YouTube Is No Longer For Leeroy Jenkins

by Jon Davis 28. August 2011 19:22
I am still very happy to keep my focus on web development by day as part of my day job, but for the last several months I have been getting personally acquainted with the World Wide Web's second or third most viewed web site. Not Facebook, not Google, we all know about those. These are fast getting supplanted by a web site and social network that is antiquating those two sites.

Two months ago, more than 30 hours of video content were being uploaded to YouTube every minute. Today, this number has grown to approximately 50 hours of video content per minute, and climbing. This is clearly the year of YouTube.

I am referring of course to YouTube.

The last year or so has seen a jaw-dropping surge of growth of activity on YouTube--not just in my own free time but with statistically everyone's Internet use on the whole. What was once known mainly for tired memes like the dancing baby of 1996, the fake vlogs of lonelygirl15, and the laughably bizarre martial arts moves of Star Wars fans, YouTube has recently become revolutionized by the broad availability of camera-enabled smartphones, iPads, and HD-video-ready cameras. 

Two months ago, more than 30 hours of video content were being uploaded to YouTube every minute. Today, invigorated by the proliferation of high quality video support in smartphones, cameras, and iPads, this number has grown to approximately 50 hours of video content per minute, and climbing. This is clearly the year of YouTube. Even I myself have begun dinking around with producing YouTube content, partly out of a huge curiosity I've had since I was a child in videography, photography, video editing, and video effects, and partly out of interest in the social, interactive network that YouTube is. I have also been attempting to use the video camera as a new sort of mirror, to reexamine my personal self and my life at home. The whole process has been surprisingly revealing and transformative. To boldly hold up a video camera, point it at oneself in one's own home, and say, "This is me, my life, how I live," regardless of whether one makes such content public, it is a life-changing experience to examine oneself through "another pair of eyes", so to speak. And this is especially true of me living alone, without a family (so far), with no one giving me direct feedback on a daily basis on how I think and live. On the other hand, were I married, I think we would have a blast as a family sharing real collaborative content with other vloggers rather than me going it alone.

But as far as the social network of YouTube goes, for me, YouTube has replaced both television and PC/Xbox gaming as the entertainment venue of choice. I no longer watch TV, except to watch the news and Conan O'Brien. MMORPGs have no charm anymore; LOTRO (and for that matter World of Warcraft) once enticed me with its dazzling graphics and fun gameplay, but the key ingredient in MMORPGs is the idea of doing fun stuff with other human beings around the world in a surreal way. YouTube is like an MMORPG, in a sense, too, but it is that MMORPG known as "real life", and I am entranced by the magic of watching my "friends"--that is, my favorite YouTube vloggers--crack jokes at each other, make music together, discover natural beauty of the Earth together, enjoy adorable pets together, travel the world together, or just slow down and be artistic.

Don't call it narcissism. When you have a video camera in your hands and flip the "REC" switch, anything and everything becomes a resource of creative content generation, and it's perfectly logical to take advantage of the most pliable, animate and controllable piece of material at one's disposal: oneself. On the other hand, should one be so lucky as to have other individuals, or surroundings, or other animate subject matters one can forget himself and focus on that instead.

For me, YouTube participation has replaced both television and PC/Xbox gaming as the entertainment venue of choice.

I credit the bulk of my fascination to the perfect blending of high definition video cameras, the HD video hosting that YouTube is, and high bandwidth from Internet service providers. High definition video has become the new "nice graphics" of last decade's graphics cards and gameplay; where I used to enjoy PC games like Unreal Tournament and Guild Wars because the graphics were so rich in detail, now I can watch a fresh high definition video displayed in 1080p produced by a fellow YouTube vlogger, and the video content is so realistic it is actually real. ;)  It's still only being rendered on my computer monitor, but you can even watch YouTube videos with 3D glasses, and produce video content for it relatively cheaply.

Vlogging (short for "video blogging") is taking over [written-form] blogging, and this is becoming more real by the hour. In fact, what programming I have been doing at home has involved abandoning (temporarily) the blogging software I was writing about just a couple months ago in order to work on some new desktop vlogging software I may or may not sell someday, if only for the occasional paid-for Starbucks coffee. It takes advantage of the YouTube publishing API and alleviates the problem I saw and experienced with YouTube's video upload page balking frequently on my erratic Wi-Fi connection. 

For those following for business-related interests, vlogging's growing popularity presents both an opportunity and a problem to Internet monetization. YouTube has a closed but ever-present monetization model. Owned by Google, it is Google. If you want to make money on YouTube, you need to produce compelling content on YouTube, associate your YouTube account with a Google AdSense account, and get people to watch your content. AdWords ads will then be displayed directly over and alongside the videos that are played by the viewing user. This is the traditional revenue model, and it has been succeeding even for amateur vloggers who have turned into professionals rather quickly. Cory Williams' "Mean Kitty" music video turned him into a star; in fact, it was disclosed on Tyra Banks' talk show a couple years ago that he was (at least at that time) raking in some $20,000 per month after that silly homemade video was produced. (He didn't want that disclosed, but it's very interesting to know.)

