Boob Tube

By Peter Coffee  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

Opinion: Google may have crossed the threshold of having more money than brains.

Google's acquisition of YouTube gives me new respect for the notion of infinity. It proves that no matter how smart you are, you can still have more money than brains.

If you were trying to find a way to collect the attention of the world's least discriminating media consumers—people who demonstrate 100 million times a day that they have more excess time than money—you'd build YouTube.

We already had blogs to demonstrate that most people don't communicate effectively with words; now we have YouTube to demonstrate that it's even more difficult to compose good cinema, although you can always just steal it.

YouTube is perfectly designed to skim the crud off the bottom of the audience barrel. Even the busiest person will glance at a blog to see if it has anything to offer: You can tell in a few seconds that a blog post is not going to tell you anything new in any interesting way, and get back to work.

A three-minute video, though, takes the full three minutes to watch—and you probably won't be able to tear yourself away. This means that the people whose attention you want most are probably going to train themselves to avoid your site, because they don't have time to spare.

Meanwhile, those who do come to a video site aren't looking at the ads that sit next to the moving pictures, because the human brain is hard-wired to look at stuff that's moving. And even if something does insert itself right into that moving picture, the brain is amazingly good at ignoring things that aren't part of what it's finding interesting at the time.

Yes, YouTube is a brand, and brands have value. Brand-name recognition is among the few assets that a new competitor can't readily match in today's environment of mobile capital and globally networked talent.

Trademark value resonates in uncountable pop culture references to iconic brands, as when Paul Simon sings "I got a Nikon camera…" or when Toyota coins a new slogan ("I want my MPG") that is itself a pun on the tagline of MTV.

But brand names can also be remembered as epitaphs: How many people associate the phrase "The Edsel of…" with failure even if they'd never recognize a picture of the car that bore that name?

Google and YouTube: 10 Questions Left Unanswered. Click here to read more.

Does anyone—anyone at all—actually want to defend the proposition that the YouTube brand is fairly valued at $1.6 billion? Reality check: Even world famous brands like Levi's and Starbucks, with real products and actual profits, are each worth less than twice that much.

I'm open to the possibility that Web-based innovations can transform our ideas of how things should be done.

Amazon.com has turned its bookselling experience into a mastery of online storefront hosting that has liberated market efficiencies in many other domains.

The eBay auction and consignment models have scaled way up from selling Pez dispensers to collectors. I think I know value when I see it. As of now, though, I'm finding YouTube's value picture far from clear.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.com's for the latest news, views and analysis on enterprise search technology.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...