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February 23, 2007 / Toby Dayton

Wall Street Journal Gets It Wrong Again

As is typical, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal could not have missed by a wider margin on its assessment of the recent issues surrounding Viacom and online video. In the article ‘Content Will Always Be King’ (I’d link to it but WSJ.com only allows paying subscribers to access its articles), Paul Vigna makes the case that Viacom was absolutely correct in its insistence that Google take 100,000 clips being distributed on YouTube off the site. Vigna goes on to say that, “studios don’t need to kowtow to the internet evangelizers” and that “web sites like YouTube won’t be able to topple the networks as easily as file swappers wracked the music moguls.” While there are certainly some important differences between video and audio files that might lengthen slightly the period of time it takes the web to completely overturn the video distribution business, there is absolutely no doubt that it has already fostered massive upheaval throughout the industry that is only going to accelerate over time.

A Harris study earlier this month found that 32% of frequent YouTube visitors are watching less TV. When one considers the fact that 42% of online U.S. adults have visited YouTube, and 41% of one of the most desirable advertising demographics (young males) are frequent visitors to YouTube, it becomes obvious that more and more people are watching less TV because of the web. YouTube by itself, not to mention every other single video distribution site on the web, is providing appealing alternatives to television. The Journal itself reported last August (and certainly the numbers by now are wildly larger) that videos on YouTube had received 1.73 billion views.

Laughably, the WSJ editorial quotes Rich Hanley, director of graduate programs in the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University who states that, “Viacom and other legacy media companies should not overrate YouTube as anything more than what it is: an online, on-demand video delivery system for short, snappy clips, most of which are not watched by anyone other than the poster.” How many calls do you think Vigna made before he could find someone to give him the quote he was looking for? My guess is that Quinnipiac wasn’t too high on his list. And personally, I always prefer to rely on aging academics to inform me of what is really happening on the web today.

As further evidence of how traditional media companies should be working with online video, CBS released a study following its placement of 300 clips on YouTube that David Letterman attracted 200,000 new viewers (a 5% increase), and Craig Ferguson attracted 100,000 new viewers (a 7% increase). Vigna dismisses YouTube because its revenue model hasn’t yet been completely determined and that it most likely will resemble a traditional advertising model. But that hollow repudiation completely misses the point. The critical point is that the web is stealing viewers away from television in droves, but if leveraged properly, the web can not only attract them back but also increase viewership.

Time to read the Star Tribune today: 7 minutes and 38 seconds.

Daily recommendation for the dailies: If you are going to employ an art critic, make sure it is someone who has at least some idea of what they are doing. At a minimum, when an art critic visits a gallery or a museum, especially for the first time, they should set up a time to meet the director or curator and get the information they need about the organization and the artist in order to write an informed article. Furthermore, if you are going to print an image from an exhibit in the paper, ask the gallery or museum for permission and if they would be willing to supply an image – don’t use your cell phone camera.

[tags]Wall Street Journal, Paul Vigna, Content Is King, Online Video, New Media, Traditional Media, YouTube, David Letterman, CBS, Quinnipiac[/tags]

3 Comments

  1. gl hoffman / Feb 23 2007 12:32 pm

    Wait. Wait. I have to understand this better: you mean to tell me that the hired art citic for the Star-Tribune shows up at an art show, and proceeds to take pictures of the art with her cell phone??!!??Isn’t it illegal to take a picture of an artist’s work like that?

  2. Gunnar / Feb 23 2007 2:58 pm

    “Viacom and other legacy media companies should not overrate YouTube as anything more than what it is: an online, on-demand video delivery system for short, snappy clips, most of which are not watched by anyone other than the poster.”

    this Quinnipiac University seems like they are all over it, i can see some future research from them

    * “ebay is nothing more than a bunch of people selling old junk”

    * “amazon is nothing more than an online, on-demand delivery system for books”

    * “google is nothing more than an online, on-demand delivery system for finding information”

    i am standing by my online, on-demand electric typewriter awaiting their next finding

  3. riashton / Mar 5 2007 3:59 pm

    Personally, I wonder about the quote’s context. Hanley is pretty frequently cited and knows his stuff. Consider this from the Dallas Morning News in October of last year, re. Google’s purchase of YouTube:
    “YouTube has demonstrated its star-making power,” says Rich Hanley, communications professor at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. “I think companies have figured out they’re better off working with something like YouTube than trying to shut it down.”

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