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YouTube

What started for Steve S. Chen and Chad Hurley as frustration in sharing a video from a party has become YouTube, a website that has grown “fivefold in two months,” reports Scott Woolley in Forbes (3/13/06). At YouTube, about 20,000 videos are posted by people like you and me each day, and an audience of “several million” watch some “15 million clips daily.” Clips like this, for instance (be careful; it’s rude). The appeal, apparently, is “a peephole thrill, blending reality TV and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” with blogs.” YouTube’s programming director, Kevin Donahue, describes the format as “raw and random.”

The enterprise launched in May, ’05, operates out of “a small space over a pizza parlor” with a staff of 20, and last November attracted “$3.5 million from Sequoia Capital to cover minimal costs … the site’s content, after all, flows in free. It’s designed “to let bloggers insert any YouTube videoclip into their own sites. A blog’s readers can then easily share the videos with friends, spreading them virally.” Mainstream marketers are onto YouTube, too: “EMI, Virgin Records and VH1 have posted videoclips,” and “Nike airs an assiduously amateurish clip of soccer star Ronaldinho — and more than 2.7 million people have viewed it. Free promotion.”

Not everybody appreciates the freedom, however. NBC demanded that YouTube remove clips from The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live, both of which were among the site’s most popular offerings. “But YouTube cleverly ducks most copyright issues by streaming all videos as Flash animations, not as downloads, preventing users from making digital clips.” So far, the only real problem with the YouTube success story is that its “free promotion” model also prevents the venture from making any money: “YouTube eschews video ads before a clip” and once apologized for running some text ads, “explaining it needed the money to fix the office sink." ~ Tim Manners, editor