No Embeds – a modern tragedy

Embedding disabled by request. Have you noticed these words on certain YouTube videos? This ha been around for a while, but usually there was a work around. Now, those videos don’t play at all. Check out OK GO‘s mega-viral clip for Here It Goes Again.

Doesn’t play right? You have to go to the YouTube page.

It sucks. We know.

Record labels, film companies and other video creators have pressured YouTube into this. And they backed down. As YouTube is owned by Google, we are surprised they did this. They are usually forward thinkers.

What’s the thinking behind disabling the embed feature? Money. People are demanding money for their content from YouTube. YouTube only make money from advertising. If no one actually goes to the YouTube page, YouTube makes no money and can’t pay the artists. That’s the big general overview.

But lets dig deeper.

YouTube has cried poor from day one. And we believe them. How many times have you clicked on an ad on a YouTube page? By YouTube‘s very nature, it’s mass market and impossible to target. The OK GO clip is inching towards 50 million plays. Name one other thing 50 million people may care about. Coke? McDonalds? Those are the only companies that need that reach, and are willing to pay for it. And when a company/brand is that mass market and ubiquitous, who needs to click on it? Really, who needs to click through to a McDonalds banner ad.

People who think YouTube are a fountain of money are wrong. YouTube, however, is valuable. Google didn’t create it, but it does own it now. And YouTube fits so nicely with Google. Google spent billions and billions creating services like Maps and News with the idea that, one day, later, we’ll figure out how to make money. It makes their shareholders nervous but they are almost always rewarded.

So we are waiting for the next dam to break, and for someone to work out how to make money off YouTube. Right now, it has to trap you into going to the site, to get their numbers up, and try to squeeze more money out of their ads.

(As we are (we think) three years away from every TV screen being connected to the internet, YouTube may well get even better viewing figures. Licensing out a YouTube channel for on demand broadcast could be one way to make some money.)

Although, it does seem odd that Google, arguably history’s greatest ad placers, can’t seem to work this out.

The real tragedy though is the loss of the embed technology. The YouTube story has been tied to the red hot concept of viral marketing. It’s been the story of the decade. And now, it’s gone. No embeds takes a massive blow against what made YouTube so cool when it first appeared. And it leaves room for a competitor to find a clever way around it.

But the scarier thought is the death of viral marketing. People say things like – wow, no one is ever going to sell as many records as Thriller. It’s just not possible, the world doesn’t work that way anymore. As the user generated video world matures, maybe we will be saying – wow, no one’s ever going to get 50 million hits again.

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