订阅

多平台阅读

微信订阅

杂志

申请纸刊赠阅

订阅每日电邮

移动应用

商业 - 传媒与文化

互联网电影大亨:YouTube

Dan Mitchell 2011年04月01日

一直以来,谷歌都不愿承认自己是一家媒体公司。现在,它正努力将YouTube打造成新的内容生产时代的制片厂。当弹琴猫遇上晚间新闻。

    5年多来,人们一直在争论不休:谷歌(Google)到底是不是一家媒体公司?这个问题根本没有意义,它之所以被人们一再提及,在很大程度上是因为谷歌每次都怒气冲冲的坚称自己是一家科技公司,而非媒体公司。科技公司与媒体公司差别何在?你对比一下这两个行业的股票业绩和利润率就知道了。此外,谷歌不愿被视为内容发布商还有一个原因,那就是它不愿承担随之而来的责任,因此,它希望人们将它视为内容组织者。

    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。

    看起来,谷歌早晚会要卸下伪装。近几个月来,该公司开始重新重视YouTube业务。最近,谷歌从Netflix 和派拉蒙(Paramount)招揽了好几位做内容的大腕。此外,谷歌还进行收购,以提高其内容的质量。据传该公司还计划斥资1亿美元,为名流们创建新的频道,还将帮助他们创作内容,并与其分享收入。谷歌还调整了其导航,使之看起来更像有线电视,而非人们上传自家宠物古怪视频的地方。

    不过,古怪宠物视频仍然很重要,而且仍将是YouTube的一根顶梁柱。这些个人上传的内容(当然不光是宠物视频,还有自制音乐短片、婚礼视频等)是YouTube推行的三大战略之一。另外两个战略是大众娱乐和小众节目。

    不过,由于其尽可能不干涉视频制作,相比电影工作室和制作公司等绝大多数我们所公认的“媒体公司”,YouTube有着明显优势——其边际成本几乎为零。换句话说,无论是宠物视频,还是篮球比赛,YouTube将视频呈现给用户的成本几乎是一样的,无论广告收入有多少,对它来说都是一本万利。如果大家疯传雷贝卡•布莱克的《星期五》(美国最近很流行的一段网络视频——译注)这样业余得可笑的视频,很好;而如果大家都涌向阿拉伯半岛电视台(Al Jazeera)频道,那也不错。总之,YouTube并不会太关注视频本身的内容。

    然而,奇怪的是许多技术“砖家”都喜欢用一些捕风捉影的证据证明YouTube正在涉足内容制造业务,或正在成为一家“媒体公司”。大举进入内容制造领域有违谷歌的核心策略:呈现第三方内容,以尽可能避免风险和降低成本。

    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。

    尽管我私下里和好几位正在或曾在YouTube工作的人士交流过,不过YouTube拒绝让高管出面正式表态。

    保持对各类视频的兼收并蓄,这意味着无论互联网/传统电视市场走向何方,YouTube都已立足不败之地。它一方面正和众多好莱坞制片人洽谈视频内容合约,旨在瞄准大众市场;另一方面,它还在开设(或允许别人制作)小众频道——也许这会带来绝佳的机会。

    这些年来,有线电视商一直在不断细分电视观众,而互联网则在继续这一过程。例如,有线电视商制作的烹饪节目数量多得可笑,然而互联网上的此类节目有过之而无不及,数量繁多而且更加细化。就像YouTube一位员工建议的,可以开设一个烹饪素食的专门频道,或是一个关于冲浪的专门频道。对于有线电视商而言,这些频道毫无经济价值,不过对YouTube这类网站而言可能并非如此。

    《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。”

    当然,即使对于在线视频,我们也并不清楚如此细分是否真的具有经济价值。不过YouTube本身并未对此下注过多,它仅仅提供了相应平台。如果经济效益真的不错,那么YouTube就会变成一颗摇钱树。而即使失败,它也不会遭受太大损失。YouTube只有区区几百名员工,它仍然可以从内容合作和宠物视频中获利。

    作者:项航

    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.

 

我来点评

相关稿件

  最新文章

最新文章:

500强情报中心

财富专栏