You Tube - the long tail

YouTube, the popular free video sharing web site which lets users upload, view, and share video clips has again been in the press recently ( in addition to the Google purchase )

This time it’s not the video of air force one being been ‘ tagged ‘ by an urban graffiti artist Marc Ecko ( true sense of viral, all the budget was directed at hiring the plane, they used the free medium of the internet and Word of Mouth for distribution ) , the focus that was taking the headlines - copyright infringement.

Since it’s inception in 2005 YouTube has seen astronomical growth in unique visitors and also content served. A recent Nielsen study showed that weekly web traffic to the site grew to over 12.8 million unique visitors, the top 4 videos have amassed a massive 70 million viewings with the most popular, bringing in over 33 million viewings.

The issue

YouTubes model of ‘ self policing ‘ or reporting of copyright infringement by the owner with the added complexities around copyright fair use of material ( which is subjective and difficult to understand ) has lead to Universal publicly announcing there desire to pursue YouTubes for copyright infringement.

Doug Morris the CEO of Universal outlined their sentiment pointing to violation of copyright laws on the site and being owed “ tens of millions of dollars “

An example of user generated videos with a copyright infringement, a lip synced rendition of a Pixes song ‘ Hey ‘. Latest viewing figures are above 9 million for this one clip alone, quite staggering for a video shot in a bedroom.

So this, combined with the view of some that the site itself cannot survive with its present advertising model alone spell disaster for one of the webs most popular sites ? possibly not.

In September Warner Brothers music signed a deal with YouTube which effectively allowed use of all back catalogue and future releases through the site.

With the use of technology ( still to be deployed within the site ) Warner bothers will effectively be able to scan and identify all content for copyright material, allowing it either to be removed or collect payment for the work.

Similar technology called “Johnny” developed in conjunction with the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) is already being utilised through the video on demand site Guba.com. Is able to time slice audio and video comparing the scans to a vast database to identify video and audio sequences, perfect for tracking down lip synced user videos with copyrighted audio.

Just how Universal expects YT expects to extract royalty fees from students who have lip synced to Madonna still needs to be answered, however with the technology identification system flagging use of copyrighted material leads into some possible interesting revenue options.

Maybe using a weighted metric for identifying which of there artists are being used, the studios could ask for a % of the advertising revenue, however a more exciting proposition exists which really expands the potential to engage.

By understanding what viewers are in effect watching ( or not as the case is with the bastardised versions people upload ) the ability to utilize contextual promotions can be explored using technology.

The very breadth and volume which is represented on YT makes the site a perfect candidate for the ‘ Long Tail ‘ of selling products.

“The long tail “

“Products that are in low demand or have low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters, if the store or distribution channel is large enough “ - Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine wrote in 2005 prompting worldwide discussion and a subsequent book of the same name .

As an example of this in action is Amazons business. While no hard facts are available as to the actual numbers , Amazons ‘ long tail ‘ figures range from 20 – 36% of items that are purchased outside of the top 100,000. Wired magazine points other long tail industries such as Real Networks Rhapsody and the very fact that nearly every one of it’s 400,000 records is at some point streamed and gives you an indication of the potential YouTube represents.

YouTube’s model fits perfectly into this low cost of storage delivery service , the Wall Street Journal reported over 6 million videos being online – but here’s the rub, of this it is estimated 90% uses in some form copyrighted material. Sensing an opportunity , Warner’s partnering with YouTube will offers both an effective awareness and retail opportunities.

Pursuing the punter in the street for royalty fees is not.

They ( Warner ) recognise that this medium is one where they can connect with an ever more increasingly difficult buyer. Just like Napster , this medium will not be going away in the near future and rather than fight as Universal seem intent on to claim royalties, they are connecting with a young, dynamic audience.

Even today without these purchasing vehicles in place in place, Warner is encouraging users to incorporate content so short term they are raising “band” awareness. Once purchase options are contextually offered ( with the extension of technology ) presents the opportunity to purchase of either the album, DVD or merchandise. Warner will be in an advantageous position in this ever increasingly important online social community.

YouTube represents a great portal for delivery, the ability to build strong brand advocates and strong growth through Word of mouth. When finally it implements the correct technology for marketing will offer opportunities to explore revenue.

In the end though, If YT is unable to pacify Universal the very fabric of the site will be removed, it will become just another Virtual Delivery service to add to the long list of others.

I know I would have bought the backstreet boys after watching those Chinese students sing into their brushes.

Nielsen snippets July 2006

Web traffic to video sharing site YouTube grew 75 percent inthe week ending July 16th, from 7.3 million to 12.8 million unique visitors.

Average time being spent within the site standing 28 minutes ( compared to over 2 hours for Myspace

YouTube’s audience has grown significantly over the past several months. Among the top 25 Web brands ranked by unique audience.

YouTube was the fastest growing from January to June 2006, increasing 297 percent, from a monthly unique audience of 4.9 million to 19.6 million (see Table 1).

The number of Web pages viewed has grown even faster, increasing 515 percent, from 117.6 million in January to 724.0 million in June.

Visitors between 12-17 years old index the highest among thevarious age groups.

They are nearly 1.5 times more likely than the average Web user to go to YouTube

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