Understand clearly, I have no intentions of dropping my career in software & web development, you need to be physically attractive to make it in the vlogging world if you are not exceptionally talented in your creativity, and I am neither, though I have a few creative talents I exploit. Cory Williams is both. But that does not keep me from finding amazing opportunities in YouTube as both an entertainment and social venue. This becomes a real-life fascination when events like VidCon prove to be so much fun. At other entertainment-based social gatherings such as BlizzCon and ComicCon, you are surrounded by strangers who are either out-of-character or in full costume and looking silly. Whereas, at VidCon and the like, you are meeting and discovering the same people that you saw and "befriended" online with the exchange of video content, in their real and same form.

Businesses seeking to exploit the opportunities of the YouTube community require as much creativity as the YouTubers' creativity, to the extent of the opportunities available. There has never been a more interesting time to engage in guerilla marketing. The most jaw-dropping, amazing marketing campaign I have ever seen on the web occurred this year with Wrigley's 5 gum. Between amazing event stunts which were captured on video, highly unusual "seeding" tactics (that link is to my own video with my own ugly face! .. be warned!), and an astounding set of Hollywood-esque sci-fi-oriented interactive web sites, they literally freaked people out and convinced people that the world was going to come to an end or there was mind control going on, and they shocked everyone who was paying attention. To be honest, I think they took it too far. People became angry it was all about mere chewing gum. On the other hand, it was probably cheaper yet more effective for them to engage in guerilla marketing than to just dump a big, boring advertisement on traditional television.

Honestly, I think there can be simpler exploits. Target, for example, has really blown me away with their YouTube channel where they pay more for the content production and less for the distribution (YouTube is free!), although some of their YouTube ads have made it on the traditional television, too, I've noticed. It could also significantly benefit a business or organization to participate in, sponsor, or host an event that collaborates with YouTube "players". For example, Maxis promoted Darkspore by inviting YouTube vlogger KatersOneSeven to visit their office for a promotional round of vlogging about the game's release. More recently, a "YouStars" event might as well have been sponsored by Poland's department of tourism because a recent round of vlogs from various vloggers by way of a hosted event there have really put Poland on the map this month.

I must also make mention of video generator web sites, such as Animoto and Xtranormal. These are interesting examples of third party creative efforts to work with the opportunities of online video content production, by assisting end users with no video cameras or know-how with tools to give them an outlet for creativity. While initial tinkerings can be had for free, everything worthwhile comes at a price, and that means monetization from good tool makers. Obviously, credit goes also to the fine consumer-level desktop software applications such as iMoviePinnacle StudioSony moviEZ, and Sony Vegas. Such applications, especially iMovie, sometimes bundle a number of creative "movie-production-in-a-can" prefabbed generators, as well as transitions, text effects, and video and audio effects.

One does not have to be a video producer or AdWords marketer to be able to exploit YouTube, and it's time to start getting creative about all this.

The problem of YouTube, which I suppose is also an opportunity, is the fact that YouTube is still a video uploading and viewing web site with social features, and not a complete social network. You cannot even publish a video just to your friends list, for example, which I personally find very frustrating as I had a lot of content I ended up deleting because it wasn't appropriate for public viewing but I didn't want it "private", either. This seems to open the door to alternative web development. I have been pondering the viability of someone producing an external YouTube-like site that exploits the YouTube API and perhaps even looks and feels like YouTube, but is clearly not YouTube, and offers additional features YouTube doesn't offer, such as sharing "Unlisted" videos with people on one's Friends list. There seems to be the absence of significant external web application exploits of the YouTube APIs with compelling statistical followings. I am still yet unsure as to whether this is because somehow people are unwilling to get involved with external web sites as YouTubers, or if this is because there have just been too few attempts made to make it all work. I suspect the latter. YouTube has been integrating at the embeded video level quite successfully for several years, but to actually search for videos and browse videos and enjoy a YouTube channel on such a web site as if actually on YouTube is something I just have not seen yet, or have not seen done cleanly and in a trustworthy manner. I was hoping to see something like a re-made channel concept on Tumblr, but firing Tumblr up and poking at it for a day or two I discovered it is nowhere near supportive of such a thing.

You also cannot produce any content for YouTube besides video, video organizing, video descriptions, and commenting. Whereas, Facebook and other social networks provide opportunities for individuals and companies to produce any form of content by way of a plug-in architecture, a la "Facebook applications". This is another area where an external web site that takes advantage of YouTube's API for its content and membership features could greatly enhance the whole experience, if only it could be implemented well and gain sufficient popularity.

I'd like to see where this goes. Seriously. One does not have to be a video producer or AdWords marketer to be able to exploit YouTube, and it's time to start getting creative about all this. What are your thoughts?


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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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