February 24, 2008
Google Videocracy and Online Upfronts

Recently, Google hosted their "Videocracy" event in New York, which was intended to be a "deep-dive, Cliffs Notes, YouTube 101 education" for advertisers, according to YouTube spokeman Aaron Zamost.

Among the featured guests number of youtube celebrities such as Lisa Nova, Tay Zonday, and the source of my own bit of YouTube infamy (see here and here), Soulja Boy.

Bloggers hit their keyboards soon after and several called the event an "upfront" -- a telling comparison since the goal of Videocracy seemed to be to present YouTube to advertisers not just as a video distribution platform, but also as a viable alternative content stream comparable to television wherein advertising was concerned.

New developments on YouTube focused on making it more socially responsive and generating better analytics for marketers. Ian Schafer gives a rundown of the changes we can expect. On the marketing side, YouTube is planning to launch more advanced analytics that include being able to see where, both geographically and online, videos are coming from. On the social side, YouTube is aiming to help promote their extensive and tight-knit communities with advances such as active sharing, the description for which asks the potential participant if they are "a video trendsetter" or "expert at finding cool stuff on YouTube." The recommendations will also switch to a more amazon-esque "viewers also liked" system instead of one based on common tags.

Both developments seem to be aimed at helping YouTube users to acts as proselytizers for content and, dare I suggest, even further promote "viral" behavior. Plans for scaffolding interactivity and collaboration include video editing tools (possibly for people to collaborate on videos?), YouTube games, and a global gathering.

According to Ian Schafer, content creators on YouTube are being encouraged to increasingly participate in youtube as a social community and "extend the popularity of your content by speaking authentically to your audience."

All of this seems to be aimed, in part, at generating more and more original content that reaches wider audiences in an effort to attract advertisers.

I've watched a lot of YouTube videos over the past several months, as the Consortium engages in a major study of content from across the site, and I would hypothesize that there are fewer original, non-television videos among the most popular videos on the site, when compared to the lists of the videos that generate the most comments or responses.

If it is indeed the case that this non-television content doesn't make it to the "most viewed" distinction on YouTube as often, it seems these new social tools could work to change that, helping to promote the content that gets mileage within communities on YouTube.

I wonder, however, whether advertisers are ready to invest more money on a channel without real control over the content being shown, as much of the popular original content tends to be controversial and entrenched in YouTube community drama, such as the Lisa Nova spam fiasco.

Additionally, YouTubers have a habit using the technological or social standards of the system to subvert it, creating "chain" videos that generate large numbers of responses and views just by claiming to be a test to see if they can generate responses and views, and inserting unrelated (usually sexual) thumbnail still into the middle of their video to push more view clicks.

As a content channel, YouTube is still largely inconsistent, and it will be interesting to see if the increasingly social and advertisement focused model will change that.