Imaginary conversation; Eddy Cue tells iTunes "let's start a band!!"  Imagine for a minute that iTunes iBand is now topping the music charts as the next big pop sensation. How about Pandora touring their QA team in a live concert circuit? Imagine LastFM as a hit rock band or Spotify tearing up the next country music awards show. Seem like a farfetched business plan? When was the last time a technology company suddenly turned into a top-tier content creator? Intel tried it and failed. AOL tried it and failed. Now, YouTube has tried it and ...failed. Seems there's a lot more to content than just financing, or corporate ego.

Kudos to YouTube for sharing revenue with their channel partners and content creators, a case where everyone wins.  But acting as a promoter, a talent agency, as the arbiter of taste and trends, well, that apparently is a case where most everyone looses, especially YouTube.

Rather than trying to be the rock-band, how about being the radio station? How about paying talented DJs (read VJs) to find the content, talent, the creativity and indeed the hits to play?

The music industry continues to lead the digital revolution and blaze the trails of discovery and curation across the likes of Pandora, Spotify and LastFM. Youtube's playlists seem to be an after thought, badly showcased and impossible to find. The creators of those lists are the tireless, unpaid volunteers sucking up the vacuum of discoverability and shouting their discoveries to a deaf ear.

Rewarding Curation

What is YouTube's biggest competitive differentiator? Content. Mountains of it. Petabytes of it. Including billions of hours of some of the most boring, repetitive unwatchable trumpery ever created by mankind, with the possible exception of the Lifetime Network.

But as it turns out, more is more; more bad--and more brilliant--if fact the wealth and depth of brilliance on YouTube likely outshines every network, every show and every celebrity on TV if for no other reason than the shear volume of creative, interesting, beautiful, funny, compelling and eminently watchable content. If you can find it that is. 

Somewhere there's a geek that could provide an algorithm for how many mining hours it takes to find 10 solid minutes of YouTube gold, which probably is easier than mining Bitcoins, but in the end, at least Bitcoin pays off.

Speaking of algorithms, YouTube uses several, but Polish (the language) and polish (the floor wax) are still just Polish(?) to YouTube. The signal to noise ratio on pure machine matching is not yet viable and it takes actual human curators and trend makers and VJs to make meaningful recommendations that deliver.

If you're creating amazing playlists, the definitive cat on Roomba list or the best covers to Stairway to Heaven or whatever it is, you have no power at the 'Tube. Your time is worth nothing, no revenue share, no promotion, no above the fold visibility, and no dedicated navigation categories. If you do create a channel, clicking on videos presents an empty page, unless your audience clicks a drop-down to reveal "playlists." Like I said, an afterthought.

Feb 21, 2014 Update. At least you can now see the menu item for playlists.

You are not valued even though you might be generating millions of views for the content creators who's content you've showcased. Are DJ's (VJ's) really worthless? Radio never happened? Isn't TV just one big content curator? YES that's it! TV is curated! Curation makes it easier for audiences to find the kind of content they like, as well as building trust in the brand promise to suggest new content. It's just more complex than a simple "people who liked this also like that" formula.

Hey YouTube, if you want to really be the next big thing, take a hint from Radio and TV and see why they continue to be the most successful media forms in the history of mankind. They're picky. ESPN curates content differently than MTV does. A Channel isn't necessarily a collection of shows by a single content creator--otherwise TV channels would be organized by production company rather than audience targets. Sometimes traditional approaches are worth keeping if for no other reason than they have proven themselves successful through generations of trial and error.

When you want to order dinner in, the last thing you want are the contents of a supermarket dumped onto your driveway when perhaps you're just in the mood for a pizza. 

Subscribe to a monthly email update of mediaRANT

AuthorRichard Cardran