YouTubers Threaten Revolt! (Again)

    August 23, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

One thing you can count on in a user-generated world is passion, and threats to leave because of changes. Another thing you can count on is that they probably don’t mean it, and there’s a good chance their anger’s misplaced.

YouTubers Threaten Revolt! (Again)
YouTubers Threaten Revolt! (Again)

Not that there’s not a place for righteous anger – there is – and Video Egg’s dejection over YouTube’s introduction of video ad overlays may land square in that territory. Based on patent applications, Video Egg indeed may have thought of it first, even if it seems largely inspired by TV "snipes" (thanks to Om Malik for updating my terminology). Video Egg is getting some collateral publicity, though, so not all is lost.

But anyone who’s followed Web 2.0 developments over the past couple of years could have done a count down to how long it would take YouTubers to revolt over the new ad placements with as much accuracy as they might have predicted that it had to happen eventually.

Google paid $1.65 billion for YouTube, which at the time was clocking a million-dollar-per-month bandwidth bill, plus legal expenses, that may prove fruitless in the end, to fend off another billion-dollar demand from Viacom, among others in line to sue.

So, yes, monetization is a high priority. 

One also might have predicted the small uprising getting some coverage, as YouTube was the new MySpace last year, even if this year’s YouTube is Facebook. Ahem. So CNet’s round up of dissent, even if seemingly failing to explain to the subject(s) interviewed that the ads are intended for media partners only and not for user-submitted videos, is therefore gratuitous, as is ComputerWorld’s assertion that YouTube may need to rethink their advertising model.

After all, the same commentators from the YouTube blog that CNet cited are threatening to leave en masse. "Yuck" seems to be the most popular comment, as quoted several times throughout the blogosphere.

But the righteous "keep my YouTube pure" crowd seems to have missed the point that their own videos won’t be affected, at least not yet. One such misunderstanding, echoed by many, is illustrated by YouTube blog commentator "lonelybloggers":

I find it alarming that you won’t be sharing "in-video" advertising with the people that actually own the content….if YouTube is going to profit from "in-video/intrusive" ads, you should be kicking some of that revenue back to the owners of the content. Without content YouTube would not exist, so why not reward the people that spend the time and money to produce video that you profit from? In the end what choice do we have? I hope the Google/YouTube team considers it’s options very carefully here, because people will simply stop posting here and find other places to post their video content.…If you want to profit from my content, pay me too for allowing you the right to feature the content I paid to create.

lonelybloggers, paradoxically, brings up one good point while missing another. The truth is, at least by what was announced, that YouTube is sharing revenue with media partners, just not with users. This guards against unauthorized uploads that violate copyrights or terms of service having advertising appearing within, thus bolstering Viacom-esque complaints that YouTube is profiting from copyrighted material. "Select" media partners split the revenues generated by the videos by charging $20 per 1000 views.

But the interesting issue brought up in the above comment was the concept of reward (other than exposure) for user uploads, which with copyrights is tricky. But users forfeit the rights to their content when uploading their videos, allowing, ironically, Viacom’s VH1 to use them on the show "Web Junk." The CW’s upcoming primetime show  "Online Nation" will also feature YouTube videos, and users see nothing but, well, more exposure.

That leads one to think that eventually, YouTube may need to think of some sort of distribution rights for its users, especially if they start leaving for lack of them.

But will they leave like they’ve threatened? Well, if history’s any guide, no. When Yahoo bought Flickr, users freaked. When News Corp. bought MySpace, users wailed about censorship and advertising. When YouTube gave Paris Hilton her own channel, again, commentators threatened revolt.

But one thing has remained constant: they have not revolted, only grown in numbers.