Garfield Nails the YouTube Problem in Wired

Bob Garfield has always been one my favorite media writers. When Joe O’Rourke and I used to work together at the Gazette, we’d share our favorite snippets of his ad reviews with relish. I read Garfield’s recent cover story about YouTube and Google the other day, and walked away with a new appreciation for my old fav. He makes the point that there are huge problems with Google’s new $1.65 billion acquisition, with some cogent examples.

Among the problems are identifying just what each of the 65,000 videos uploaded each day are really about–Google uses metatag data to place relevant ads on all of their properties–gmail, google news, and on millions of websites in the ad sense program. But if they are to monetize this jungle called YouTube, they need to know, and uploaders don’t do a good job telling the world what is in the videos. So for example, if Meow Mix wants to advertise on cat videos, they might end up running a text ad next to ‘cat blowing up,’ or ‘dave eating cat’ or something equally as gross.

Garfield points out that advertisers hate risk, and try to avoid risky situations, so it is unlikely that Google will be able to reap the billions they’re used to with this inherent problem. The other problem is a rebellion of posters…and defections to sites that actually PAY for the uploaded video content such as and other sites. Now that people know Google’s deep pockets own YouTube, many want, gasp, to be paid. And that has never been a part of YouTube’s strategy.

Lastly, the big gorilla in the room are copyright problems. Video Posters don’t care if they use music owned by Sony Music, and the videos that come in are often ripped directly from television, with no permission. When you’re owned by the richest of the rich, suddenly, these violations become lawsuits, and then….well that might be the Napster-esque end of YouTube’s glory days.