In my post about online television a few weeks ago, I wrote about why I don’t enjoy watching television on the Internet. One of the reasons is that a big video-sharing site such as YouTube has thousands of different kinds of content jumbled together in one place, making it hard to find the content I want. Why should I have to sift through old episodes of “Desperate Housewives” when what I really want is that dog on a skateboard video?
While YouTube does have its content somewhat organized (and they actually call the categories “channels”), it’s not easy to find what I want and not see what I don’t. I want to separate the wheat from the chaff, if you will, as well as be able to see a certain kind of content. A good example would be that I avoid Fox News on my TV, so I should be able to access content in a Fox News-free zone like I do with the old boob tube.
Apparently others have identified a need for this level of specialization and have gone off to create spinoffs of YouTube for specific audiences. Now there’s a video-sharing site for every lifestyle. From pets to God to geeks, there’s something for everyone. I’m just not sure I’m happy that I’m getting what I asked for…
The Religious Channels
A lot of content you find on most video-sharing sites could be considered “objectionable” by more conservative users. Thank God, then, for GodTube. As the name suggests, the content on GodTube is made for and by Christians. GodTube CEO Chris Wyatt said in an interview with Fox News recently that the site is there to “advance the gospel using Web 2.0 technology.”
What’s at the center of all of the content? God. From arguments debunking Darwin to, bible-praising rap videos to funny church moments, it’s all Christ, all the time. Unfortunately, that comes with videos featuring a healthy dose of anti-Muslim rhetoric and a whole lot of judgment. What would Jesus do?
IslamTube, as one might guess, presents content from a decidedly different point of view. Or so I’m told, as the site has been hacked and now displays the defiant image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic.
Yideoz, a video-sharing site for Jewish-related content is, thankfully, a lot more light-hearted. Some of the more popular videos include the cute Feed Me Bubbe series, in which a guy videotapes his charming grandmother making his favorite recipes. While you can learn about Torah and study Hebrew, the content is less than controversial. Think Bubbe or something else is inappropriate? You can flag the video as “unKosher.”
JewTube, another small site for videos related to Jewish culture, is a bit edgier. There is a military channel with videos related to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and a channel called “Hebrew Hotties” where users profile Jewish women they love, among them Hollywood actresses.
Let’s face it: Most of the content found on YouTube is pretty inane, and there are some major smarties out there who want a site where they don’t have to see Drama Prairie Dog and would prefer a Mouse Protein Subcellular Localization Database. For that there’s SciVee, a site “created for scientists, by scientists, [which] moves science beyond the printed word and lecture theater taking advantage of the Internet as a communication medium.”
SciVee is operated in partnership with the National Science Foundation and the Public Library of Science, and on it scientists can upload videos explaining their research, as well as share papers with other scientists in their related fields of research. SciVee’s scientist users can comment on the research of others and tag their own research with keywords such as “amino acid” or “proteomics.”
The idea of sharing information between researchers for the betterment of the field made me think of doctors, and how a service like this might be useful to them. Before I could get dollar signs in my eyes, I found that such a site already exists: The Doctor’s Channel, a new site for physicians, features videos on topics ranging from the treatment of Hepatitis C to CPR and defibrillation.
Another science-related YouTube clone, SciTalks, focuses more on lectures related to scientific topics rather than research and publications. On SciTalks, you can hear astronaut Rusty Schweickart warn about the imminent threat to Earth posed by asteroids, or watch broadcast clips from PBS Nova’s episode on frozen frogs. While SciVee is a true YouTube clone, SciTalks is more of an aggregator, redirecting users to the sites where the video is actually housed (Google Video, YouTube, etc.).
Just like the traditional cable access channel on regular TV, some niche video sites are focused on self-promotion. Some might remember Bambi Francisco as a TV personality and web journalist at MarketWatch. In April of this year, Francisco left her high-profile journalism job to become an entrepreneur. Her new endeavor is a YouTube-like site for inventors called VatorTV. Less “American Inventor” and more elevator pitch, VatorTV is not about entertainment but about getting funding for your new startup, such as a MySpace clone for movies. Vator provides a platform for that, and with Francisco’s contacts, it’s a good bet she already has all sorts of venture capitalists eyeing the pitches.
An Internet version of karaoke (a.k.a. my own personal online nightmare), FanCovers.com is a video-sharing site for aspiring artists who post videos of their covers of popular songs. Get schooled on guitar chords for a Guns N’ Roses hit or watch a guy cover the Beatles in his living room.
Best of the Rest
There are so many of these sites that it’s tough to cover all of them but following are a few that have caught my attention:
PawShow: As much as I try to avoid YouTube pet videos, there are some people who only want to see animals doing cute or zany things. For them there’s PawShow, a video-sharing site for pet owners and animal lovers.
Rouxbe: As a fan of food media, this one I actually find useful: Rouxbe is a video-sharing site for recipes. On it, you can watch demonstrations of simple recipes such as homemade mayonnaise or more elaborate multi-ingredient dishes. Rouxbe is different from most video-sharing sites because, as it currently stands, the videos seems to all be professionally produced. The community of contributors currently only features three people and all are professional chefs.
TeacherTube: Another site that seems to be more useful than most is TeacherTube, which is — you guessed it — video sharing for teachers. On it, educators can share videos of their classes, lessons and other material with others in their field, or with home-schooled students. Of all the sites I looked at, TeacherTube seems to be the one with the most varied content and one of the most viable ideas with regard to its niche.
The inevitable question is: Do we need all of this? And is innovation really innovative when it’s a copy of something that’s already been done? While I do think there is a need to segment online video so it’s easier to find, access and view, I don’t think a million sites for a million different tastes is the answer. While the content is easier to find, it’s not easier to access, as I can’t go to one centralized place to get what I want.
However, we are increasingly moving toward specialization and niches as Internet media consumers. I don’t know, however, if that means we’ll necessarily move away from catch-all services like YouTube.
My guess is that with the low barrier to entry — you can hire an offshore coder to make a YouTube clone for couple thousand bucks or even do it yourself — there will be more of these sites popping up, until we eventually run out of niches. The question is which sites will last and which will fade away after Internet TV becomes more like TV and less like YouTube’s jumble.
What do you think of YouTube spinoffs? Will they stick around or are they destined to fail? Which of the sites mentioned do you think has the potential for success, and which are your favorite niche sites for video-sharing?
Jennifer Woodard Maderazo is the associate editor of PBS MediaShift. She is a San Francisco-based writer, blogger and marketer, who covers Latino marketing at Latin-Know and Latino cultural issues at VivirLatino.