Despite how the press portrays Hollywood as all glitz and glamour, there are a lot of hard working have-nots toiling away in the film industry. These have-nots don’t get the notoriety of their more famous brethren, which makes them, all-in-all, a desperate bunch. This makes YouTube’s recent venture up to the Sundance Film Festival a pretty smart move. If you want to get into the film rental business, and the big names aren’t biting, then start trolling for the have-nots. And where better to find them than at Sundance?
Let’s take YouTube’s action as both cynical and strategic, and put it aside. Because, if the have-nots bite, then one of the ultimate beneficiaries of this plan will be us. Each year independent filmmakers show off their wares at Sundance, and a small handful wind up being well worth watching. Problem is, the major studios aren’t so keen on cutting distribution deals, which prevents us from seeing them. YouTube is offering a new approach that eliminates the middleman, gives filmmakers a way of promoting their product (while making a few bucks), and gives us a chance to see some good cinema.
YouTube says it will make available five films from the 2009 and 2010 festivals for rental starting this Friday and running through Sunday, January 31. YouTube says it has also signed up other U.S. partners from which it will offer a small collection of rental videos in the weeks ahead. And lastly, YouTube will promote its rental program among independents at Sundance with a “Filmmakers Wanted” campaign.
YouTube’s advice: get your checkout account ready, pop some corn, and stock up on swedish fish--it’s showtime!
Unfortunately for OK Go, there's little to no chance that any of their music videos are going to go viral again and get 50 million hits, because as lead singer Damian Kulash puts it, "you can't embed diddlycrap." In an open letter to fans, Kulash offers up a lengthy explanation as to why the decision was made, why it sucks, and why it's a good thing (for some). Oh, and there's an apology thrown in there as well.
"We've been flooded with complaints recently because our YouTube videos can't be embedded in websites, and in certain countries can't be seen at all," Kulash starts off. "And we want you to know: we hear you, and we're sorry. We wish there was something we could do. Believe us, we want you to pass our videos around more than you do, but, crazy as it may seem, it's now far harder for bands to make videos accessible online than it was four years ago."
Kulash goes on to describe record labels as a sort of necessary evil which front all the money to distribute and promote albums, press CDs, make videos, and everything else that "adds up to a great deal more than we have in our bank account." So it's the labels' right to cash in everywhere they can. After all, "they need new shoes, just like everybody else."
That doesn't mean OK Go agrees with EMI's decision, and on the contrary, Kulash says, "It's a decision that bums us out. We've argued with them a lot about it," to no avail, obviously. So "in the meantime, the only thing OK Go can do is to upload our videos to sites that allow for embedding, like MySpace and Vimeo. We do that already, but it stings a little. Not only does it cannibalize our own numbers (it tends do do our business more good to get 40 million hits on one site than 1 million hits on 40 sites), but, as you can imagine, we feel a lot of allegiance to the fine people at YouTube."
How many YouTube videos do you watch on a daily basis? Worse, how many YouTube videos do you send to your friends on a daily basis? If the answer is anywhere near "one or more," and I bet it is, then I've found the perfect Web app for you. Because one of the tough things about forwarding along a funny YouTube video is that you're forced to watch said person enjoy the experience at their leisure. You can't force them to click play, nor can you really appreciate their laughter and enjoyment as it happens in real-time: You don't know how far along they are in the video, after all.
To address this grave concern, some enterprising folk have come up with a Web App that's one part chat-room, two-parts edit bay. It's called Synchtube, and I bet you can guess exactly what it does by the name alone. Don't let that dissuade you from clicking the jump, however. I'll explore Synchtube's many (two) features and tell you exactly why this little Web app is the future of multi-person video viewing and hilarity preservation.
The “Proposition 8” trial is underway in a federal court in San Francisco. The stakes are pretty high as the court sets about on determining the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which prohibits same-sex marriages in California. It came into effect after voters gave it their nod during last fall's elections.
The video of the trial was going to be uploaded onto YouTube after U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's approval, but the U.S Supreme Court today shot down the entire plan. However, the current ban on YouTube broadcast of the trial will only be in effect until Wednesday. This clearly implies that the Supreme Court will make a final decision after having thoroughly weighed the pros and cons of allowing such a broadcast.
Everyone’s favorite fake conservative Stephen Colbert was apparently questioned by Google lawyers at a recent deposition relating the ongoing Viacom-Youtube case. At issue is Viacom’s assertion that Youtube willfully allowed copyrighted content to be uploaded illegally. The case has been ongoing for almost three years, but may actually go before a judge this year.
Google’s angle is to show that Viacom employees themselves uploaded some of the content. If they can prove this, Google argues that no line can be drawn between illegal content, and that which had Viacom’s permission. Colbert told a crowd at Chicago’s Second City that he was confused if he was supposed to be answering questions as himself, or his TV alter ego. "I had a coffee cup, and I would move it from side to side to differentiate who I was answering for. It was insane," said Colbert. If only the recording of that interview were to find its way onto Youtube; both irony and hilarity would ensue.
Southpark creators Stone and Parker were not forced to answer any questions, presumable because the lawyers were all laughed out after talking to Colbert. They were, however, supposed to provide various documents. They have yet to comply.
In a relative sense YouTube is big--it’s ten times more popular than its nearest competitor. But, YouTube isn’t satisfied--the average user spends a mere 15-minutes a day on the service. It looks at TV and laments: “[People] spend about five hours in front of the television.” And that’s action YouTube wants a piece of.
What’s YouTube’s plan? To give users what they want, even if they don’t know what they want. That way, YouTube hopes, users will spend a few more minutes per day at the site. (And, fingers-crossed, generate more ad revenue for YouTube, which is still losing money.)
