I think not.
Robert Young at NewTeeVee has an interesting post discussing why the News Corp./NBC joint venture is going to put GooTube on the ropes. Robert is not, alas, the late star of Marcus Welby and Father Knows Best, but the irony of a Robert Young writing about the future of TV is too rich to ignore. And while he makes some interesting points – notably hinting at the lack of a clear technology winner today in video search – Robert’s basic premise doesn’t ring true for me or for others. Among the better critiques comes from AlexC, who points out a logical flaw related to Robert’s view of copyright issues. Alex’s own argument also contains a flaw as I see it, in that he assumes reposting others’ material always comprises fair use. While I’m no lawyer, plenty of case law and injunctions seem to indicate the opposite. Still, his initial point regarding equal copyright protection for text and video makes a fair bit of sense to me.
An even larger flaw exists in Robert’s piece. He assumes that NewsBC – or whatever they plan to call it – will offer its users similar utility to that of YouTube. I’m not convinced. Big Media has struggled with digital distribution since the concept started. Their models, designed to monetize every play and enforce scarcity of their intellectual property, don’t favor consumers.
By contrast, YouTube succeeds for at least two reasons. First, as Fred Wilson points out, Big Media continually appears to limit the social/viral aspects of online video so integral to YouTube’s popularity. Second, folks use YouTube because it provides a simpler alternative (i.e., less expensive), than its competitors. BitTorrent, GigaTribe and their P2P, um, peers also provide a way for individuals to share files that they think would appeal to their friends. They’re just too complicated given the current alternatives. The minute Murdoch and Co. – along with legal challenges to YouTube – make it sufficiently hard for consumers to access to the media they care about is the minute P2P comes back with a vengeance. If Robert’s arguments held water, right now Apple would have lost its market leadership for downloadable music to any one of iTunes’ industry-backed competitors. That’s not to say Big Media can’t learn from its mistakes. But history isn’t on its side.