February 18th, 2007
I was struck by this statement from a NYT report about the ongoing dialogue among Viacom, NBC, and News Corp about the future of online video, GoogTube, etc.:
It has become evident that the question of who will rule video on the Web is incredibly tangled. For now, most of the sticky strands lead to Google, and big media companies are trying to figure out whether to fight it or join it.
“Who will rule video on the Web” — it’s amazing how language reveals our biases. Pretty much everything I’ve read about online video assumes, a priori, that online video WILL ultimately be an old school media monopoly — what else would justify Google’s $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube?
It’s still all about CONTROL. The problem is that the Web “hates” control — never has there been a more powerful monopoly busting force than the IP network.
YouTube has a great platform, and it was the first to get the platform right — BUT, the platform, I would argue, is fast becoming a commodity. So what’s left? The COMMUNITY, of course! YouTube OWNS the community, which is why it’s assumed that YouTube will continue to dominate online video.
But the problem is that YouTube’s killer app (or at least one of them) is its easy embed-ability — it’s fundamentally a distributed platform, and, therefore, so too is the community — the community for an online video exists wherever a video is embedded.
People still come to YouTube to search for video, but once video search becomes properly distributed as well (hello, Google?), that will undermine YouTube as a video search destination.
That leaves the community elements of YouTube that are tied to the site itself, i.e. comments, ratings, channels, etc. The real question is whether these community elements are sufficiently strong for YouTube to retain a monopoly on video content hosting. Are video content creators going to feel locked into YouTube because that’s the only place to tap into and leverage community? That seems unlikely on the surface, but perhaps it isn’t.
It would, however, be deeply ironic if “community” becomes the mechanism of monopoly for New Media, replacing the limited access to production and distribution that defined Old Media monopolies.