Is User-Generated Video Poised to Flame Out?

A few weeks ago, YouTube announced it would compensate video content developers for driving traffic (views) of its videos. A few numbers were thrown out. After all was said and done, people seemed generally happy about the announcement.

What’s going on here? Is this a tangible monetary reality? Or just an act of belief that makes us all feel better about YouTube’s success?

Is the endless stream of self-created video truly groundbreaking? Something tells me perhaps not.

Think about it. Every day, about a gazillion videos are posted to a large series of sites with exabytes (define) of storage to spare. This may seem like a revolution of the people, but every revolution has a benefactor.

Hey, maybe I’m crazy. I’m sure lots of people at these steep trajectory sites know where the money’s going and where it’s coming from. For all intents and purposes, my cynical, Web veteran foreboding may be misguided. But this movie feels like it won’t end on a good note.

If you spend any time on YouTube, you’ll see a lot of filler ad units, many promoting other parts of the site. When all that open inventory is added up, methinks something isn’t right in Denmark.

Though the deep pockets of many in the technology world may rival the Marianna Trench, they can’t go on forever. Everything that’s plentiful eventually becomes scarce. All those videos need to payoff somehow. Put it this way: I never knew an art gallery to go big time unless its artists became hyper-famous.

Do any of us marketers think that pseudo-reality, pan-pseudo-anarchic video documenting behavior is really as interesting as a well-created piece of moving-picture storytelling?

I’m not a purist by any means. I love to experience the world as unedited as possible. When it is edited, though, I want it like my sirloin: well done.

That aside, there is some user-generated work that breaks through the clutter.

A new video has surfaced as a rant against the PlayStation 3 game system, its makers, and all the ways in which the gaming community is being ripped off by Sony.

When I see as a quaint, entertaining piece of user-generated deprecation of a major electronics manufacturer, I can’t help but think a competitor might be behind it. With PowerPoint charts, articles, shots of the PS3 store demo using an Xbox to run its programs, and a host of other content, I suspect other forces at work.

If so, is it user-generated? Is it online advertising?

Don’t get me wrong, I love PowerPoint. But as a tool of ridicule, it should be used for what it’s good at.

Are the under-experienced user-generated content world and the sly underbelly of marketing morphing into a new kind of beast? Are we headed toward the dark side of Internet euphoria? If so, I’m not surprised Microsoft is involved. Up in Seattle somewhere, it must be working on a Death Star.

That’s not to say self-expression is a hideous or childish blight on our culture. Perish the thought. But we need to be cautious of getting too high from lowering our tolerance to a subterranean level.

Whatever the result, soon the bubble of user-generated enthusiasm will go on a little reality diet. This will be a wakeup call for all who have attempted to use the user as a marketing tool.

User-generated content doesn’t have to be as bad as we sometimes think it must be. Take the old stalwart craigslist.org. It’s a very successful site of all user-generated content, mostly due to the mindful nurturing and counterculture disposition of its creators. They make money, but they haven’t been as greedy as their peers.

Personal media is good. Yet a good measure of anything won’t completely transform a communications medium, no matter how many people do it.

Any communications tool must get past the noise of its own celebrity to be seen in its purest form. YouTube: a video corkboard. Craigslist: an HTML corkboard. Each has its own qualities, and each garners attention commensurate to its own entertainment factor.

As online advertisers, we see lots of flash and hype in our jobs. This will likely keep happening for years to come. What we should remember is that though the line between online user and online marketer blur, sensitivity increases. A good gut check may be the best bet before jumping into the personal media mosh pit.

Meet Dorian at the ClickZ Specifics: Online Video Advertising seminar on March 19 at the San Francisco Marriott in California.

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