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Taking Back the YouTube Brand
By: Ted Curtin
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Created only seven years ago by three former PayPal employees, YouTube quickly became the next great online destination. Drawn by the organic brilliance of anybody and everybody being able to create and openly share video content, users flocked to this new site that embodied the ultimate democratization of the Web. These were the fertile grounds from which “Viral Content” first blossomed.
Since then, encouraged by the opportunity to capitalize on the growing advertising revenue pouring into YouTube, we’ve seen a surge in promoted channels of loosely produced content for everything from comedy skits to how-to series. Still, the lifeblood of the YouTube brand from its very inception has been “You.” Inevitably that changes with YouTube’s recent announcement that it is investing over $100 million to develop up to 96 channels of produced and promoted content.
One of the driving motivations for this push is to capitalize on the growing number of people consuming video online. With traditional TV viewership flat and online video content continuing to surge, the race for eyeballs and advertising dollars is reaching a feverish pace in the digital spectrum. Even Netflix, trying to get past its recent missteps, has introduced original content programming in addition to their already growing catalog of old TV series such as "Mad Men," Breaking Bad," and "Lost." Reed Hastings, the Chief Executive Officer of Netflix, recently announced the possibility of “a couple dozen” original new series over the next few years. And now Hulu has put its feet in the water of new original promoted and produced content.
To be clear, this is not about mediocre programing or production. Don’t let the lower production costs fool you; there is some incredible creativity that we’ve seen through these forays. Hulu’s brave “The Confession” web-only series, starring and produced by Kiefer Sutherland, and comic sketches such as “The Elevator” on YouTube have been equally successful in terms of viewership.
But are consumers really starving for more online and mobile content? Will we abandon our giant flat TV screens with endless HD programming for these new web shows? The answer depends on what’s driving the consumption of greater online video content. Is it better devices and higher bandwidth that allow people to catch up on favorite shows during down times at the office or while commuting to and from work? 
Clearly YouTube and others think there’s a market here, but in the process to capitalize on this opportunity for increased revenue, will YouTube lose the core brand value that put them where they are today? Stay tuned to this channel…

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About the Author
Ted Curtin is a recognized strategic marketing leader with over 22 years experience covering online and offline marketing channels. Follow him on Twitter or at TedCurtin.com
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