Online Video Needs Critical Mass

More on the topic of online video. It seems the majority of stories I’m seeing in this space recently have to do with moving video to the Net. A recent one was the agreement between YouTube and Warner.

YouTube is as hot as a high grade viral infection right now, which is what it essentially is. It’s the latest Net “Buzz” poster child, and it’s reaping huge amounts of traffic. That’s a great step towards sustainability, but as we’ve seen in the past, the Net’s traffic patterns are notoriously fickle. The tide can turn overnight and head to a new spot. What YouTube has to do is grow up without growing old. Kafka gets it right in his article.

Kudos to Warner for understanding the ebb and flow of the Internet. You have to watch where the new communities of interest are gathering, and shift your strategy to be in the right place at the right time. Presently, YouTube is the right place. The only question is how long is the “right time” window. YouTube in it’s present form is all hype and little substance. We’re still playing with the novelty of online video. We still get a kick out of watching teenagers lip sync to a popular song (or the theme song for Pokemon) in his/her bedroom. That will get old fast. Not to mention the questionable legality of most of the content on YouTube.

Warner is smart enough to realize that the consumer is at the wheel and will control where distribution occurs. They’re laying their bets on YouTube, and it’s probably a smart bet. At least, it’s a smarter bet that where the competition is placing their chips. Universal is still trying to maintain the illusion of control by going head to head with another red hot property, MySpace.com, with threats of legal action due to copyright infringement. EMI and Universal has also gone with SpiralFrog, a start up. They have obviously given up traffic for greater control.

But for YouTube, the trick will be to provide more meat as it transitions from a viral novelty to an internet mainstay. This trick has been successfully pulled off only a few times in the past. One was Google.

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