of a 2-year-old child last month to snoozers on the “German-Polish relationship” and economic growth.”

Analysis:  Unbelievable, the head of a country youtubing!  I wish I understood German.

Will YouTube replace TV?

November 27, 2006

News:  BBC has a survey of people in Britain who watch online videos.  46% of online viewers say they watch less TV (including 20% who say they watch a lot less TV).  However, online viewers only make up 9% of the British population (although it’s 28% among 16 to 24 year olds), and 54% of online viewers say they still watch the same amount of TV.

Analysis:  The key stat to me is the number of 16 to 24 year olds who watch online videos, 28%.  Advertisers covet the attention of that segment of the population, so one should hardly doubt that there’s a business to be made in online videos.

Is the world of “YouTube surveillance” going too far?

November 27, 2006

News:  The NYT reports an incident involving a high school student in Ottawa who provoked her teacher to get mad, so that another student could tape it and post it on YouTube.  The school got wind of the video and asked YouTube to remove it.  YouTube complied.  According to NYT, the teacher “is a 33-year veteran who specialized in teaching students with learning disabilities. The teacher is now on voluntary sick leave, and officials at his union say that he is so embarrassed that he may never return to class.” 

Analysis:  At least from the description in the article, I think the students were wrong for what they did, especially if they wanted their teacher to get mad so they could catch it on tape.  The article suggests that the teacher was a good teacher and supported by students.  Our lives will be drastically different if everything outside of our homes can be taped on video and posted on YouTube.  Although it’s true that video can catch inappropriate behavior and comments by politicians, police officers, and washed-up actors, there’s also a negative element to making everything fair game to video.   

UPDATE:  Michael Geist, a law professor in Canada, has a thoughtful article on the issuse.  In it, he writes:  “While there are some obvious benefits that arise from the transparency and potential accountability that can come from video evidence of controversial events, the emergence of an always-on video society raises some difficult questions about the appropriate privacy-transparency balance, the ethics of posting private moments to a global audience, and the responsibility of websites that facilitate Internet video distribution.”

LA Times op-ed comparing YouTube + MySpace to Napster

November 27, 2006

News:  LA Times editorial writer Jon Haley has an op-ed piece on Sunday, comparing and contrasting YouTube and MySpace to Napster.  Although Haley suggests that YouTube and MySpace are different from Napster because they are websites and have deeper pockets, they could end up like Napster:  “The best result would be for Universal and its entertainment brethren to work out a way with MySpace and YouTube to turn people’s enthusiasm for posting songs and clips into a robust revenue stream — assuming that the sites can gin up enough money to make everybody happy. In another parallel with the original Napster, MySpace and YouTube haven’t found a way yet to generate much revenue from advertisers or users. And the longer that remains true, the greater the chance that the companies will meet the same fate.”

Analysis:  It’s now banal to compare YouTube to Napster.  Mark Cuban did it last month, and I’ve offered all my reasons why I believe he was wrong in all these posts here.  So far, I have to say that my position has proven more accurate, given YouTube’s continued, growing business. 

I think LA Times writer Jon Haley is barking up the wrong tree when he says that YouTube and MySpace may be different from Napster because they are websites (as if Napster wasn’t) and they have deep pockets.  Napster was a website, too; it invoked the DMCA safe harbor as well but was shut down before it even had a chance to take that defense to trial (although it’s not clear it had a DMCA policy in place, anyways).  Also, the fact that YouTube and MySpace have deep (parent) pockets could make it more attractive, not less so, for copyright lawsuits. 

What Haley is missing (and Cuban as well) is that a growing segment of big corporate America — Cingular, CBS, NBC, Warner Music, Universal Music Group, Sony BMG — sees YouTube as a legitimate business, and a business that can also serve their interests.  That’s a key difference betwen Napster and YouTube.  YouTube is changing the way corporate copyright holders think about enforcing their copyrights.  Here’s what CBS exec David Poltrack stated last week, “When you have something the public really wants, the economic value in that is to come up with a way to satisfy the rights holders and serve the consumers. . .  If they’re [consumers] going to steal it, give it to them anyway.” 

Of course, I don’t want to overstate the change in the view of copyright holders, or understate the risk of copyright liability that YouTube or MySpace faces.  Copyrights still exist, and sometimes (but not always) they give rise to lawsuits.  Universal Music is suing MySpace, but not YouTube.  The DMCA provides a potential safe harbor for YouTube and MySpace, but, if litigated, the issue will be contested.  By the same token, businesses and corporate copyright holders probably understand, more today than they did before, that shutting down Napster was a Pyrrhic victory, that propagated infringement across decentralized, harder-to-detect sites.  In the end, the music, movie, and television industries may need a central site like YouTube to prosper just as much as YouTube needs them. 

UPDATE:  Here’s more evidence to support my theory.  Major media corporations are all searching for the “next YouTube.”  No one said that about Napster, at least not in a good way.