Ever since the inception of YouTube, people have been extremely creative in finding applications of this user-friendly platform. Owing to its profound integration into our daily lives, its uses have emerged beyond the realm of entertainment. Today, YouTube is being used for everything from uploading user generated videos for sharing with family and friends, to advertising, blogging, sharing opinions, buying/selling and much more. YouTube recently decided to expand its content offerings and signed deals with CBS Broadcasting, Inc. (CBS) and MGM Worldwide Digital Media (MGM) to air full-length videos of TV shows and movies, respectively. The press release states that the new YouTube CBS Channel will include content from CBS Entertainment, CBS News, CBS Sports and Showtime Networks. Similarly, the MGM channel called ‘Impact’ will be focusing on classic movies and TV shows, with the exception of widely popular classic movies and Hollywood blockbusters. This move is being described by many as an attempt by Google to monetize YouTube to make money from its $1.65 Billion US investment.
With the emerging trends in the evolution of the Internet from a “text-web” to a “video web” , it appears that the Web has now reached the point where it is ready to deliver a TV-like immersive experience, with the added advantage of end-user participation. Richard Siklos, in his recent article, “Big media muscles in on the user-generated Web,” states that the trend of posting full length movies and advertising content online is logical. The convincing reasons behind this claim include the mass exodus of people from regular TV viewing to online resources due to the “on demand” nature of videos, and the difficulty of stealing the streamed content online.
In the recent YouTube deals, while the TV shows and the movies will be provided at no charge to users, there will be advertisements playing before, during and after the videos. According to Michael Lynton, the chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, advertisers are mainly comfortable when they know both the content of the video that they will be associating their brands with, in addition to prior knowledge of when and where the videos will appear. Advertisers want trusted and brand-safe content with which to associate their products and UGC (user generated content) fails to guarantee any of these requirements. What will the future of UGC and Web 2.0. be?
The term “Web 2.0”, coined by Dale Dougherty of O’Reilly Media in 2004, is now commonly used to refer to the changing trends in the use of Internet technology in order to “enhance creativity, communications, secure information sharing, collaboration and functionality of the web.” Some of the well-known “Web 2.0” companies, with applications commonly used in the fields of work and entertainment, include WordPress, Google Docs, Amazon Music, Digg, Skype and of course YouTube. The underlying characteristic of these “Web 2.0” companies is the incorporation of user interaction and feedback into their services, enabling them to harness this collective intelligence to significantly strengthen their services.
While the recent YouTube deals appear to be following some of the same successful formulas of user involvement in showing full-length videos, it has the potential to diverge from traditional “Web 2.0” on the question of who influences and regulates all of the content and data associated with these services. Up until now, this task has mainly been handled by users themselves, but now with the divergence of YouTube from a community approach to a more commercial one, there will be changes to this. With the future of online videos looking bright, with or without UGC, there exists a risk of imparting too much power to marketers, who might replace the users and the media companies, to alter the face of online videos into an advertising paradise.