I’ve had a strange relationship with the world’s largest video sharing site. Way back when it debuted in early 2005 I was still one of those unfortunate people who was rocking blazing fast 56k dial up, due to my remote location. If I wanted to watch any videos on the site I’d have to stop all browsing actions for a good 30 minutes while the darn thing loaded, so for the better part of 2 years I ignored the site completely. I only started using the site after I got a reasonable form of broadband after moving into Canberra, but even then I still wasn’t a big user of it. At the start of the year however I started to notice it’s market pull with a lot of media giants and startups, and I’ve been an avid user ever since.
Primarily what caught my eye was the YouTube Partner program which is basically Google Adsense for videos. If you’re successful in applying to be a partner you get a cut of the ad revenue that your videos generate. The caveat is of course that you have somewhat of a proven record in making videos that people actually watch so for the most part the partner program is free of spammers attempting to get in to make a quick buck and the quality of YouTube partners content remains fairly high. There’s also been some perks like most partners getting a free Nexus One if they did a video about it, which led to some very interesting clips. I guess it was also a bit of a paradigm shift for me as well since I didn’t really know that anyone could generate revenue from the site, save for sponsorships and external sales.
What really got me interested however was the common thread amongst the top YouTubers: they’re almost all just individuals or small independent groups. Really this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as the YouTube grew on the backs of users who submitted content to it so it makes sense that the community creates its starlets from within its own ranks. Still the marketing power of viral videos has been known for quite some time so it still seems a bit odd that most corporations aren’t ranking too highly as you would think they’d try everything to break into this platform. There is one notable exception however in Universal Music Group who owes their success to their acquisition of VEVO and the two starlets they dug out of this social network (Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga).
So the question remains, do corporations actually understand YouTube?
From what I’ve seen on the various “news” channels that focus on YouTube events it would seem that as a whole the YouTube community is rather hostile to traditional corporate entities. This phenomena isn’t limited to YouTube either as other social networking sites like Twitter seem to shy away from the big organisations and gravitate more towards real people. Take for instance the (rather short lived) backlash that President Obama got hit with when he publicly admitted that he’d never used Twitter, despite the fact that he had a verified account in his name. It would seem then that corporations are doomed to flounder in these new social mediums because, to the communities, they’re not part of their social circle.
Taking a step back for a second though you can see why things like viral video marketing began to take off. Faced with the prospect that such large communities will actively reject any of their advances corporations began looking for more innovative ways to sneak their advertising under the community’s radar. Whilst sponsored videos from community starlets work to a point people are quick to label people sell-outs, thereby diminishing a starlets marketing potential over time. Developing a video that appeals to the community yet does not make reference to the product or service you’re attempting to market will hopefully help it sneak under it under the radar and if its good enough you’ll have a flurry of people searching to figure out what its all about, and there your product will be.
Realistically I think most corporations that are seeking to use YouTube understand it completely, and that’s why many of them are maintaining a presence there but don’t spend a lot of time trying to break into the community. There’s notable exceptions of course that have managed to strike the balance between being a community member and a corporation but for the most part the YouTube community remains dominated by people like you and me. Personally I like it that way as it gives people the opportunity to work on a global scale without having to have the resources of a global company, and history has shown just how powerful a large community like YouTube can be in propelling people from the unknown to the spotlight.
As for myself? I have some plans to start something on YouTube just for fun, but I’ve got a couple other projects to knock over before I do. Stay tuned 😀
Most people I know have something interesting to say about a certain topic, and I’m sure that goes for just about anyone. For one reason or another some of these people will then take it upon themselves to take these ideas to a wider audience. This used to involve arduous tasks such as writing a book, speaking at a seminar or utilising some other means of communication. In the days of the Internet however the barrier to entry for people to distribute their ideas to others is much lower, and as such many people (myself included) take it upon themselves to inform the wider world of their thoughts.
As we all know inspiration can only take you so far. Once you’ve convinced yourself that posting your thoughts to a wider audience is a good idea you then have to find a medium in which to communicate. Once you have that decided you then have to actually get in and start sharing. This is where it gets interesting, as it would seem the majority of people get as far as having the medium down pat (the Internet, using a Blog/Twitter/Social Networking) and getting a thought out, but then lose interest completely, leaving their blog abandoned:
According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.
Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door.
It would appear that this is not unique just to the blogosphere and is probably more to do with the low barrier to entry of Internet services, with Twitter experiencing a very similar phenomenon. Indeed take any free to use service that has the potential of providing fame/fortune/respect and you’ll find that whilst it looks wildly popular the minority of its users are the ones extracting the majority of value.
I am unfortunately part of these statistics. Before this blog came about (and people told me they liked reading what I wrote) I had attempted to create 2 blogs, several web pages and signed up for a myriad of other Internet based services. All of them were created with the same idea that if I created something on the Internet someone else would care, and then word would spread. Thankfully I can pin a lot of that down to the folly of my youth and I now know that if you want to be popular online you’ll have to do just as much work as you would in other mediums. It’s just easier to get started on the Internet.
I would wager however that a lot of those blogs also fit into a category of what I’d call time sensitive presences. A great recent example of this would be the Alice and Kev blog which is about 2 characters a person is playing in The Sims 3. It’s a touching story and it does have parallels to the suffering people endure in real life but will this blog still be updated in a year? 6 months? A week? Whilst some of the themes it deals with are universal and timeless the blog’s content is not and that will be its eventual demise. The same can be said for Blow My 900, a blog dedicated to spending your Kevin Rudd stimulus money.
The combination of a low barrier to entry, the throw away mentality and the allure of fame and fortune that is ingrained in our society is what has lead to this phenomenon. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but when the Internet already contains so much noise I sometimes wish it wasn’t so easy. But then again if it wasn’t then the Internet probably wouldn’t have become so popular in the first place…
Argh, there goes that cognitive dissonance again! 🙂