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    Digging Deeper::YouTube CEO Hails ‘Birth of a New Clip Culture’

    by Mark Glaser
    April 4, 2006

    i-bb1d9259a72ecf905412cb63b9ecba45-YouTube logo.JPG
    There is a simple truth about video-sharing site YouTube, and an enigma. The simple truth is that this web startup has bottled up the viral video idea and made it eminently drinkable by anyone — you go to the site, find the video clip you want to watch, and, voila! you’re watching it in seconds. And if you want to upload and share your own videos, the process is also very straightforward and free of charge.

    But the enigma is how YouTube will profit on its own spectacular popularity. Julie Supan, senior director of marketing for YouTube, said the site now serves up 35 million videos per day, and users upload 35,000 videos per day, with 100 million page views per day. These are massive numbers for a site that’s not even a year old yet.

    But so far, the only hint of a way this startup will make money is by making deals with media companies such as MTV2 and E! Entertainment Television to help promote their offerings with video clips. Of course, YouTube could add advertisements before each clip is shown, but that would change the user experience and would require advertisers to feel comfortable with the strange brew of material there.

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    With TV networks asking for copyrighted material to be pulled off YouTube, the site started to get noticed in the press, and a Google News search brings up 714 recent stories. Those include Virginia Heffernan of the New York Times proclaiming that “skinny guys in moppy hair in modest houses” are making the most popular YouTube videos.

    Heather Svokos of the Fort Star Telegram explains the site’s popularity thusly: “It was a smart idea that caught a wave at the right time, and now it’s giddily feeding a few of our most human cravings: the urge to share, connect, and to see it for ourselves.”

    Most of what Svokos recommends as her favorite clips on YouTube — and links to from her article — are likely copyright violations. As I warned when I first wrote about YouTube’s videos shot by American soldiers in Iraq, copyright infringements are impossible to totally eliminate. For each one YouTube pulls down, another dozen could sprout up. YouTube has tried to limit the longer form violations with a 10-minute limit to videos, and puts the burden on content owners to ferret out violations and notify the site.

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    So the balancing act continues, with YouTube trying to meet the needs and tastes of its vast audience of clip junkies, while making deals with media companies for professional clips. The small company, based in San Mateo, Calif., down the peninsula from San Francisco, has just 23 employees but will likely have to grow more over time to meet its growing audience and all their content.

    I sent along my five big questions for Chad Hurley, the CEO of YouTube and a co-founder. The following are his unedited responses via email.

    Q: What’s your longer term vision for YouTube? A bigger MySpace-like community with more social networking, or a stronger video-feature focus with mash-ups and the like?

    Chad Hurley: Our vision is to build the next-generation platform for serving media worldwide.

    It is the birth of a new clip culture. There is a complete shift happening in digital media entertainment and users are now in control of what they watch and when they watch it. At YouTube, we are seeing an evolution of entertainment and media distribution — where the audience is now in control more than ever.

    We do plan to incorporate more customized features over the coming months so that members can personalize their profiles and how they engage with the content on our site. We listen to our users as we develop new features because it is their feedback and insight that has helped us build the community.

    Q: There are a lot of video-sharing sites online, so how do you explain the huge success of YouTube?

    Hurley: It’s about user choice and we are the people’s choice — our success lies in the fact that we are democratizing the entertainment experience and creating a community for people to interact with video. Also, YouTube has made video sharing easier than anyone else. Members can be uploading and sharing video within minutes of wandering onto the site.

    Q: YouTube’s motto is “Broadcast Yourself.” If this is about a digital media revolution where everyone can be the star, why make deals for Big Media content (E!, MTV2) for use in YouTube?

    Hurley: YouTube is a stage for everyone. With this (cultural) shift happening in digital media entertainment and a new clip culture evolving, TV networks and other professional content creators, such as movie studios and record labels, have an opportunity to promote their programs or new records through YouTube. And professional content is absolutely of interest with our viewers — so long as it is entertaining and short-form. Clips like Nike, E!‘s Cybersmack clips, and movie previews like the “Scary Movie 4” trailer are all very popular with viewers. Because it is a democracy, users decide what is popular and determine what they are going to share with others.

