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Science, Maths & Technology

My son, the broadcaster

Updated Tuesday 13th February 2007

Professor Elizabeth Daniel discovers YouTube and blogs about their free posting strategy.

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It would appear from Geoff’s piece last week, detailing his experiences with Microsoft’s Vista, the Open University blogs accompanying this series of the Money Programme, are going to be more personal in nature. This personal theme promises to continue with one of my colleagues sharing his views of living in Spain, whilst working for the OU – and who knows what personal insights we may uncover from another colleague who is set to share his thoughts on the world of male diets and slimming!

Ever keen to follow a trend, I shall share my own experiences of Web 2.0 life. Unfortunately, not being quite on the crest of this wave – I haven’t recorded or posted my own video on-line yet, but like any self-respecting ten year old, my son has. Whilst not in the league of some of the most watched video clips, such as the motivational speaker, Judson Laipply, dancing Barrymore-like to various songs (approx 40 million views) or a personal favourite, the band OK go singing whilst carrying out a complicated dance routine on gym running machines (approx 9 million views). My respect for the latter made greater by the fact I know what damage can be done by falling off such a machine – the belt acts like a sander which is very painful when wearing shorts!

But more interesting to me, than the number of views my son has got (OK – so it’s just a total 45 across two clips), was why he had posted his videos in the first place. After all, he had had no encouragement from me or his school. However, my question to him about why he had posted them was met with a blank look and some words that seemed to be along the lines - you do it because it’s the thing to do. I checked to see if he thought the clips were so good that they would be viewed around the world and he would be famous. No, he hadn’t thought that – it’s just if you have something, you share it. Not a case of everyone might want to see them – more a case of, someone might want to see them.

Still, there may soon be a more obvious reason to share content on the most successful video sharing site, YouTube. At the World Economic Forum in Davos late last month, the CEO Chad Hurley announced their intention to share advertising revenues with those uploading videos. Commentators have speculated that there may be a number of reasons for this move. It may be that they are reacting to competitors that already offer payment to those sharing videos. Alternatively, it may be that Google is looking to earn a speedy return on the $1.65bn it paid for YouTube last November and will drastically increase the amount of advertising on the site. Sharing revenues with content providers may make this increased advertising more acceptable. However, Nicholas Carr, the former editor of Harvard Business Review thinks there may be more significant reasons. He speculates in his own blog, that a relatively small number of videos will account for a disproportionate amount of the earnings. ‘Locking up’ the content of these videos will become important for ensuring significant user numbers and hence revenues. In return for payment, YouTube may seek those uploading videos to grant them an exclusive licence - currently they ask for a non-exclusive, royalty free licence. This would give them complete control over the video hits of the future, just like more traditional media businesses. So, perhaps we should enjoy sharing for the sake of sharing while we still can.

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