2006: The Year of You

December 11, 2006

News: Jon Pareles has written an article in today’s New York Times titled “2006, Brought to You by You.” In it he analyzes the growing phenomenon of YouTube, MySpace, and other sites that allow users to create content of their own, sometimes mixed in and mashed up with the content of others. This is the so-called “user created” content or peer production. Pareles goes with the classic First Amendment description: “self-expression.” I like that.

Analysis: Hands down, this is the best news article I have read about the YouTube phenomenon. The article deserves several readings. I will try to write several posts about this article over the next few weeks. Today’s post will focus on this wonderfully written paragraph of Pareles:

“It’s often inept, but every so often it’s inspired, or at least worth a mouse click. It has made stars, at least momentarily, of characters like the video diarist Lonelygirl (who turned out to be a fictional creation) and the power-pop band OK Go (whose treadmill choreography earned far more plays than its albums). And now that Web entrepreneurs have recognized the potential for profit, it’s also a sweet deal: amateurs, and some calculating professionals, supply the raw material free. Private individuals aren’t private anymore; everyone wants to preen.”

I think Pareles is exactly right. Most of the “user created” content on YouTube probably would not make anyone’s Top 1,000 list of favorite material, or Top 100,000 list, for that matter. Many of the videos are silly, bordering on inane. But creativity should not always or usually be expected to produce gems. Once in a while, it does. And that’s when you hope that someone in a position to do so can find the “gems” on YouTube or MySpace, and shine the light of public attention on them. Undiscovered talent becomes discovered, all through the Internet.

What is Web 2.0?

November 9, 2006

News:  Out in San Francisco, the Web 2.0 Summit organized by John Battelle is concluding today.  Apparently, it’s been quite a zoo.  I wish they had pictures — or, better yet, videos. 

So what exactly is Web 2.0?  Basically, it’s the second version of the Web, although different people may have different ideas about what makes it a new version.  Here’s Yochai Benkler’s (a Yale Law prof’s) explanation.

Education: should we teach YouTube in schools?

November 7, 2006

News:  Year 8 students (14 year olds) in Eltham College, a private school in Australia, are taking a class this year on YouTube.  The students “study” videos online, as well as post their own videos on YouTube.  Stuart King, the mastermind behind the idea, thought the course would help “teach students about creativity, the use of language and even publicity and promotion.” (More from the age.) 

Analysis:  Wow, what can I say.  I need more time to study and reflect upon the issue.  I’m all in favor of innovative teaching and courses, but I am not exactly sure about an entire course in YouTube for teenagers.  I’m not ruling it out, but I’d like to know more about the pedagogical goals of the course and how the course is structured.  The news article did mention that teaching students about respecting copyrights was one of the goals, but, based on my quick review of two of the videos prepared by the students, a couple appear to use copyrighted photos.

After reviewing the videos, I tried to find one to post up here.  This is what I settled on.  If you have children, you probably can relate.

Trying to create buzz: Yahoo!’s talent show

October 24, 2006

News:  In Yahoo! talent show is a sign of desperation, Mashable blog reports about Yahoo!’s video talent show, the winner of which gets $50,000 and a show on Yahoo video.  Mashable writes: “This is pretty much typical of Yahoo’s backward strategy. First off, a contest is no way to build long term value – it gets a little press buzz, but you can’t deny that Google is going to come out ahead here. But more annoying is the way they launched it: with a ‘pretty’ professional presenter in a studio reading some lines. That’s typical of Yahoo’s patronizing way of believing that professional content will win the day.”

Analysis:  I don’t see this contest as negatively as Mashable blog.  Not sure why it’s “patronizing” for Yahoo! to hire a professional ad team to prepare the Intro ad for the talent show.  YouTube did the same thing for its Underground rock band talent show, and Mashable seems pretty keen on YouTube.  Both contests aim to “discover” and reward some unknown talent.  There is nothing patronizing about that, to me.  After all, isn’t that a part of the American dream?

Mashable may be right that there could be some desperation to Yahoo!’s contest, given its fierce competition with darling Google and last earnings report.  But Yahoo’s gotta do something to revive its business and generate some positive momentum.  Staying competitive in online video has to be one of Yahoo!’s top priorities.

The social phenomenon of YouTube — is there room for Diddy?

October 23, 2006

News:  LA Times has an excellent article, YouTube users keep dialogue running, discussing the social networking aspect of YouTube’s popularity:  “What’s so unique about YouTube is that most of the content on the site is this conversation between people,” said Fred Stutzman, a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who has studied social networks. “The interesting thing is that the conversations are happening in videos.”

