Tag Archives: YouTube

More on YouTube and big content

A friend told me she disagreed with my post the other day on big media’s relationship with YouTube:

I totally disagree with your media article. NBC gets revenue from Google for sharing their content–this will never happen in a way that works for both. NBC should be allowed to host the shows on their own site with the ads they would like to include on their own site.

I think YouTube needs to take off all its questionable content. Just because people have trouble enforcing certain rules doesn’t mean that there is no reason for intellectual property protection. YouTube makes most of its revenue off of encouraging people to rip things off of other sites. It doesn’t produce anything, and, as a platform, I don’t even like it that much.

It struck me that I didn’t flesh out my argument on what YouTube is good for very well — mostly because it wasn’t the point of my post — but that I probably should. First off, a couple of things.

NBC can do whatever it likes with its content. It owns it, and should be allowed to do whatever it wants with it. I think it’s in their best interest, however, to leverage YouTube rather than fight it wholesale. (The same holds true for the music industry.)

In fact, NBC does host their own content at NBC.com and in other places (Hulu). You can watch whole episodes of e.g. Heroes and many other shows for free, on demand. I think they’ve done a remarkably good job in leveraging the excitement of the fans as well as doing some interesting stuff by embracing other kinds of media, most notably the Heroes webcomic.

It terms of showing TV shows that have actors and scripts and story arcs, YouTube isn’t the best platform. Hulu is preferable for a number of reasons:

  1. Hulu is more reliable. YouTube streams die on me 20-25% of the time no matter their quality.
  2. Hulu’s UI is better for streaming a whole show.
  3. You can pause and restart an episode later on even after you’ve closed your browser.
  4. Queueing is excellent. Subscriptions are excellent.
  5. It is trivially easy to download content from YouTube without anything more fancy than a bookmarklet. (Note: I didn’t use that script, I wrote my own for Chrome but it looks similar.)

Where Hulu does NOT shine is permanence. This is driven largely by content deals with networks, so Hulu isn’t to blame, here. It is frustrating to embed a Hulu clip in something like a blog post and have it be expired in two weeks. This breeds ill will towards Hulu, even though the network is the real culprit.

YouTube’s strengths are:

  1. Permanence (copyright infringement claims aside)
  2. Quantity and quality of HD clips
  3. Sheer ubiquity
  4. The UI lends itself better to interacting with shorter clips than any other web video service

If I were NBC, would I want Heroes on YouTube? Not in its entirety, no. I would certainly have some HD trailers and teasers for the various episodes available, and if viewers wanted to upload their favorite short scenes and mashups, I wouldn’t want them deleted. It’s all good publicity for the brand and it costs me nothing. (And indeed NBC is pretty lenient, as far as I can see.)

I would use these clips to drive people to the homepage for Heroes at NBC.com, and/or on Hulu.

But it was the news program format that I was mainly concerned with the other day. YouTube does shine when it comes to interviews with public figures. In this respect, news organizations almost perform a public service, but the problem with their ownership of their content means that if a politician does something boneheaded, it’s largely forgotten in a relatively short time as the content is locked in a media company’s footage archives, relegating it to little more than ephemeral conversation for the public’s needs and wants.

Of course, it’s not NBC’s job to do what’s in the public’s best interest, it is their fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value. However in this case, I believe that these goals are one and the same. After all, we can’t be sure that The Daily Show will be around forever…

YouTube is a perfect environment for these single-issue clips thanks to its ubiquity and permanence. If a content owner like NBC wants to keep whole episodes for their own web property, that’s fine. But I think they should allow (and promote) uploading of shorter clips, like the segments from Meet the Press that I lamented the other day. Use these clips to drive people to NBC.com. Your brand gets free publicity, the public benefits, and it has cost you nothing.

If CBS has filed copyright infringement notice with YouTube, would most of us have seen the first-hand footage of the trainwreck that was Sarah Palin this past election season? Probably not — the number of folks in my generation that watch news programs on TV is vanishingly small…

When are big media companies going to figure it out?