According to Jamie Davidson, an associate product manager at YouTube, “every 45 seconds, [users] are stuck at a decision point. Any time there is a decision point, people may leave. We don’t want to take out the interactivity, but the default user experience should be a lot easier.” However, the current search-engine paradigm YouTube uses, Davidson concedes, isn’t the right one for discovering video.
The solution seems simple: let the users decide. Problem is YouTube users generally don’t know what they want. YouTube processed some 3.8 billion search queries in November, second only to its overlord Google. But, rather than specific requests, searches tend to be for general things, like “kittens”, or “funny pranks”. YouTube’s answer is to burrow into your soul, using sophisticated data-mining techniques like Netflix and Amazon, to find hits that match either what you’ve shown a preference for in the past, or what others ‘like you’ are watching.
None of YouTube’s efforts at innovation are expected to be rolled-out anytime soon. But, the ideas, as they come up for serious review, are expected to first see light of day at TestTube, where YouTube shows off its experimental efforts.
Muziic developer David Nelson still isn't a household name. But this 16-year-old may be pitchforked into the limelight, in case the music industry chooses to confront him over his creation, Muziic, an app that streams YouTube music directly to the user's desktop. He and his dad, Mark Nelson, had launched the media player on February 25, 2009. The Muziic player, to its credit, not only spares users an otherwise mandatory visit to YouTube's website but also lets them search YouTube's vast music library, create playlists, and browse them with ample ease.
While Google gave the nod for Muziic to continue after the latter agreed to expand the size of its video player, the music industry has hitherto chosen to turn its sight away from the father-son duo and Muziic. All that changed on Monday, though, when Muziic expanded its service to include content from label-backed video service Vevo, and that too without any annoying ads. Vevo is operated by YouTube for the companies that own the service: Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, EMI and Abu Dhabi Media Company. As if blocking ads usually displayed along with Vevo content wasn't enough, Muziic circumvents the site's North America-only limitation to add insult to injury.
Push has come to shove for the music industry and the consortium behind Vevo is in the mood for some action. Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff has asked David Nelson to pull the plug on Muziic's use of Vevo's content. "I kindly advise you to immediately cease the use of the Vevo Logo, trademark and any other references to our corporate name," Caraeff wrote in an e-mail meant for the Muziic founder. "With regards to the use of Vevo licensed videos...they are also being used directly without our consent...You can be assured that changes are being deployed to the API in question immediately, however I am still going to ask you directly to cease the use of Vevo videos from within your service." Nelson remains adamant that he has done nothing wrong. He insists that he hasn't taken “any actions to circumvent the delivery of 'pre-roll' advertisements.” He further contends that it is the Youtube API, which currently does not deliver any ads to Vevo content, that is at fault.
It’s obligatory this time of year that others share with us a top-ten list of some kind: events, photos, movies, or some other nonsense that in some way defines the preceding 12 months. It’s as if the arbitrary markings on a calendar demarcate something truly significant about the ongoing existence of humanity. The kids at YouTube aren't going to miss this parade, and have dutifully announced their list of most watch videos.
For the category of most watched YouTube videos, global...the envelope please. And the winner is Susan Boyle-Britian’s Got Talent, with over 120 million views. Which particular version of this video is not noted--there are a couple dozen of them out there (and Google links to the one 7:07 in length). But, if we use the one 5:50 in length, that means we, collectively, have spent more than 190 person-years watching Simon Cowell’s jaw drop in reaction to Boyle’s performance. (Or, if you like, 3.8 people per second with nothing better to do.)
Rounding out the top five watched globally, and trailing well behind the number one video: David After Dentist (37+ million views), JK Wedding Entrance Dance (33+ million views), New Moon Movie Trailer (31+ million views), and Evian Roller Babies (27+ million views).
Topping the list of most watched music videos is Pitbull’s “I Know You Want Me” (82 million views), followed by two from Miley Cyrus (“The Climb”, 64+ million views, “Party in the U.S.A”, 54+ million views), then The Lonely Island “I’m On a Boat” (48+ million views), and Keri Hilson “Knock You Down” (35+ million views).
As more demands are placed on your hardware infrastructure you’ve got two choices: (1) increase your hardware infrastructure; or (2) make your hardware infrastructure more efficient. Google’s been grappling with the problem of late, and has decided that option (2) the the preferable way to go.
To reduce latency on videos, Google Labs has devised Feather, now in beta, which delivers YouTube pages without a lot of extras. The Feather edition of YouTube does away with search suggestions, comment posting, viewing all comments, video rating, and customization of the embedded player. The downside: not all videos will be available under the Feather option.
Google’s exploring a possible new stream of revenue: fee-based streaming television on YouTube. Peter Kafka, of All Things Digital, reports Google is presently in preliminary discussions with networks and studios, with both sides appearing optimistic.
The deal would include YouTube making available first-run television shows commercial-free for $1.99 apiece, like Apple and Amazon. Rather than allow the shows to be downloaded they’d be streamed. Kafka sees this as a problem--users wanting something a tad more tangible than a stream for their $1.99. YouTube, on the other hand, points to studies that show the download/streaming debate to be largely perceptual: buyers only watch a show once, so having or not having shouldn’t make a difference.
Details are still speculative, and might include YouTube shying away from first-run shows, providing instead shows not readily available through other services. There is also the possibility of a monthly subscription service, which Apple and Hulu are presently exploring.
The entrance of another video provider in a rapidly saturating online media marketplace may be a tough go. Users are notorious for not wanting to pay for content. With plenty of options open to them YouTube’s success with such a venture is open to question.