Can YouTube survive till next week?

Can YouTube survive till next week?

Summary: Can film survive the new generation? The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern isn't sure.


Can film survive the new generation? The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern isn't sure. He's worried about the future of movies. In "YouTube Youth", he suggests that kids of today are so bored by traditional narrative movies that Hollywood might go the way of Amtrak and the Dodo bird:

 Kids are ditching traditional forms of entertainment -- especially theatrical films -- in favor of digital media, and they've got Hollywood scared stiff.

But Joe might be asking the right question about the wrong subject. The really interesting question is not whether film can survive the next generation, but whether YouTube can survive next week?

Question: What's the best way for a traditional media company to strengthen its presence on the Internet?
Answer: Threaten to sue YouTube.

That's the important lesson Viacom has learnt from its dealings with Google's $1.6 billion acquisition. Having forced YouTube to remove all its illegally posted video clips, Viacom's traffic is dramatically up over the past month. Up 90% on Comedy Central, up 50% on MTV, up 30% on Nickelodeon. Viacom's revenue is up too -- profits quadrupling in the fourth quarter of 2006 to $480 million with Philippe Dauman, the company's new chief executive, promising the Financial Times $500 million from digital sales in 2007. Viacom has learnt to ditch the illegalities of YouTube and love the legal Internet. 

The morale of this tale? Tough copyright infringment threats work. Other large media companies like Sony, Universal Music and Warner Music would also be advised to go after YouTube in the same aggressive manner as Viacom. It's only be actively policing the Internet that content owners can transform the anarchy of the Web 2.0 Internet into a realm where content owners and consumers can both profit from lawfully posted content. Even Microsoft understands this. See, for example, Tom Rubin's (Microsoft's Associate General Council) attack on Google in tomorrow's Financial Times in which he describes its copyright strategy as "cavalier" and exposes the way it is "exploiting books, music, films and television without permission."

So what happens if the major content companies succeed in forcing YouTube to take down all its pirated content? Then all that will exist on the site is the infinite drivel of user-generated content -- with a collective economic value of around zero. YouTube's smoke and mirrors value proposition will drift away and it will emerge as the symbolic Napster of Web 2.0  -- a "business" destroyed by the fraudulence of its users.

My prediction is that film will survive the new generation. Biology assures us that there will always be young people too. But don't bet on YouTube being around to entertain them.

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • Why I think you are wrong about YouTube

    I absolutely agree with you that content owners should track down copyright infringement. However, YouTube is full of user generated content, and a lot of it quite entertaining, informative, and worthwhile. There's a lot of junk too, I admit. The whole point of YouTube is that users can share what they have created, what they do, who they are. Users can be the director. You can see that there is plenty of interest in user generated content if you just look at the most popular videos. People are curious about the lives of othe people. We like seeing what kind of things they come up with, and we love the idea of being able to share what we have created.

    I believe YouTube will indeed be around for a while. I don't believe it will, or should, illegally host copyrighted material. YouTube has made practical and possible a means of communication not easily utilized before by the general population.
    • I go there for the copyrighted material

      I go there for the copyrighted material initially and find user created content by accident. If they didn't have music videos or clips of sports highlights, I would never go there. I would not go to YouTube to browse through millions of user created content that is usually dull. I thought Google was smarter than the rest of the people that doubted the acquisition and they were going to turn it around and make it successful. Don't see it happening.
      • Well, pardon me, I didn't realize ...

        [i]"I go there for the copyrighted material initially and find user created content by accident.[/i]

        My bad, that must be what [i]everybody[/i] else does, since that is what [i]you[/i] do.

        I doubt you meant it that way, but that's what it sounded like you were saying. And what exactly do you mean when you say: [i]"...they were going to turn it around and make it successful."[/i]?

        Was YouTube unsuccessful when it was acquired by Google? If so, how? Video sharing, in this way, is still in its youth, and there are kinks to work out, such as protecting copyrights. But that doesn't mean it's unsuccessful. It seems to me that it's pretty popular. Otherwise, who would care to give it the attention it has received recently in the blogosphere?
  • YouTube Survival?

    It would not bother me one iota if both YouTube and MySpace were forced to shut down. I have 2 teens and they whine all the time because they cannot access both these sites on my PC.I have them blocked and nothing can be added to this PC unless I am the one putting it on here so they cannot simply add a browser or other anonymous web browser.

    Both those sites are nothing but garbage that also downloads more things that one cares to know without the user even knowing it.
  • Youtube ideas

    if Hollywood or anyone else is bringing out a new movie - why don't they send a clip to Youtube? The BBC keep getting Youtube to stop showing their clips. But who has heard of the famous Stig outside the UK? I refer to the Stig from Topgear. Topgear is an international success and the BBC get free advertising for it from clips on Youtube and then have the bloody cheek to complain! Sack Wogan at the BBC and all the other overpaid presenters and executives and the same for similar organisations and we could scrap the TV licence in the UK. Sell quality program from the BBC worldwide with Youtube doing the free wordwide advertising.

    Youtube could also give people some tips on making Home movies to upload to Youtube. Maybe even offer a reward of some kind. How many people want their 15 minutes of fame? Youtube will show your talent - much better than trying to get on a talent show like the X-factor! Youtube is great - Viacom sucks!
    • YouTube Great?

      The comment below is just how those under age teens are allowed to upload their videos and how the child molesters find them. Get a grip .. youtube sucks!

      >>Youtube could also give people some tips on making Home movies to upload to Youtube. Maybe even offer a reward of some kind. How many people want their 15 minutes of fame? Youtube will show your talent - much better than trying to get on a talent show like the X-factor! Youtube is great>>
      • why the focus on "molesters"?

        Of the millions of possible ways that a technology such as YouTube can be used (I regularly find interesting educational materials on the site that I'd be unlikely to find elsewhere) why do people choose to focus on "child molesters"? Does this stuff actually happen outside of the sick fantasy worlds of "concerned parents"? Why don't you criticize communication technologies that you use every day, like telephones, newspapers, etc that can just as easily be used in the ways you describe? If children are foolish enough to post images of themselves, along with their contact information, then it is the children (and their parents) with the problem. Don't blame a medium which is used creatively by 99% of its users.

        All of the criticism of MySpace and YouTube is entirely misdirected. The technologies were designed to foster community amongst musicians, artists, and fans. That a small minority of users have chosen to use these technologies in dispicable ways is not the fault of the technology itself (if it is ... then stop using your phone, internet connection, cable tv, newspapers, etc. Put your kids in a nice safe box until their 18 and "ready" for the real world.)

        Bottom line ... neither MySpace or YouTube ask users for their contact information. Most users don't offer their contact information. Users that post contact information are stepping beyond the intentions of the sites. The site designers shouldn't be blamed for their stupidity, especially when millions of users are benefiting technologies in creative, dynamic (and harmless) ways.
  • Not quite Napster, think Atari!

    Remember what happened with Atari? The guy that made it happen sold it for a few million dollars, went on permanent vacation, and a little while after that, Atari crashed like the Hindenburg because the threat of the chinese Atari clones flooding the market.

    I can imagine the guys that sold YouTube drinking pi?as coladas with the Atari guy, surrounded by gorgeous women and laughing, laughing, laughing....