The question on many people’s minds since the recent PR warfare between Google/YouTube and Viacom (and NBC) is: will YouTube retain its dominance or will it be supplanted by another site? That’s the same question that circulates around Google itself of course.
1. The “Head”: Professionally produced content is critical to YouTube’s long-term strength
Lazy Sunday, the “SNL” (NBC) iconic skit that was instrumental in YouTube’s viral growth, was removed from YouTube (although you can still find a French-subtitled version). So were Viacom’s “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report,” among other videos. This “professionally produced” content is one half of the YouTube story. The long-term absence of this content could open the door for competitors that can offer it. (See, e.g., PaidContent.)
For example, a search on Google for “Lazy Sunday” yields two NBC links (above YouTube). Both offer a bad experience however — destroying NBC’s ability to acquire me as a user.
2. The “Tail”: There may be enough community loyalty to sustain it regardless
Though I’m not very interested in watching “Dueling Nunchucks” or Japanese cat videos many people do seem to be. But somewhere between this and “The Daily Show” may be a sustainable layer of pseudo-professional content. Apropos of that, many YouTube amateur “producers” convened in San Francisco this past weekend to meet in the real world.
From CNET coverage:
Many of the estimated 100 people who attended are examples of the democratization of media. YouTube, which sees more than 30 million unique visitors a month, continues to gain influence with the so-called user-generated generation. As a result, some of YouTube’s better bloggers and videographers are beginning to derive a legitimate if modest form of celebrity.
Online video is clearly starting to give TV a run for its money. Recent Harris Poll data found that almost one-third of heavy YouTube viewers watch less TV as a direct result of their YouTube habit.
YouTube (and its competitive kin) can be seen as an evolution of cable TV, but it must offer a mix of “head” and “tail” content to retain its leadership position.
Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.