Web 2.0: Who needs TV, newspapers?

Enthusiastic Web 2.0 champions believe the free-to-consumer services have the power to displace stalwarts of traditional media, from The New York Times to television networks.

YouTube reportedly serves 100 million videos a day, and Digg reportedly attracted 8.5 million visitors in May.

The impressive traction the small start-ups have rapidly gained is sparking admiration, and emulation. Enthusiastic Web 2.0 champions believe the free-to-consumer services have the power to displace stalwarts of traditional media, from The New York Times to television networks.

Last month Michael Arrington said in “Digg 3.0 to Launch Monday”:

Digg is looking more and more like the newspaper of the web, and is challenging even the New York Times on page views.

Earlier this month Om Malik said “In Digg’s Defense”:

What I have to say about Digg is that it doesn’t cost as much to make, it doesn’t win Pulitzers, but it is still a lot of fun. Surely, you can’t go grab a brew with Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. But Kevin Rose, now that’s a whole different story.

More importantly, there is that other thing which the raw numbers miss: Digg is the new king maker. If that was not the case, then why else with big media outlets including BBC put the little “digg it” button next to their important stories. Sure, The Times at one time decided the fate of presidential candidates or in some cases Presidents, but in these harsher times, when page views have an impact on the bottom-line, Digg is the new king maker.

Funny part - Hitwise blog post has a little button that says: Digg It. Too bad it doesn’t say Time(s) It.

(As an aside, I chatted with Sulzberger at the paidContent mixer last month, and he was, in fact, quite enjoyable company; see “Arthur O. Suzlberger, Jr: The New York Times Company has the 'dough' online.”)

Malik applauds Digg’s “kingmaker” status. In “Web 2.0 pay for play: payola, or transparency?” however, I discuss the dark side of Digg’s, perhaps unintended, power:

Rather than the Web's “newspaper,” Digg is feeling more and more like the Web’s self-promotional tool…

Digg “stories” are often self-submitted by authors and then actively “voted on” by collaborative self-promoting teams.

Additionally, such collaborative efforts may include “sabotage” against “competing” stories legitimately posted by Digg contributors without agendas. Sabotage tactics include “bury” and negative comment campaigns.

In the larger scheme of things, and in the long run, a mention in The New York Times still has a wider reach and more influential impact than a “digg.”

The New York Times reporting and editorial also, undoubtedly, impact presidential fates more than Digg page view generation does.

Perhaps Digg’s enormous goodwill reflects wishful thinking, or even Web 2.0 self-infatuation.

John Dvorak discussed such a notion last month in “Understanding Digg and Its Utopian Idealism, The Flaws in the System”:

Digg is an attractive site for most of us because it is our ilk that uses it. It is indeed a community of like-minded people with broad interests but all imbued with idealism regarding the usefulness of technology like this. Techno-populism! Huzzah! It's just great!

But make no mistake, this is utopianism in every way, and there has never been a utopian mechanism, society, or process that has worked for long before it fails. Digg, because of this history, is bound to suffer the same fate. It will get corrupted, collapse under its own weight, or just stop working. Until then, enjoy it while you can, comrades.

Today, the television industry is put on notice. Michael Arrington headlines his announcement that “Boston based Gotuit Media launched Gotuit late Sunday evening” with “Gotuit Furthers Television’s Demise.”

Besides the headline, however, “televison” is not mentioned in the post, nor are television networks. There is general discussion of “on-demand free premium content like music videos, sports clips and short films” and reference to “content owners,” but no specific content producers or suppliers are identified.

The Gotuit site describes its content as follows:

What type of content is on Gotuit.com?
Music - the hottest music videos from both major and independent labels.
News - daily feeds from AP, Reuters, and AccuWeather.
Sports - exciting sports content and highlights from a variety of leagues and sources.
Entertainment - the latest movie trailers and other entertainment content, such as entertainment news and short films.

How often is content updated?
News content is updated at least once a day.
Music, Sports, and Entertainment content is updated once a week or as new content becomes available.

Gotuit’s description does not suggest that the site’s offerings beat, or match, what is available, for free, on “old fashioned” television.

Moreover, how can Gotuit cause the “demise” of television, and how can Digg displace The New York Times, given that such Web 2.0 properties are dependent upon access to the professional mainstream content produced by television studios, newspapers…?

Web 2.0 properties’ dependence upon professionally produced content distributed by traditional media is generally given short drift in discussions which celebrate the user-friendly features of Web 2.0 start-ups.

Digg users do not write news stories; Digg infrastructure is made available to the public for free as a vehicle to identify and comment on news stories written and produced by others, generally mainstream media outlets.

Gotuit does not produce any content and does not provide an infrastructure for its users to contribute content. According to the site:

Can I post my own videos to Gotuit?
Gotuit does not currently support user generated video content.

YouTube does not produce content, but makes its infrastructure available for users to upload content.

In “YouTube now 'entertainment destination': partners with NBC, courts CBS,” I note, however, that YouTube users overwhelmingly prefer to watch videos, rather than upload them, and professionally produced videos are a key draw:

YouTube is declaring that while it originally started as a personal video sharing service, it 'has grown into an entertainment destination'...

YouTube’s very low user contribution rate is undoubtedly one of the motivations for repositioning itself as an 'entertainment destination'...

The other, principal, motivation is to attract desirable, professionally produced content, rather than amateur content.

In my story last week, “YouTube the video star: Act II” I discuss the difficulties YouTube faces in moving from a user-generated content focus to a more lucrative, mainstream media approach. YouTube recently announced a cross-promotional and authorized content distribution deal with NBC and seeks same with CBS:

Despite YouTube’s best efforts to 'legitimize' its service, however, its own success in attracting users is a double-edged sword; the policing of 20 million unique users per month is not an easy task.

John Battelle discusses the proliferation of mainstream content at YouTube in his post today, “YouTube Worth $1 Billion? But Who Will Buy It?”:

While YouTube is an amazing service, with extraordinary uptake, I've been told (and it seems obvious on first glance) that its core content is mostly copyrighted material. (I make this statement after being told as much by two very senior folks at major media companies who have studied content patterns on YouTube.)

Now, folks who own copyrights are waking up to the power of letting their copyrighted content flourish on YouTube, but that particular worm has not turned - content companies are very, very wary of letting this genie out of the bottle.