Saturday, October 7, 2006

Making Amends: Google Aims for YouTube to Close Social Content Gap

The San Francisco Chronicle reports along with others on strong rumors that Google is pursuing the acquisition of the YouTube social video community. It's a good match from a number of angles - and a necessary move for Google as it tries to close gaps in its social content and video strategies. Google Video started out slowly with a limited number of features and premium sources and a lack of social networking capabilities to develop an online community around video posters. It's never really recovered from that slow start and has weakened its overall market position for lack of a strong social content strategy. Google's Orkut social networking portal is rising rapidly to the top of global site rankings based on strong showing in markets such as Brazil but is far off the pace in U.S. markets. The venerable Google Groups bulletin board service is only now being revamped in a new Beta version to improve its ability to guide users to important content-generating communities. Google gets information and individuals well enough, but when it comes to crowds they're just starting to move out of their wallflower phase to catch up with users acting as aggregators and starting points for content exploration.

YouTube is a good pick for Google not only because of its strong authoring and networking community and the increasingly ubiquitous presence of its clips in weblogs and mashups but also because of its stance with mainstream video producers. YouTube's "we'll take it off if you don't want it there" policy is similar in philosophy to Google's own approach to copyrighted material: encouraging the perception of their service as technical infrastructure that's neutral on the issue of copyright wherever possible.

YouTube's features are also well-aligned with Google's push into putting their content and search tools in context throughout destination Web sites, enabling the brand to live both as a starting point and an end point where users will value them the most. With YouTube's authors, raters and vibrant trail of well-organized content Google would get both a highly popular destination and one that's well positioned to expand its presence into many new contexts that Google Video doesn't come close to touching. We'll see what happens in the bidding wars but if this get pulled off it will be a good deal from Google's perspective.
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