    Q: Please explain your business model, and how it might adversely affect the grassroots community that has sprouted up at YouTube.

    Hurley: It will be an advertising-based model. We are exploring ways to serve up relevant advertising that will benefit the viewing experience since we know a lot about each of the videos based on how they are tagged. We have been moving cautiously to ensure we don’t disrupt the goodness of the community. But at the end of the day it’s the viewers that decide what is entertaining whether it be user-generated content or professionally produced videos — our community is still in control and will decide what rises to the top.

    Q: When it comes to copyright violations and inappropriate material, how much can you filter technologically, and how much do you depend on users to monitor this?

    Hurley: It is the rights holders that alert us to unauthorized videos on the site — through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act notification process. We comply with the DMCA and remove videos when we have knowledge that they are posted by users without permission of the copyright owners. This is what the law requires of us.

    In addition, we have developed a number of tools both internal and for rights holders to help us identify unauthorized videos on site. With 35,000 videos uploaded to our site per day, we clearly need content owners to cooperate and alert us of any unauthorized content of which they are aware.

    Our policy prohibits inappropriate content on YouTube. Our community understands the rules and effectively polices the site for inappropriate material. The users can flag content that they feel is inappropriate. This combined with our proprietary technology helps us to enforce the rules. We also disable the accounts of repeat offenders for both inappropriate material and copyright violations.

    *****

    What do you think? Have you checked out YouTube and other viral video sites, and what did you like about them? Not like? Should content owners and Big Media companies lighten up over copyright issues? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Tagged:
    • I like many things about YouTube, especially the near-universal access. Almost everybody has the Flash player, and so people can view videos without having to install the QuickTime or Windows Media players. However, as a home video maker, I hate the reduction in quality that occurs when YouTube transcodes my videos. For example, take a look at this one-minute video I made earlier this year:



      Now compare that to the version I encoded in QuickTime for iPod:

      http://jimthompson.org/media/laredo.html

      Anybody who makes a video, even a little one-minute production, puts a lot of painstaking care into getting every little detail just right. It’s just heartbreaking to see that damage that YouTube does to a carefully constructed production.

      YouTube is a great idea, but it’s hard to justify what they do to the quality of uploaded videos.

    • I agree with Jim, YouTube ravages a content creators video quality. Of course, this contributes to the blazing download speed (SOMETIMES) and thus, universal accesability. However, I hardly believe that “clip culture” is the media revolution. This is just one part an a much larger revolution.

      On the note of quality, I will mention that the encoding on the site is indicative of how discerning the YouTube’s audience is: not at all. YouTube has a very specific demographic, one that rewards idiocy before quality of content. When the YT CEO says that the users decide what bubbles to the top, I hope he realizes who those users are. What appeals to the 13-year-old kids who flood the polls, might not appeal to a 30-something mother of two. A better content recommendation system is in order.

      YouTube can be entertaining, but also, ridiculously time consuming, with a signal-to-noise ration (content AND resolution) that just won’t hold up to the HD hungry audience. Thus, it is not THEE revolution, just one of many branches.

    • I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to disparage the aesthetic tastes of YouTube viewers just because of compression losses. There’s a market for high-quality video, but also one for ANY video of something, or even a poor-quality “preview” if you will, that whets the appetite for a higher-bandwidth experience. It’s a little like a cheap TV set where more people can afford to at least see something.

    • Remember, I said content AND resolution. The two might correlate, maybe not. The fact of the matter is, quality video production is often stanger to the front page of YouTube. This, however, is not the case with the iTunes music store podcast section.

      At the time of writing this, I have spied this little gem at the top: http://youtube.com/watch?v=UVgCBKt8hvo

      As opposed to iTunes’ listing, with Homestarrunner at the top. Followed by Ask a Ninja and Tiki Bar TV.

