If They Ditch YouTube, Will They Just Come Crawling Back?

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So apparently News Corp. and NBC Universal, with the aid of Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and MySpace, are going to set up a video portal, in effect saying, “it’s my Scattergories, and I’m going home” to YouTube.

A few thoughts on this. We’ve known all along that the YouTube revolution was not a unitary entity, that it consisted of two radically different kinds of content — user-generated and corporate-generated — sharing the same rather nifty organization and distribution apparatus. I find it very unlikely that removing the corporate content is going to cripple YouTube, which is, first and foremost, a community. I don’t think the professional content is what’s holding it up, though no doubt it does drive significant traffic. I guess now we’re going to find out.

But I think that this new corporate entity, if it gets off the ground, is really going to miss the YouTube community. Sure, they’ll have the “control” they’re looking for, and they’ll get whatever ad-revenue deal they weren’t able to sort out with YouTube. But just like the prom is never as fun as the after-party, it’s going to be really tough for NBC-NewsTube to replicate the scruffy free-for-all atmosphere of YouTube. Granted, YouTube is a big corporate business now too, but in some real sense it was community-built. It’s got that grassroots, homegrown, organic structure in its DNA, and cloning that — synthesizing authentic user enthusiasm in the lab — is tougher than it looks.

Plus, the suits kinda tend to forget that YouTube isn’t just about user-generated content, it’s also about user-organized content. If you don’t have people watching, ranking, rating, tagging and commenting on the clips, they remain this antiseptic wasteland of jumbled content.

It all reminds me of that episode of the Office with the two Christmas parties — the fun one thrown by Pam and Karen, and the deadly one thrown by mean Angela: “These are all terrible ideas and none of them are on the theme of ‘A Nutcracker Christmas.’ I think you should leave.”

Two more minor notes:

– a lot is going to hang on Viacom’s lawsuit against YouTube, obviously, which I’m sorry, but I don’t see how Viacom is going to win without forcing a serious rewriting of the DMCA

– I wish I knew more about what is going on with these busted negotiations between YouTube/Google and big media. My spidey-sense suggests that big media is asking for some really unreasonable ad split, and some assurances about how their content will be presented, that YouTube won’t go along with. But who really knows? Maybe Google’s folks are being jerks about it.

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