Much is made about YouTube and the democratization of content, but if the top-20 YouTube videos of all time are any indication, the future of YouTube is corporate, as The Guardian reports.
A look last week at the site's current 20 most viewed clips of all time--all with more than 50m hits--offered a snapshot of the corporatizing effect. A good half of them were professional music videos...Even among actual user-generated content, many of the most popular clips are based on bestselling pop culture.
So, while Hulu has been winning the profit war against YouTube because of its focus on quality, corporate quality may end up propping up YouTube before long, and pushing out eyeballs for user-generated content in the process. Nick Carr has long pilloried the glorification of the "amateur class," and has derided YouTube's staying power as a bottoms-up phenomenon. It looks like he may be right.
We keep wanting to tell ourselves that the Internet and the "mass collaboration" it engenders has changed everything. But this appears to be more aspirational than actual. It still costs a lot of money to consistently create great content (and software). It still costs a lot of money to market it.
The only cost that appears to have gone down is that of distribution. On the Web, distribution is (largely) free, which is both a blessing and curse. It facilitates piracy (making The Dark Knight perhaps the most pirated movie of 2008, for example) just as much as it facilitates distribution.
Until we come up with ways to manage content online that don't unduly impede distribution while simultaneously safeguarding content for its creators, YouTube will be stuck with cats falling off TVs rather than higher-quality content like The Office.