The New YouTube: IT Meets TV

Back in June 2010 we gave our opinion of what we called the westcoastification of YouTube: “Hollywood, there are millions of us who don’t want YouTube to mature,” we wrote. “We like it just the way it is — embarrassingly sophomoric, amateurish, LOL hilarious, pathetic, dopey, dirty, funky, and utterly counterculture. It belongs to We the People. Can’t you go co-opt some other industry? We can think of a lot of them that could use your genius, your money and your values.” (See Do We Want YouTube to Grow Up?)

We might as well have spit in the wind. YouTube is on the way to becoming as slick as television, as highly monetized as a currency printing plant, and as tightly controlled as a high-security prison. A superb analysis in the New Yorker by John Seabrook tracks the evolution of YouTube from”the home of grainy cell-phone videos and skateboarding dogs” to YouTube Original Channels, dedicated to giving viewers 24/7 online coverage of the subjects in which they are particularly interested.

Once these channels are in place, writes Seabrook, “the niches will get nichier, and the audiences smaller still. But those audiences will be even more engaged, and much more quantifiable. Advertisers have to rely on ratings and market research to get even a rough approximation of who’s watching which show. Because YouTube is delivered over the Internet, the company will know exactly who is watching—not their names but their viewing histories, their searches, their purchases, their rough location, and their online social connections.”

For anyone interested in media – and who is not? –  Streaming Dreams: YouTube turns pro  is required reading.

Richard Curtis

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