Tuesday, May 25, 2010

(empo-utoobd) Will Twitter evolve like YouTube?

Dave Winer wrote a post that got me thinking. In the process of commenting on Twitter's latest tweaks to its business model, and its potential effects on developers and users, Winer said the following:

Twitter is gradually encroaching on the roles of its developers, publishers, even plain old users. Where does this end? My prediction: It ends with us all being couch potatoes. Watching the Britney Spears Channel or the Barack Obama Channel or the Comcast Cares Channel, and going elsewhere for the free-for-all that Twitter used to be.

This got me to thinking about the difference between media creators and media consumers. Winer clearly believes that Twitter is moving from serving the former to serving the latter.

It's instructive to look at the evolution of another popular service, YouTube. Back in November 2005, USA Today ran a story entitled Video websites pop up, invite postings. The article talked about a number of services that were trying to become video versions of Flickr.

"People have a lot of different experiences out there, and they want to share them," says Chad Hurley, who started YouTube in Palo Alto, Calif., with two friends, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim. "That's what we're about. We're the ultimate reality TV, giving you a glimpse into other people's lives."

And while Google actually checked out videos before they were posted, the other sites didn't.

The free sites have policies against pornography and copyrighted material. But since they don't screen clips, they still end up with video some might find objectionable. YouTube and Vimeo have a lot of what Lodwick calls "amateur strip-tease." Other clips feature people lip-synching songs in their own music videos, using copyrighted material.

That was 2005. Where are we in 2010? Well, Google acquired YouTube, of course, but the entire emphasis of YouTube has also changed. The first two paragraphs of YouTube's May 24, 2010 blog post indicate the new direction:

Tonight, at 9.30 p.m. ET, we’re teaming up with (RED) to premiere the documentary “The Lazarus Effect” on the Join(RED) YouTube Channel.

The half-hour documentary, directed by Lance Bangs and executive produced by Spike Jonze, captures a series of powerful testimonials from HIV positive patients. Many of these stories seem like miracles, but they aren’t. They’re made possible through access to two pills a day -- two pills that cost just 40 cents.

If you had gone to a YouTube contributor in November 2005 and asked to speak with his/her executive producer, the contributor probably would have mooned you.

But that's just part of it. If you read my Empoprise-MU music blog, then you probably saw my March 1 post about VEVO, the new YouTube destination for music videos.

Sure, YouTube allows you (well, not me) to upload your own videos, but they don't matter. The real money is in the professional content, the agreements with the content providers, etc. Let's face it - if you can get 60 million people to watch a music video, aren't you going to pay more attention to them than to BrotherSister?

(Oh, and to any personal friends who are reading this - this show was in Adelaide, not Alabama. I was sorely disappointed.)

Back to Twitter. We're already seeing this type of transition now, in which Oprah and other celebrities are issuing promotional tweets, and Guy Kawasaki and others are hiring people to write tweets for them. And it seems that just about every advertisement includes the words "Follow us on Facebook and Twitter." In a sense, Winer's era of the Britney channel and the Comcast Cares channel is already here. And now Twitter is moving toward a two-tiered service, just like YouTube, where certain basic services will be provided to everyone, but only the major content creators will get special attention.
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