Monday, June 2, 2008

Content Is King, When It's A Commodity

Like many readers I was fascinated to learn about Battle At Kruger, a YouTube eyewitness video, being featured at the National Geographic Channel. The video was taken by David Budzinski from Texas who was on a Safari trip. It is your typical story of baby buffalo gets attacked by the lions, who almost lose the baby to an alligator. The miraculous act happens when a buffalo herd shows up to save the baby. 

Budzinski shops the clip to the National Geographic Channel and the Animal Planet upon his return, without much success. Yet after his video garners 33 million views on YouTube, he gets the TV executives' attention and his clip is featured on the National Geographic Channel. 

Even if some people viewed the clip several times from several different computers, 33 million is a force to be reckoned with. The YouTube counter served as an indicator of how many viewers would watch the episode and how much money it would generate. 

Too bad we do not have the episode's ratings or insights as to why/how the audience decided to tune into National Geographic for this program... Or, I'd like to think they did. (Why would I want to pay for cable TV or remember to tune into the program, when I can just search for the same footage online and watch the director's cut as many times as I want for free.)

The dynamic between YouTube's audience and the TV executives made me think of my former classmate Fernando Bermejo's take on online audience measurement.  In his book, The Internet Audience: Constitution and Measurement, Fernando points out the following: 
  • the audience is the first requirement for a mass media channel to exist 
  • the media industry needs to define a commodity by its audience before buying or selling it 
Had it not been for the YouTube counter and the hundreds of comments posted under the video, the Battle At Kruger may have never made it to TV. Video views and consumer-generated comments do not have the same level of accuracy and representativeness as census bureau statistics. Yet, when the buzz is large enough to capture and the volume is too high to ignore, we get to embed user-generated content into traditional media. 

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