Analysis:  So have you ever wondered why millions of people would watch home-made videos of random people often doing silly things, or even nothing?  I mean, how many times have you ever watched the holiday or baby videos you created of your own family?  Probably not many, if at all. 

I’m sure there will be many academics who study this social networking phenomenon.  The LA Times does a good job introducing us to the topic.  I also liked the Times’ revelation that YouTube cofounders’ giddy video of the “two kings” coming together — the king of search (Google) and the king of video (YouTube) — was a parody of a Diddy commercial for Burger King:  “When two kings get together, you know they gotta do it in a special way,” Diddy said, inspiring dozens of mocking videos in response from YouTube members who thought the rapper was invading their turf.

Universal Music agrees to deal with YouTube, ending threat of copyright lawsuit; CBS + Sony also strike deals with YouTube

October 9, 2006

News:  Less than a month ago (see here), Universal Music CEO Doug Morris decried the “tens of millions” of dollars in copyright infringement of its music on YouTube.  Well, now Morris and Universal Music are singing a different tune.  They just agreed to a deal with YouTube to allow its users to incorporate Universal’s catalogue of music within their own home made videos.  (More from Reuters)  The deals are now coming, fast and furious.  CBS and Sony Music just struck deals with YouTube.  (More from AP)

Analysis:  This may go down as the single most important deal secured by YouTube, clearing potentially its path for an acquisition by Google or continued growth on its own.  The importance of getting the largest music recording studio within the YouTube fold cannot be overstated.  This is ginormous, to make up a word.

I hate to say I was right and Mark Cuban was wrong, but I will.  If there’s one thing I’ve been saying all along, it’s that business deals can and often do erase intellectual property concerns and uncertainty. Some readers may be tired of my mantra, because I’ve said it again and again. But I’ll say it one more time: instead of bringing IP lawsuits for alleged infringement, businesses often strike deals.  That’s the story of Google, the maker of Blackberry, and a host of successful companies.  Hey, look, now CBS just struck a deal with YouTube.  That makes it NBC, CBS, Cingular, Universal Music, Sony Music, and Warner Music who all have agreed to major deals with YouTube.  Do any credible analysts out there really still think that YouTube is about to go under?

Related posts

1.  Stan Beer refutes Bergoff’s prediction of YouTube’s copyright demise

3.  Bernoff predicts YouTube’s copyright demise

4.  Mark Cuban attacks YouTube again

5.  Mark Cuban attacks YouTube, predicts its demise

Forbes cover story: The YouTube Revolution

October 1, 2006

News:  The October 16th, 2006 Forbes has a cover story on “The YouTube Revolution” with a large photo of CEO and co-founder Chad Henley.  The article recounts YouTube’s young history, starting as an idea between Henley and co-founder Steve Chen conceived after a party with their coworkers from PayPal where they used to work.  The idea sprung after colleagues at the party had difficulty sharing video clips taken from the party — a saga explained here on Charlie Rose.

The article also contains some interesting discussion of the huge interest of established businesses in YouTube as a platform, and the vision of the YouTube founders:  Video democracy is here, [Henley] says, and falling costs of transmission and a growing audience eager for the offbeat have empowered anyone with a laptop to create, review or alter almost any piece of digital entertainment–right up there with the big guys. “Hollywood will always bring great content,” he allows, “but amateurs can create something just as interesting–and do it in two minutes.”

Analysis:  YouTube is a rather simple idea.  Users seem taken with it because it gives them a new outlet to share their own content.  Businesses are taken with it because it’s now one of the websites with the most buzz on the Net.  The Forbes article is just another indicator of that.  Buzz, though, is not a substitute for business.  YouTube is trying to lay the foundation for a sustainable business.

YouTube Underground: an American Idol for YouTube

September 20, 2006

News:  YouTube just keeps on announcing major initiatives.  It just announced a deal with Cingular and ABC to set up a competition for unknown, unsigned musical talent on YouTube.  Bands will be able to send videos of themselves performing for the competition from October 2 through 18.  Then, people can vote for their favorites and the finalists will appear on “Goodmorning, America” for the finals. (More from Reuters.)  If you have a band and want to enter, more about YouTube Underground can be found here.

Analysis: Great idea.  I love it.   One of the appeals of the mega-hit show American Idol is that it discovers unknown talent from all parts of the United States, even from remote locations like Checotah, Oklahoma, the home of Carrie Underwood.  YouTube Underground is even more grassroots in its search for unknown talent because the people apparently will be able to select the contestants from the start, unlike the early selection process in American Idol by three judges.