Monday, November 26, 2012

Big Media's Romance with YouTube: Why It Will Fail


The entertainment industry is still excited about YouTube.  In the November 26th edition of the Weekly Variety, "YouTube Newbies Wow the Biz," explains how "Big Media" is beginning to invest in Multi-Channel Networks (MLC's) like Fullscreen and Maker studios, with the hope of getting in on the ground floor of a new industry, farming new talent, and connecting with young audiences.

But do they really get it?

In the Sunday, November 25th edition of the Los Angeles Times, another article, "YouTube's Best Video Creators Now Have Their Space in the Sun" discussed YouTube's new Playa Vista studio, which caters to YouTube partners by providing them access to a state of the art production facility that might have previously been out of reach.  They'll be able to "up their game," improve their production value and create better and more ambitious content.

While this influx of investment and interest from both Big Media and YouTube will prove a fantastic opportunity for some of the top YouTubers, both sectors still seem to be curiously blind to the most powerful aspect to the world of online video - a direct connection with the viewing audience.

For the vast majority of YouTubers, those whose views may never reach the stratosphere, the real opportunity isn't necessarily in hooking up with Big Media -  or becoming part of the YouTube elite.  Learning how to better grow and engage their viewers/subscribers/followers/fans offers the best chance for most online content creators to build a future in that world.  The key isn't simply to share in YouTube's advertising revenue (which tends to really pay off only for those with at least tens of thousands of views) - it's getting the big picture: understanding one's own talent and abilities - and using YouTube channels as tools to build toward those goals.  In other words, what are you good at, and how will you get there?  To some, that simply means hawking fan-centric items like t-shirts and posters. To the more ambitious, that could mean music, videos, e-books, audience involvement in crowd-funding projects, smartphone apps, or developing one's own sponsorship opportunities separate and distinct from the limited percentages of YouTube advertising revenue.  In short - individual creators need to begin seeing online video as a tool for entrepreneurship.

Individual engagement and interaction, which offers precious little room for corporate overlords, is the real attraction that draws the YouTube audience. Big Media interest will likely wear thin fairly quickly as they discover that drawing in online audiences isn't simply a matter of pushing out content.  

While some will benefit handsomely, investments in FullScreen and Maker Studios - and YouTube - will prove disappointing - but not because the opportunity isn't there - but because improved tools for engagement aren't being developed as feverishly as production  capabilities.

It's quite possible that the true power of online media will remain firmly - though so far potentially - with the individual.

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