Media Trends - From Consumer to Media Producer: The Rise of YouTube and Netcasting
It used to be that the average American would come home from work, make dinner and then snap on the TV. For the next few hours, the television set would stay on. Maybe even a couple of sets for various members of the family.
Today, things are changing, particularly among the 13-26 age group, as more and more people turn from television to the Internet and other forms of media.
Not only are an increasing number of people watching videos on the Internet, but more significantly, they're also producing content themselves and broadcasting—or netcasting—via video websites such as YouTube, Break, Google Video, Yahoo video and MySpace.
Media and Advertising TrendsNetcasting: Broadcasting for the Masses
Online video sharing websites such as YouTube have revolutionized the system of "Broadcasting Networks," and large traditional networks are taking notice.
In the beginning of broadcast television there were just a few major broadcast networks and some local stations. ABC, NBC, and CBS monopolized the television viewing audience for the most part until the widespread introduction of cable television in the 1980s.
Cable television offered dozens of new channels. It also offered a new twist in opening up programming to a wider group of content producers when it introduced Community Access programming. But by and large, most people could not simply create and broadcast programming and have access to distribution on a large scale.
With the rise of the Internet throughout the 1990s, publishing text content for mass distribution became much easier. And in February, 2005 with the launch of YouTube, the Internet video revolution really started to take off with gusto.
According to Hitwise, YouTube now accounts for approximately 60% of online video viewing, with MySpace, Google Video and Yahoo videos following behind.
How does YouTube revolutionize "broadcast" distribution?
YouTube allows any individual or group to create a show and broadcast it to the world. At the same time, it lets the viewing audience decide what to watch, as well as vote on their favorite videos.
The success of YouTube has as much to do with the website and its ease-of-use in uploading video content, as it does with the confluence of a number of other factors:
- Inexpensive bandwidth for distribution
- Large audience with high-speed Internet access
- Inexpensive video equipment
- Inexpensive and simple video editing software
That's not to say that YouTube is a succesful business... yet. Currently the site is burning through an estimated $1 million per month in bandwidth usage costs, and a profitable business model has not yet been determined (For more on YouTube's business, see Is Fox Buying YouTube).
But there's certainly a phase shift in how entertainment content is produced and distributed, as small scale productions have drawn in millions of viewers on a regular basis.
One of the latest Internet video stars is featured on an online video journal (a vlog) by lonelygirl15. Her shows became a regular feature on YouTube starting in June 2006, with millions of views throughout the summer. And in this new participatory medium, viewers also influenced the direction of the content as the show's producers altered their scripts based on immediate viewer feedback, facilitated by YouTube's Comments feature.
The lonelygirl15 show was produced by some film students, Miles Beckett, 28, of Woodland Hills, California; Mesh Flinders, 26, of Petaluma, California; and Greg Goodfried, 27, of Los Angeles. The starring actress was Jessica Rose, a 19-year old graduate of the New York Film Academy. It was presented as a real-life personal journal by "Bree" though it turned out to be a fictional production.
Other popular YouTube stars include a 79-year old man from the UK (geriatric1927), who nervously starts his first vlog in an unsteady video show, and grows viewership to 1 million views, as well as dozens of spin-off "reply videos" from other producers from around the world.
And then there's Brook Brodack, better known online as "Brookers," who crossed over from her online vlogging to television in June of 2006.
Carson Daly Productions recently signed 20-year old Brooke Brodack to a talent and development deal. According to Variety magazine, "Daly said he became mesmerized by her videos after recently stumbling upon them online. 'The Internet has become a new platform for identifying emerging artists such as Brookers. I hope to give her the opportunity to expose her talent on a much larger scale'" Daly said.
Networks Jump On Board Online Video
MSNBC offers a good deal of video on its website, particularly in the area of news reporting.
On June 27, 2006, NBC and YouTube announced a deal to promote some NBC programming on YouTube, including The Office, Jay Leno's Tonight Show, and Saturday Night Live.
Under the terms of the agreement, NBC will create an official NBC Channel on YouTube to house its Fall Preview area with exclusive clips from NBC programming.
And on August 12, 2006, NBC announced NBBC.com (National Broadband Company), a business-to-business marketplace for digital video syndication. The service enables its partners to access, distribute and monetize online video content. The company also offers its services as an online marketplace for content licensors and websites to license video content.
According to the company, NBBC plans to generates profits through revenue sharing and fee-based models, and is jointly funded by NBC Universal and NBC affiliates.
What's Next for Online Video?
Video sharing websites are not without problems. YouTube has so far been fast-and-loose in its policing of copyrighted content (the site will currently remove copyrighted content at the request of the content holder, but does not prevent it from being posted in the first place.
The copyright issue has been one of the larger issues the company faces as it tries to develop a more viable business model (see Universal Group May Sue MySpace and YouTube for Copyright Infringement.)
But YouTube continues to build revenue sources, moving beyond banner ads, promotions and sponsorships. On August 22, 2006, the company announced two new advertising concepts to better integrate corporate content producers: Participatory Video Ads (PVA) and Brand Channels.
Participatory Video Ads (PVA)
The new Participatory Video Ad is a user-initiated video advertisement with all of the YouTube community features enabled. Consumers can rate, share, comment, embed, and favorite advertising content that they find interesting, informative and entertaining.
Brand Channels provide advertisers a place to showcase video content on YouTube with a look and feel that is consistent with their brand imagery. With the new Brand Channels:
- Marketers can customize the appearance of their channels through a self-service tool.
- YouTube users can use the "Subscriptions" feature with notification to stay in touch with marketers' new offerings
- Marketers will get auto-play video promotions on the homepage
- Integrated tools will allow marketers to host contests and encourage users to submit their own user-generated content
There's no question that user-generated content will complement traditional media rather than replace it. More importantly, advertisers and content producers will increasingly integrate consumers into their content production, whether its through user interaction and live feedback, or via user-produced content and production contests to make everything from new shows to product advertisements.
Having been given an opportunity to produce and distribute content, its likely that consumers will increasingly expect to have a voice in the media of the future.