      I don’t think there is a contest in terms of production value here.

    • I think you both have valid points. The quality of the videos on YouTube aren’t as good, because of compression issues and such. But how many times have you had to wait a long time for the video to load? It’s about speedy universal access.

      And what’s to stop YouTube from offering a premium service for higher quality videos? It makes a lot of sense for them to start with everything, and then consider ways to serve up better quality in time.

      I think the comparison with iTunes video podcasts is apples and oranges. YouTube is a much more open service for any type of video.

    • Agreed, they are indeed apples to oranges.

    • Sean

      This is why I prefer grouper.com. People can watch a compressed preview on the site, and if they want to download the original file, they can do so.

    • zfreez

      Heres what I found: http://zfreez.com/web/Ut.htm
      You can download YouTube video from that site.
      Unlike all other download service out there, the downloaded files from this site are in .flv format BY DEFAULT so you don’t have to rename or change extension or anything. It also named your file according to the clip name at YouTube :)
      Give it a shot.

    • In reply to your article, Pitbulltv is an online television network that caters to talent in the entertainment business. The network offers original tv series, indy films and more… all Free. The network is also looking for new shows to license from any amatuer to professional.
      http://www.pitbulltv.com

    • JanetChen

      Hello!I want to send email to Chad Hurley, is there anyone who is so kindly to tell me his e-mail address? Many thanks!

    • Roland

      All the talk about low content quality is silly. Of course the mediocre floats to the top in a viewer rated environment. It’s called a low common denominator and it’s what popular media has been about since the beginning.

      That said there is fantastically interesting and, I dare say weighty, material being posted in volume. Look for the emergence of spin-off “curated sites” like VIEWTUBE (found this site in an article on “clip culture”, in Wikipedia) for a mix of “high” and “low”.

      Initially I thought that legal challenges would quickly incapacitate Youtube. But it’s become clear-due to massive, spontaneous, popular growth, that this is the model for the future.
      And viewed a certain way, the low quality flash compression may be a buffer against litigation-Can this possibly erode hdtv or 70 millimeter projection unless people really don’t care in the first place?- while this path changes rapidly from ant trail to cobblestone to superhighway .

      Economic stratagies will develop around this. It’s massive publicity for one thing. So we can hang our chairs on the wall and become a Ludites- and read about people filing tortes in the newspaper-or we can move with this.

      Combined with what the youngsters are doing with myspace etc. it’s a big, big shift that’s occurring.

    • I enjoyed the interview, but it seems that it will be difficult to move to a new advertiser-driven business model if YouTube didn’t start there.

      Very hard to tell consumers that the service must change to accomodate business needs unless you offer a new increased value in return.

      Mike
      http://www.OnDisruption.com

    • I like YouTube and we must remember it is just a baby still, so can the harshing and player hate.

      When a new tool comes along, there are always the underachievers moaning and whining about imperfections.

      I think YouTube is doing for vlogs what Blogger did for blogs. I am trying to find a good directory of CEO video bloggers now, as I experiment with my own videos on YouTube.

      YouTube and video blogging are the future. Podcasts and plain text blogs are dead.

    • P.S. Why complain about YouTube quality, when I just now got back from Forbes video offerings, and all I got was an Error Message that there seems to be some problem with connecting to RealPlayer.

      Hmmmmph. Not very professional after all. RealPlayer?

      Thanks YouTube.

    • raghad asfari

      i am raghad asfari from syria aleppo i am a musician my instrument is piano i attended the party of sami yusuf in aleppo and he talked to me and told me to carry on music and he sent me a message on my mobile i 18_3_2006 to enter click a tel position but i could not to enter i want to tell mr sami that his latest video is so great so can you help me and tell him this instead of me with my regards to youtube

    • raghad asfari

      i am raghad asfari from syria aleppo i am a musician my instrument is piano i attended the party of sami yusuf in aleppo and he talked to me and told me to carry on music and he sent me a message on my mobile i 18_3_2006 to enter click a tel position but i could not to enter i want to tell mr sami that his latest video is so great so can you help me and tell him this instead of me with my regards to youtube

    • I think YouTube is a wonderful invention.
      I like the fact that you can upload virtually a video and audio using any codec set, and it is recognized and converted correctly.

