STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Destroying YouTube
By Staff News & Analysis - January 10, 2012

STREAMING DREAMS … YouTube turns pro … On a rainy night in late November, Robert Kyncl was in Google’s New York City offices, on Ninth Avenue, whiteboarding the future of TV. Kyncl holds a senior position at YouTube, which Google owns. He is the architect of the single largest cultural transformation in YouTube’s seven-year history. Wielding a black Magic Marker, he charted the big bang of channel expansion and audience fragmentation that has propelled television history so far, from the age of the three networks, each with a mass audience, to the hundreds of cable channels, each serving a niche audience—twenty-four-hour news, food, sports, weather, music—and on to the dawning age of Internet video, bringing channels by the tens of thousands. “People went from broad to narrow,” he said, “and we think they will continue to go that way—spend more and more time in the niches—because now the distribution landscape allows for more narrowness.” – The New Yorker

Dominant Social Theme: The entrepreneurs are going to work! YouTube will finally become the instrument it was meant to be. Enlightenment is on the way.

Free-Market Analysis: We wish we could be more positive about this well written and insightful article in The New Yorker. But it reminds us everything we have come to dislike about corporate America. The US is the biggest empire in the world, probably ever, and its power elite is determined to rationalize the Internet Reformation right out of society. That’s what this article is really saying.

It is written by John Seabrook who has a lot of “chops.” He has written books on technology and his writing has appeared in top magazines and newspapers. He’s actually a staff writer for The New Yorker, and his bio reads this way:

John Seabrook has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1993. He is the author of Deeper: My Two-Year Odyssey in Cyberspace (Simon & Schuster, 1997), Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing the Marketing of Culture (Knopf, 2000), and Flash of Genius and Other True Stories of Invention (St. Martin’s, 2008). His work has also appeared in Harper’s, The Nation, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Travel + Leisure, and The Village Voice. He has taught narrative nonfiction writing at Princeton University and lives in New York City.

The article Seabrook has penned is basically about Kyncl (see article excerpt above) and elegantly explains the strategy that YouTube is pursuing. Turns out that video is going the way of written media (especially magazines). It’s going from general to specific.

This happened in the mid-20th century in the West when general interest magazines began to wither away as television took their place. Now there is to be video “narrowband” as well. Whether such narrow-casting has a big impact on free-TV remains to be seen.

We don’t find a great deal to celebrate in YouTube’s ambitious plans. The site already acts as an agent of Leviathan (to put it politely), removing videos that are overtly political and offensive to the power structure while increasingly going out of its way to promote adolescent fart jokes and man-in-the-moon conspiracy theories to discredit the larger alternative media.

It is all too predictable and one can see the same tricks being played at Google, which not so coincidentally owns YouTube. This, too, is the way the game is played. There is NO DOUBT (none) at this point that American Intel basically runs Google – at least from a data-mining standpoint.

Google used to promote alternative Internet websites but a series of redesigns has basically recast the front page so that almost all the information displayed is from the mainstream media. The famous algorithm that YouTube uses is constantly being rejiggered as well, to the detriment of alternative news sources as well, from what we can tell.

Google can’t do TOO much of course, or it will lose its competitive edge. Same with YouTube. There will continue to be alternative media present on YouTube but that doesn’t mean the powers-that-be have to promote them. Here’s more from Seabrook:

People prefer niches because “the experience is more immersive,” Kyncl went on. “For example, there’s no horseback-riding channel on cable. Plenty of people love horseback riding, and there’s plenty of advertisers who would like to market to them, but there’s no channel for it, because of the costs. You have to program a 24/7 loop, and you need a transponder to get your signal up on the satellite. With the Internet, everything is on demand, so you don’t have to program 24/7—a few hours is all you need.”

For the past 60 years, TV executives have been making the decisions about what we watch in our living rooms. Kyncl would like to change that. Therefore, YouTube, the home of grainy cell-phone videos and skateboarding dogs, is going pro. Kyncl has recruited producers, publishers, programmers and performers from traditional media to create more than a hundred channels, most of which will début in the next six months − a sort of YouTV. Streaming video, delivered over the Internet, is about to engage traditional TV in a skirmish in the looming war for screen time.

