The community gets the corporate message

The community gets the corporate message

Summary: Harry Fuller, and old friend and executive editor at CNET, has a comment about the You Tube guys' video posting about the sale of their company to Google. He's amazed at the speed and reach of the communication by the company about its sale, but the real message, I think, is that the announcement is the beginning of the botch job.

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Harry Fuller, and old friend and executive editor at CNET, has a comment about the You Tube guys' video posting about the sale of their company to Google. He's amazed at the speed and reach of the communication by the company about its sale, but the real message, I think, is that the announcement is the beginning of the botch job.

A Message from Chad and Steve is a raw experience, and it has been played more than 560,000 times at this writing. It's the Chad and Steve's audience is already talking back.announcement that the two guys on camera have gotten very rich (the unfortunate reference to "two kings" at the end is a kind of Freudian James Cameron moment—"I'm king of the world!"), that they owe it all to the community and, well, you know, they're feeling pretty fat and happy. It screams "Thanks for making us rich."

Writes Harry: 

Try to imagine the CEO of Disney getting onto ABC prime time. Or the head of Sony starring in a big budget movie. Not gonna happen!

But the Chad & Steve show rules at YouTube today. That would be YouTube co-founders, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. And it's their informal, fuzzy-looking video about the Google takeover of YouTube. They're kicking butt, traffic wise, with more than 370,000 views before midday Pacific time.

Yes, it is amazing how quickly we can talk with our customer, but even this message is a form of broadcast, not interaction. It's poorly produced, but what does that say about the recipient? The CEO of a broadcast network simply wouldn't break this fourth wall, eliminating the dramatic distance from the audience. This, the You Tube approach, is a different genre, but the message is still delivered from on high.

If this is a community-made effort, why wasn't there a vote or, at least, a discussion about the sale beforehand? The community was certainly talking about it, some with a decided note of resignation. Imagine Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales announcing he'd sold the non-profit to Britannica? This is not such a different situation, because YouTube hasn't made any money yet. There's very little community in the announcement. We should be more aware of the fact that this is a top-down model financially supported by a grassroots expense of time and energy on the part of individual contributors to YouTube.

Now that's a response unlike any major corporate media exec would ever engender. In the old-media world only daily performers Oprah Winfrey or Howard Stern could command that kind of response to an informal communication to fans. I just gotta wonder if Chad and Steve got an untrained 17-year-old kid to run the camera for them. At least they were outside, not in somebody's cluttered bedroom.

The people are already talking back. Some are expressing some dismay, seeking to get a part of the growing value of the community (albeit tongue in cheek). Some untrained 17-year-old can have an equal say. That's the really disruptive part of all this. Yes, Chad and Steve turned Sequoia's $11 million into a $1.65 billion payday (with up to $465 million going to the VCs), but this is a community that is already on the move, looking for a video service that operates on their terms. Every doubt expressed about the new GooTube combination will be broadcast with the same potential reach.

Note that a half-million views of the message is less than five percent of the community. That means the threshhold for a rebellion—if this is the reach the owners of the network have—is far lower, maybe even one-half of one percent.

I wrote the other day that it is a mistake to think of a community as an asset. I'll stand by that analysis. Amateur and naive though it was, the "Message from Chad and Steve" talked to the community, not really with it. In fact, they posted for the first time, as this guy points out, and he got one percent of the views Chad and Steve did, so we're already one-fiftieth of the way to customer rebellion. Some things haven't changed, some have. 

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • Slick

    A more professional quality video would have wrecked the amateur aura that appears to be an asset to a social site.

    I've read that it's difficult to sing very badly; poor singing is easy, but so bad it's funny takes work. Perhaps the assertive informality of the video was the product of a skilled professional.

    To me, the most significant aspect of the discussion was the venture capital firm that invested $11 million and received $465 million in return.

    If you want a good indication of where lighting is going to strike, look for places with lightning rods and the tallest trees and where lightning has struck before. With $11 million at stake, the selection of companies suitable for investment is not random. Nor obvious.

    Community means people using a service are more likely to continue to use the service, and the reduction of churn is important. I suspect that's why this group was worth a premium. That and Google has more money than the company knows how to use.

    This is a business decision, with standard criteria and standard calculations. Not easy to see that much has changed.
    Anton Philidor