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February 9, 2010

Seen: what we're up against

This video has 150 million views. Online video that's high-quality by visual or narrative standards often struggles to find an audience in our era, yet if you film a baby biting another baby's finger, you might just give rise to the most-viewed video on YouTube -- of all time.

One hundred and fifty million views! Even after accounting for the huge margin of error in that figure, the above might have been seen by more people than the vast majority of Hollywood blockbusters (not to mention smaller independent fare). Like a lot of people working in film and on the web, I'm trying to figure out how to best monetize online video. But it's hard to argue that online is the future of film when this kind of video is shared around like it's some sort of magnum opus.

There is a positive takeaway from this: nonprofessional, user-generated content occupies the bottom of the following pyramid (taken from the aforementioned Techcrunch article), which means it's plentiful, but of little monetary value. While this would seem to indicate that quality and scarcity would conversely be the most valuable characteristics, that is not what the pyramid shows: ad rates may be at their highest for Hulu and Epix content (the top of the 'rid), but the "profitability index" is decidedly centered on the middlebrow.

For movies, this sounds like business as usual.

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