Saturday, November 19, 2011

Google's Big Plans for YouTube

YouTube is going Hollywood! The king of user-generated content is now developing its own original content, spending in excess of $100 million to bring in big names like Jay-Z and Ashton Kutcher. It’s a bold move that raises some fascinating questions about the future of YouTube’s ever-evolving business model. As a marketer in the TV industry and integrated marketing communications grad student, I have taken a long look at the ongoing development of streaming content. And while some sites have developed a strong user base and business model, the jury is still out on monetization in most cases.

For years YouTube has struggled to figure out the best way to monetize its massive audience. User-created videos just haven’t been a big draw for advertisers, and the bigwigs at Google must think that the answer will come (at least in part) in the form of Hollywood-caliber content on dozens of new channels. However, it’s worth noting that loads of high-quality content hasn’t turned Hulu into a reliable money-maker.

The truth is that this move is likely only the beginning of a major shift. Google is pushing internet-connected TV in a major way, and YouTube could be a part of a larger strategy to challenge everything we know about content distribution. If our TVs can get content online, why do we need cable?

A big question is whether or not YouTube is the right vehicle for such a change. Users have come to love the site for the way it gives everyone the chance to participate and be seen. Democratization is what puts the “You” in YouTube; this announcement could send the site in the opposite direction. Will content from elite Hollywood producers push the little guy out of the picture, or will Google find a way to maintain some level of user input and interactivity?

Mike Severson | Medill IMC

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