John Seabrook recently wrote the above article for the New Yorker about the big changes coming to YouTube. Deviating from their traditional user-uploaded content, Youtube is slowly introducing “YouTV.” Throughout the year, YouTube will be creating unique “channels” that will be professional-quality… because they will actually be created by professionals! The list of producers range from athletes (“The Comedy Shaq Network) to music (Jay-Z’s “Life and Times”) and basic news (“Huffington Post”). Ambitiously, YouTube hopes to challenge basic television head-on.
The change underscores some interesting ideas about the differences (and benefits) of the internet over television. While TV advertisers have to be more general in their persuasion techniques, the narrowing of channel-interests (we’re talking about things as specialized as ‘recreational horse-riding’) will allow for advertisers, who make up the main financial incentive for artists and companies, to target audiences in even more specialized ways… Yes, I agree that the idea of profit-hungry advertisers knowing all of my web activity is creepy, but who hasn’t already noticed within the past year Facebook’s ‘amazing ability’ to know that I’m interested in Tom Wait’s newest album.
What I found most thought-provoking in this article is a big difference between television and the internet–television has limited airtime and “works by withholding content with the purpose of increasing its value.” While the internet has a virtually infinite amount of ‘airtime,’ and it “builds its bridges on… abundant bits of information floating out there.” However, it seems like this new YouTV might slightly undermine the “producers as creators” idea that YouTube traditionally exemplifies. Will people really want to spend 30 minutes watching a professional program on YouTube, or will they keep searching for that random, “serendipitous” video of some Idahoan doing backflips off of his garage?
When quantity is the big attraction to the internet, is there a market for professionally-polished work? Or will the anarchic spirit of the internet prove to obliterate any sort of aesthetic ideal of entertainment? Who needs professionals when I can watch a cell-phone-recorded kazoo-rendition of “Freebird”?!