      I am a little dismayed at the large amount of SPAM that has appeared in my Inbox since I signed up, and the fact I am seeing YouTube wanna-be advert windows that are nothing of the sort, just a JPEG single picture that tries to get you to go to their site, with no link or video whatsoever to Youtube.

      Additionally sites that blatantly use YouTube for advertising. Now, if YouTube is getting paid for this, then it’s all fair, YouTube is free, certainly acceptable.

      However, if YouTube is seeing zero return on these unlicensed adverts, they need to set down some ground rules and spare us from all except the paying advertisers.

      I see in the future Youtube being as searchable and available as Google. Now we just need a music foray and we’re all set on media searching. :)

      Please Consider
      dw817

    • Colin Correia

      YouTube was backed by angel investors and venture capitalists, and has since been bought out by Google for over $1.5 billion.

      Now I love Google, and I do believe they ‘aren’t evil’ as they like to proclaim, but you don’t buy a company for $1.5 billion and sign deals with major studios, networks, and record labels, and leave the ‘democratic community controlled’ model for long.

      The future of internet television is not in YouTube, it is in the viewing habits of the audience. If you want to eliminate the control of media from the handful of individuals currently in charge, you will find more benefit in RSS feeds and truly democratic players / video search engines, like Miro. Completely non-profit and funded by a loyal community, Miro’s creators have built their foundation in a manner that Nasdaq investors cannot seize control and start selling off in chunks to the current media conglomerates.

      I like YouTube for watching ‘stupid’ entertainment, but for the 21st century of television, I really hope Miro wins out, after all, open source did wonders for Firefox – the best web browser available.

      Remember, television has always been free, and the advertising revenue has always gone to the content creators/owners (naturally with the broadcasters taking their share for distributing the content); it should never be that all of the advertising revenue remain with the broadcaster (i.e. YouTube) with nothing being paid to the content creators or owners. That would be like writers giving their novels to Amazon for free and Amazon keeping 100% of the revenue from sales. Hardly seems like a fair business model.

      Colin Correia, CEO
      GuerillaPress Inc.
      Toronto, ON

    • Colin Correia

      YouTube was backed by angel investors and venture capitalists, and has since been bought out by Google for over $1.5 billion.

      Now I love Google, and I do believe they ‘aren’t evil’ as they like to proclaim, but you don’t buy a company for $1.5 billion and sign deals with major studios, networks, and record labels, and leave the ‘democratic community controlled’ model for long.

      The future of internet television is not in YouTube, it is in the viewing habits of the audience. If you want to eliminate the control of media from the handful of individuals currently in charge, you will find more benefit in RSS feeds and truly democratic players / video search engines, like Miro. Completely non-profit and funded by a loyal community, Miro’s creators have built their foundation in a manner that Nasdaq investors cannot seize control and start selling off in chunks to the current media conglomerates.

      I like YouTube for watching ‘stupid’ entertainment, but for the 21st century of television, I really hope Miro wins out, after all, open source did wonders for Firefox – the best web browser available.

      Remember, television has always been free, and the advertising revenue has always gone to the content creators/owners (naturally with the broadcasters taking their share for distributing the content); it should never be that all of the advertising revenue remain with the broadcaster (i.e. YouTube) with nothing being paid to the content creators or owners. That would be like writers giving their novels to Amazon for free and Amazon keeping 100% of the revenue from sales. Hardly seems like a fair business model.

      Colin Correia, CEO
      GuerillaPress Inc.
      Toronto, ON

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