然而，不论谷歌如何辩解，它绝对是一家媒体公司。因为它向受众呈现内容，并借此销售广告。至于说很多内容都不是它自己生产的，这根本不能说明问题。要知道，Netflix也是如此，很多有线电视频道也是如此，地方电视台和Buena Vista Television等内容分销商亦是如此。但以上这些都是媒体公司。所以，问题不在于谷歌是否是媒体公司，而是在于它是何种媒体公司。它是一种新型的媒体公司，依据互联网领域的经济法则运作，而完全不受电视、电影或出版行业经济法则的影响。
不过既然YouTube既想保持宠物视频业务，又想涉足高端视屏领域，那么它必须明白，高端内容却是高端，即便他们是由第三方制作的。这就是YouTube本月早些时候收购Next New Networks的原因。该公司将帮助YouTube指导其内容合作伙伴打造高质量视频。此举也许会淡化内容制作和发布之间的界限，不过并不会越界。YouTube不会采取任何审查机制，内容合作伙伴们将一如既往地制作一切自己想做的视频。YouTube在上周还收购了一家爱尔兰视频增强公司Green Parrot Pictures，这同样将增强YouTube在高端视屏领域的实力。
《媒体发行业务》（The Business of Media Distribution）的作者杰弗里•C•尤林表示，“有线电视商的价值在于聚合。”而YouTube则“它有能力将内容无限细分下去。”
For more than half a decade, people have been debating whether Google is a media company. The question is ultimately pointless, though it keeps being asked in large part because every time it comes up, Google (GOOG) peevishly insists that it's not a media company, it's a technology company. What's the difference? Just compare the stock performance and profit margins of the two industries. The company also wants to avoid the liabilities that might come from being perceived as a publisher, as opposed to an indexer, of content.
Whatever Google might say, though, of course it's a media company. It presents content to an audience, against which it sells ads. That it doesn't produce much of its own content is beside the point. Neither does Netflix. Neither do many cable TV channels, local stations, or distributors such as Buena Vista Television. All are media companies. The issue isn't whether Google is a media company, but what kind of media company it is. It's a new kind -- one that operates by the economics of the Internet, with no legacy ties to the economics of television, movies, or publishing.
It seems likely that, sooner or later, Google will have to drop the pretense. The company in recent months has placed a new emphasis its YouTube division. It has recently hired several big names – all "content" people -- from companies like Netflix (NFLX) and Paramount. It has made acquisitions to improve the quality of its offerings. It is planning to spend a reported $100 million to create new channels for celebrities , whom it will help create content and with whom it will share revenues. It has rejiggered its navigation to make it – somewhat – more like cable television and less like a place for people to post their wacky cat videos.
But the wacky cat videos are still important, and will remain a staple of YouTube. Such personal offerings (not just cats, of course, but homemade music videos, wedding videos, etc.) represent one of three strategies that YouTube is pursuing. The other two are mass entertainment and niche programming.
But by keeping as hands-off as possible in terms of production, YouTube has a distinct advantage over most firms that we think of as "media companies," such as movie studios or production houses: its marginal costs are nearly zero. That is, whether it's a cat video or a basketball game, the company spends about the same amount of money to present the video to the public, and whatever advertising revenue it earns is all gravy. If a silly amateur video like Rebecca Black's "Friday" goes viral , great. If people flock to the Al Jazeera channel, also great. YouTube doesn't much care what the video itself contains.
Which is why it's so strange that so many tech pundits seem so ready to pounce on this or that piece of news evidence that YouTube is getting into the content-production business, or becoming ("officially," as one writer recently declared) a "media company." Going wholesale into content production would go against Google's core strategy: to present (and profit from) the content of others while bearing as little of the risk and cost as possible.
But since YouTube wants to be in the high-end video business as well as in the cat video business, it has to that the high-end stuff really is high end, even when it's produced by someone else. That's why it purchased Next New Networks earlier this month. That company will help YouTube advise its content partners on how to create quality video. The move might make the line between producing and distributing a bit thinner, but it doesn't breach that line. YouTube won't be greenlighting anything, and content partners will continue producing whatever they want to produce. Quality is also behind the purchase last week of Green Parrot Pictures, an Irish video-enhancement firm.
YouTube declined to make any executives available to comment on the record, though I talked to a couple of YouTubers, current and former, on background.
By keeping itself open to the entire range of video offerings, YouTube means to position itself to prosper no matter what the Internet/TV market ends up looking like. It is working to make deals with Hollywood producers for content to aim at a mass audience. But it also is creating (or allowing others to create) niche channels -- and that might be where the best opportunities lie.
Cable has splintered television viewing over the years into smaller and smaller niches. The Internet is continuing the process. So, for example, while cable makes a ridiculous number of cooking shows available, there could be even more -- and more specialized -- such shows on the Internet. As one YouTuber suggested, there could be a whole channel devoted to vegan cooking, or one devoted to surfing. Such channels would make no economic sense on cable, but they might on the Internet.
"The value of cable is silos," says Jeffrey C. Ulin, author of "The Business of Media Distribution." On YouTube, he says "there is an infinite degree of slicing and dicing that's possible."
Of course, it' not yet clear that such niches will work economically, even online. But YouTube itself isn't gambling much on the outcome – it's simply making the platform available. If the economics work out, YouTube could become even more of a cash cow. If they don't, it's not a huge loss, and with just a few hundred employees, the company can still make money from content partnerships and cat videos.