You can mark today down in the history books. Google has bought video giveaway site Youtube for a mind numbing 1.65 billion (story from cnn here), aquiring the 67 person company that wouldn’t know what a profitable business looked like if they were slapped in the face with it.
Some, such as Marketing Shift, suggest that Google, with it’s vast Adsense network or advertisers will be able to push things like pre-roll ads (those annoying commercials before a video) or otherwise crowd up the youtube space with more and more click for money ads. (read their take here) They can see some potential for Google to turn this into a money spinner.
Myself, I see some benefits for Google, specifically using up some of the storage and bandwidth in their new mega-storage facility they have been working on. Their understanding of how to distribute through the net and provide good service is legendary. It also gives them many millions of additional page views into their network, which certainly can help.
However, YouTube’s whole deal is being kewl and being somewhat on the edge of legality. It isn’t unusual to find TV shows and other copyrighted material on the site, and some of the material goes from questionable to downright disgusting. Think American’s Funniest Videos without the sound effects or the well places censor strips meets Jackass, and you are starting to get the idea. Blogs link to this stuff, using YouTube’s inline system to display the videos right in the blog without sending the surfer anywhere, which is basically free bandwidth to show videos, but with no chance for youtube to make any income unless they start adding in pre-roll ads.
There is the rub. Google will not be willing to allow it’s 1.65 billion dollar investment be a black hole of resources and time. They are going to want return on investment, which is going to mean changes in the product and changes in the way things are done. Pre-roll ads or other restrictions on material are going to create that sort of “not cool” feel about the place that will likely take away the edge, and turn it into just another popular online site.
Remember, you can tell your kids that you remember when YouTube was still cool.