The Google acquisition of YouTube has me reflecting on the seemingly never-ending stream of fads, fashions, and favorites that come and go like waves pounding against the shore. What strikes me as odd is that despite the fact that one wave follows the next with the predictability of time itself moving forward, there seems to be an endless supply of investors, pundits, and egomaniacal corporate executives who are sure that this wave is the one.
This week Google announced its intent to acquire YouTube for $1.65 billion dollars. I’m not going to explain what Google is nor what YouTube is. If you don’t know you’re kind of making my point so I’ll keep you ignorant and use you for an illustration later. Suffice to say that YouTube is an Internet pheonomenon that is burning up to $1.5 million per month serving up inane, homemade videos of teen angst, Johnny Knoxville wannabes, and illegal copies of anime episodes to legions of ADD-infected young people. And Google just paid $1.65 billion dollars for it.
YouTube is said to own 45% of the online video market. Let’s see, that leaves a little over $1.8 million per month for Yahoo and Microsoft to lose if they want to keep up with the market leader. Perhaps if this niche becomes ubersuccessful they could together jack it up to $5 million to $10 million in losses per month.
Am I the only one who finds this both disturbing and comical? Sure, they can sell ad space and maybe break even. But who wants to sit through commercials at the start of the next episode of LonelyGirl15? Part of the attraction of YouTube is its anarchy. Selling out to Philip Morris and Coca Cola is, well, selling out. Don’t they risk alienating the very audience that brought them their — ahem — “success”?
And here’s the kicker: Isn’t it pretty much a sign of the end when some big company buys your favorite hangout? Whether it was Pop’s Diner getting bought by McDonalds, the corner bookstore giving in to Barnes and Noble, or the neighborhood hardware store being run out of business by Home Depot, when the giant multinational megacorporation moves in, the fun moves out.
Sure, YouTube could eventually attract a new audience and start serving up episodes of Friends — complete with commercials — and replace television, but if you’re going to do that, why buy YouTube? Just create your own video site (Google already has one!) and cut deals with the TV studios.
And they are going to have to find a new audience. The current one will leave. They have to. Would you stay at a party after your mom showed up? I mean, is it still the same party when the grown-ups get there? Even if they show up with cigarettes and beer, who wants to get drunk with the old folks? All those stories about walking up-hill in the snow, both to and from school….
(By the way, I don’t get drunk with or without old folks. It’s just an illustration.)
Which brings me to MySpace. A year ago, most MySpace users were under 21. It was a fun hangout for young people. They could share pictures, videos and songs with friends, learn about new music, and participate in forums and blogs. Last month we learned that half of MySpace’s visitors are over 35. That’s like senior-citizen, one-foot-in-the-grave, elderly in MySpace years.
Heck, I have a MySpace site. It can’t be cool if a 46-year-old white guy with five kids and a mortgage has an account there.
If you know about it, it’s not cool any more. You know that, and I know that. Why don’t the people at Google know that? Fox News — the cable news Mecca of old, rich, conservative, Christians — plays videos it finds on YouTube. I have a YouTube account. My mom has a YouTube account. YouTube is dead. But hey, let’s drop $1.65 million on this dead horse and see if we can beat it back to life. Who knows. This could be the wave.
Why don’t these people just call me? Or send me an email? No, they have to go make these mistakes time after time after time. Time Warner buys AOL. Mattel buys The Learning Company. Google buys YouTube. What are these people thinking?
So I said I’d talk about growing old. I think that same phenomena that make it seem like you just took down the Christmas decorations and it’s time to get them out again applies to all these Web sites. Time moves so fast as you get older that everything is like a flash in the pan. How do you know what to get excited about? By the time you learn about something and get into it, it falls out of fashion.
I guess these kids at places like Google need to learn their business lessons the hard way like everyone else. It’s probably fun to have $1.65 billion dollars of other peoples’ money to lose while you learn your lessons, but how many people need to stick their hand into the fire to find out it burns? Seems like a couple of them could watch the others and figure it out.