I regularly embed YouTube videos into some of my posts. Mostly they’re interviews and the like. This morning I was scrolling through some of my older entries, and I wanted to re-watch Tom Brokaw quizzing President Obama on Pigouvian gas taxes. So I clicked play, and lo and behold, the video has been removed due to a copyright infringement claim from paramount_vfp.

Um… what?

As a large media organization, how stupid could you possibly be?

Look, people of my generation rarely watch shows like Meet the Press. Most people of my generation have never even heard of Meet the Press, let alone know what it is. They do, however, know what YouTube is. They know what search is. They know that you find video content by searching YouTube for whatever it is you’re looking for. Ergo, YouTube is the perfect platform for spreading your brand if you are a media company.

This isn’t rocket science, folks.

I understand that NBC wants to keep their content all under one roof, but frankly, they do a crappy job of it.

  • The search interface sucks
  • You have to watch an ad before you can view the shortest of clips
  • Consumer’s don’t go to NBC.com to find A/V material because they don’t know or care that MTP is an NBC show
  • NBC has a crap API for embedding videos. (Want a video to start at a specific point? Think again.)
  • Google is the largest search engine, but it doesn’t find MTP clips very effectively.
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine (larger than Yahoo!, even), and MTP clips are nowhere to be found.

Old media hasn’t figured out that consumers aren’t going to keep searching for that clip unless they really need it, and most video watching on the web isn’t done out of necessity — it’s done out of a casual desire to see something, and if the barrier to watching this content is too high, the consumer will simply give up. Everyone loses. (Note that this doesn’t necessarily apply to television shows.)

The NYTimes figured this out the quickest of all large media companies. They discovered that people aren’t interested in paying to access content that they only read casually. (Newspapers aren’t essential daily reads anymore — they’re third class media citizens that just happen to to most of the journalistic heavy lifting.) So they decided to open up the archives of the paper itself and make as much of their content freely available as they possibly can, in as many ways as they can. 28 years of content starting yesterday. If that’s not capitalizing on the long tail (ugh), I don’t know what is.

By constructing useful metadata, the NYTimes will allow individuals to find what they’re looking for either by using search engines like Google, or by using the NYTimes’ own search engine. By getting the metadata right, they’re going to maximize the impact they have on the Internet, which in another ten years will be more important than a stack of cheap paper sitting on the breakfast table.

What NBC should be doing is partnering with Google and uploading entire programs to YouTube in HD, particular news programs like Meet the Press that lend themselves to cropping into shorter news segments where specific sections can be embedded by bloggers, further maximizing a program’s impact. So an entire Meet the Press episode might consist of an NBC-constructed playlist residing in a Meet the Press YouTube channel that you can “Play All” on, with each discreet topic having its own video that can be linked to or embedded. Think President Obama’s Change.gov channel, applied to a Meet the Press concept.

NBC would then provide a brief synopsis of the episode so people can actually find the video they’re looking for. Better yet would be a full transcript like they currently provide for shows just like MTP and 60 Minutes. However if that’s asking too much, they could still drive traffic to their own website by providing a link to the fulltext transcript on the YouTube page itself.

Everyone wins in a model like this:

  • Bloggers get, great, embeddable, first-hand material
  • NBC maximizes consumer exposure to one of their premier brands in a way that a home-grown system never could
  • NBC gets revenue from Google for sharing their content
  • NBC doesn’t have to pay the costs associated with developing their own video-serving platform and hosting their own videos

When are the large media organizations going to figure this stuff out? When are they going to learn that they can still win in this new medium simply by sharing their own content in higher quality than others can copy and upload? When are they going to figure out that you can sell a lot more by doing this? (Just ask the guys from Monty Python.)

When are they going to figure out that lawyers and DMCA takedown notices are expensive and counterproductive and piss off potential customers? Everybody loses in a protectionist business model.

(In an amusing bit of irony, the Meet the Press website actually links to the very video that I originally embedded. This is not unlike yesterday’s blunder by Universal.)