Archive for the ‘YouTube’ category

Writers’ Strike: Imminent Proof that Web Video is Hideo

19, November, 2007

As regular readers of this blog [both of you!] know by now, I am bearish on Web video. More specifically, I think the idea that people will watch many half-hour or hour-long TV-style programs on their computers is bull. I believe it’s a hopeful, consensual group delusion among VCs, broadcasters, and 2.entrepreneurs.

And so for purely selfish reasons I hope the writers’ strike against TV production companies continues. Why? As the strike goes on and broadcast fare dries up, several things are likely to happen:

1. Services like Hulu, NBC/News Corp’s platform for delivering standard TV content, will face an early test of value as online delivery mechanisms for network television content. Hulu is still in carefully guarded beta, so the data certainly won’t be conclusive. Similarly, Joost, is just launched and still awfully content-thin. But you can view plenty of broadcast video online at NBCDirect (also beta) or just off the main NBC website. There are other similar opportunities for online episode viewing at various broadcasters’ and programs’ sites. And YouTube is loading up on “real” TV content. The key question: Will TV viewers turn to these services as the writers’ strike continues and broadcast and some cable content goes gray? My guess: No.

2. Projects like QuarterLife [the MySpace series of 8-minute minisodes that’s pretty much about web video, from the creators of thirtysomething] will get an early proof-of-concept opportunity. Will folks who have turned away from the rerun-rich plasmatron go online to view even this program, which is crafted so specifically for online users and for this moment in time? Word just came out that the series will run on “real” NBC in January, so the online version will get a boost from the established broadcast medium. I still foresee no huge audience for it.

3. We’ll find out how many sofa spuds generally really do boot up their computers as the reruns continue. This will provide some data to test the widely accepted hypothesis that TV viewership is down because viewers are spending the time on the web instead.

My self-serving prediction: The remote control operators in the household will stay right on the couch and simply watch more “unwritten” cable, premium movie channels and on-demand content. The beneficiaries of the writers’ strike won’t be Hulu, Joost, YouTube or other web video schemes. They will be the The Discovery Channel, History Channel, the BBC, TVland, Survivor (it’s still on TV, really!), the Biggest Loser, and local cable systems’ on-demand fare.

Oddly enough, if I am right, the whole strike is meaningless anyway. It’s based on the idea that web users in huge, monetizable numbers will view half-hour and hour-long broadcast content on their computers.

Which means either I am wrong–at least a 50-50 chance, I’d say–or that those writers are out there pressing for a fair chunk of revenues that may never come.


The YouTube Killer: Shut Up Before You Get Started

14, November, 2007

Brace yourself for a wave of reflexive, poorly informed censor-the-Internet blowback.

What will bring this about? News that a Pennsylvia a 14-year-old being prosecuted for an October school shooting plot had communicated online, via MySpace and YouTube, with the teen in Finland who last week killed eight fellow classmates. Here’s a good report from

And here is just one example of the response that is forming, from a reader’s online posting on the site of the UK’s Register newspaper:

Now consider what would happen if such manifestos, photos and personal testaments of mass murderers were put in the same category as child pornography with reproduction and distribution banned and heavy penalties applicable.

I’m probably preaching to the choir here, as blog readers are unlikely to be censorious by nature. But to make three points:

  • Viewing the web, or social networks, or YouTube as accessories to murder or intent to murder is like blaming the telephone in the case where conspirators call each other to coordinate. Or to extend the argument to its absurd extreme, to accuse pen and paper as complicit in the Columbine killings, which were foretold in diary entries.
  • As the history of child porn prosecutions has shown, law enforcement has had great success using the Internet as a way to identify potential perps, gather evidence, conduct surveillance, arrest and prosecute producers and consumers of child pornography. The online transactions themselves draw a trail directly to the sickos.
  • There is a good argument that use of such immediate and ubiquitous technologies can encourage copycat actions and even enable conspiracies, which the Pennsylvania-Finland cases suggest. But the problem is, all communication has become ubiquitous and immediate. The attempt to slow and prohibit only communications about “acts of terror” is only going to divert vast sums of money to lawyers, and create full employment for privacy/censorship talking heads. Child porn is fairly easy to identify. “Intent to kill” and “acts of terror” are nearly impossible to identify with sufficient precision to permit constitutional legal action.

To draw, with apologies to all, on the rhetoric of the gun lobby: The Internet doesn’t kill people. People kill people.

YouTube/CNN: Video’s “Actually” Moment

23, July, 2007

This evening broadcasters and bloggers alike will proclaim the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate a breakthrough in engaging young voters,  as a way to re-democratize democracy, as proof that technology is transforming the way political campaigns are conducted, yadayadablahblahblah.

All fine. All good.

[Though it must be mentioned that this will hardly be a victory for disintermediated politics, or the death of MSM, what with CNN, middling spawn of the Time-Warner oligopoly, controlling the questions, promoting the event, and providing the medium by which most folks will view it.]

Let’s take a breath and look at other technology “moments.” 

Remember when fax machines came out, and we all reveled in the novelty of being able to fax our pickup orders to restaurants?

Remember the first telephone answering machines, and we realized we could actually produce our own “personal” outgoing messages?

And when e-mail happened, when we could actually send jokes to people at work and they’d get them immediately? 

With cell phones, we could actually walk down the street and talk on the phone!

Ditto nearly every technological innovation: desktop PCs, PDAs, online forums, blogs, social networks. . .each went through its “actually” moment. Then the technology matured, the novelty wore off and people figure out, more or less, what the thing is actually good for.  

Now just happens to be homemade video’s “actually” moment–we can actually make videos to ask questions of presidential candidates!  

This moment will pass too.

Let me be the first to predict: There will be no YouTube debate for the 2012 election. Making videos to ask candidates questions is an instant period piece, an expression of a moment in time. It will seem as quaint and foolish in four years as those insuffrable answering machine messages did by 1983.

I’m sure there will be something new for the 2012 election: Avatar candidacies? Crowdsourced campaign plans? Wiki platforms? Behaviorally targeted mobile advertising? Maglev whistle-stops with holographic candidate “appearances”? Who’s to say? No matter what, though, using video to question candidates will be so over, as they say on FaceBook.

Anyway, let’s enjoy tonight’s festivities, and try not to assign it more significance than it deserves.

And to keep yourself grounded, remember this:

As of 4 p.m. today, the “most discussed” video on YouTube is. . .a kid’s videotaping his dad viewing YouTube–and then catching him naked in his bedroom a few moments later.

Enjoy the debate.