YouTube was created by three former employees of PayPal, in a Silicon Valley garage, in early 2005. According to two of the founders, Chad Hurley and Steven Chen, a graphic designer and a software engineer, respectively, the idea grew out of a dinner party at Chen’s home in San Francisco, in the winter of 2004-05. Guests had made videos of one another, but they couldn’t share them easily. The founders envisioned a video version of Flickr, a popular photo-sharing site. All the content on the site would be user-generated: “Real personal clips that are taken by everyday people,” as Hurley described his vision.

Today, Hurley, Chen and a third founder are all multi-millionaires (billionaires?) and it took all of a year for a buyout to emerge from Google. From our point of view, this was something of an intelligence decision. US Intel is pretty much in bed now with social media (Facebook), with Google (the dominant search engine) and YouTube (the video/TV facility of the present and future).

By identifying the proper technology and investing early, US Intel makes itself an invaluable partner in these facilities. Then the spooks sit back and let the “magic” of the market work. The actual propaganda is fairly minimal. Most sophisticated propaganda involves leaving things out. Faking news and information is a good deal more difficult and prone to “blowback” (see global warming).

We have no doubt that the inevitable takeover by US Intel shall proceed as regards YouTube. The justification shall be that the market demands the kind of strategy that YouTube shall produce. But this is a kind of power-elite dominant social theme. The idea is to justify “mainstreaming” Internet facilities by using “market demand” as a beard.

The idea that the market is demanding a “dumbed down” is untrue, of course. There is a reason that the alternative media has proven so popular in the US, especially. People want to learn the truth. Those who are truly interested in big profits and bigger audiences can do well to follow the path of Matt Drudge who singlehandedly dominates American media – and its trillion dollar media properties – by selecting news and information that the mainstream would not ordinarily feature.

This is how things work these days. But when it comes to Google, Facebook and now YouTube we are being asked to believe that the market itself is asking for more of the kind of programming that was prevalent in the Dark Ages (from a media standpoint) in the 20th century.

Actually, the entities doing the “asking” are putatively corporate America. This is what the term “commercial” has come to mean. When one speaks of a “commercial” product for US markets, one is speaking of an entertainment that is resolutely apolitical and does not deal with unpleasantness like the US’s serial wars or its terrible (and exploitative) financial system and resultant hopeless poverty.

One is not supposed to mention there are apparently great families located in the City of London that dominate and control trillion-dollar central banks. One is not supposed to intimate that there is a larger plan to institute world government, though the basics of world government – the UN, the IMF and NATO – have all been put in place already.

Expect more and more YouTube videos that deal with sexual dalliances and outer-space aliens. Expect, as well, longer videos that will attempt to present TV-style sitcoms and soap operas. This is the future that YouTube’s top “brain trust” is mapping out for the facility. This, we are to believe, is the “truth” that ordinary people seek.

Will it work in this Internet era? Will what we call the Internet Reformation overwhelm this disingenuous plan to pull the nettle of YouTube while leaving the stinky blossom? People still have numerous choices when it comes to what they want to watch. In fact, why would people turn to YouTube for the fare they’ve increasingly rejected on mainstream TV?

The article itself points to MySpace’s failed attempts in this direction. MySpace tried to homogenize its content – give corporate America the entertainment fare that Rupert Murdoch’s wise men were sure the viewing audience wanted. As a result, Murdoch recently sold his US$500 million investment for under US$50 million. Seabrook is onto this as well:

I wondered if there was any danger to the brand, in moving so decisively from the user-generated anarchy of the old YouTube to YouTV, where control and surveillance are centralized in the heart of the Googleplex. In its attempt to increase watch time, attract more viewers, and provide advertisers with as customized a customer as possible, YouTube risks alienating its core constituency … For all the information that new-media companies have about their customers, they can still fundamentally misjudge when those customers are ready for change.

After Thoughts

Kyncl’s answer is that he’s “swinging for the fences.” In fact, he’s doing no such thing. He’s got his marching orders, and that’s to make YouTube as much like 20th century television as possible. Like Seabrook, we wonder if it’s an apt strategy for the 21st.

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