Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I'm Bored! I'm the Chairman of the Bored!

With that quote from Iggy Pop and the Stooges I open my article about You Tube. We all know about You Tube, right? We remember how it brought every moron's homemade videos to the masses. We know how adept it has been at getting copyrighted material up on the net without paying royalties. It is the video home of the great unwashed. You Tube is a true indication that democracy lives and has a home on the Internet. There isn't a person on the planet that doesn't know that Google paid the equivalent of small country's GDP to purchase it.

What many are only now realizing is that it has jumped the shark. Yep, it's no longer the toast of the digerati elite. To put it simply: It's gotten boring. More accurately it has begun to collapse under its own weight and finally started running into deep pocketed and determined content owners like Viacom.

Three things are killing You Tube. First and foremost, it is collapsing under the sheer weight of the number of videos. It is damn near impossible to find anything simply because there is so much of it. If I want to find a (presumably legal) video by a band I'm interested in, I have to sift through lots of clutter. Like some drunken college student's review of the group's last concert (like I care). Or just as bad, fan videos. Where do these people get off thinking that they can make a better music video than professional filmmakers backed by the artists themselves and lots of record company money? Ultimately, it is impossible to find the gems buried in amongst the dung.

Second, is that you really can't post content without the owner's permission and expect to profit from it. You would have thought we learned that with Napster, yet so many companies persist in doing so. It only works in the underground. There, you can keep under the radar because you don't try to make money.

That's the crux of the problem. Content providers really get annoyed when people try and make money off of their content with giving them a cut. Sure, the RIAA weasels are suing high school students for their lunch money. That's the stupid end of the spectrum. Suing one's customers is hardly ever a good business strategy. Suing a multi-billion dollar company that is making boatloads of money is entirely different. At the very least, You Tube will be forced to pay much more attention and spend much more money keeping unauthorized content off their site. They will also be spending a lot for deals that allow them to post material with permission. Not only will that eat into profitability but it will remove one of the real reasons people flock to the site – to see videos they are supposed to pay for.

Finally, the quality of the amateur content is just plain poor. It used to be funny to see lots of really stupid people doing really stupid things. It was also fun to watch boring people doing boring stuff. After a few of those type videos, it's not so much fun anymore. It's dull, dull, dull! Outside of the promotional type videos that marketing flaks put up and the illegal content, You Tube is a vast wasteland. Even the most emotionally stunted people don't want to listen to endless breakup stories. No one wants to hear homemade karaoke either. Some of us hate karaoke all the time under any circumstance. In short, You Tube's homemade content has exceeded our collective attention span.

What's left then? More jackass videos? That was old before You Tube. More Mentos-Soda explosions? Yawn. Seen it before. Bodily functions? I think we've had enough of that. Really bad, primitive animation that isn't the least bit funny? I can get that on Cartoon Network but at least there will be some really good animation to break things up a bit.

You Tube showed us that we want really want video over the Internet. There is no doubt about that. Ultimately, as the newness of watching video wears off, we want good, professional, content, not amateur trash. AtomFilms has survived much longer than You Tube, in part because it features independent, short films by professionals. ABC and Cartoon Network stream their programming over the Internet and people watch it. Even better, folks pay a dollar and a half to download it to their iPods so they can watch it on minuscule screens.

You Tube can't keep it's audience if they rely on just anybody to upload content. They can't keep operating as a business if they make it easy for people to post illegal content. They can cut deals (and are doing so) for professional content but many big providers will resist, leaving them with nothing more then a smattering. Once these content providers build their own video capabilities, they'll yank their content off You Tube faster than you can say “injunction”. That way they don't have to share ad revenues with them.

Clearly, You Tube has hit it's apex and it's downhill from here on end. They won't go away or implode. Google will see to it that that doesn't happen. You Tube will simply lose its grip on its audience and become less cool. And less important.

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