YouTube - 1 billion skateboarding cats can't be wrong, can it?*
YouTube certainly provides us with enough material for posts when we're otherwise too busy playing Wild Turkey Twister in the office. And three years on since Google grabbed the service for £1 billion, it's now serving over a billion views a day. That's good news isn't it? Without YouTube, we'd have had to do some proper work and four million pairs of eyeballs would have been denied the literal version of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart.
And so on Friday, YouTube briefly snatched back a scrap of faded glory as a game-changing digital darling, what with one billion being such a massively enormous number and all that. But is it enough? Do the big numbers translate into profit? Probably not. A well-publicised post from earlier in the year put YouTubes daily loses at around £1 million. The New York Times last week reported that YouTube are finally get their act together concerning textural advertising appearing alongside copyrighted material using their Content ID system, but the major music labels said potential profits "do not come close to making up for the overall decline in music sales." But then they say that about everything that doesn't come in a box and is sold in HMV, and YouTube are hardly the root of the cause.
So if YouTube aren't making money, and copyright holders aren't seeing much for their troubles (except for the PRS, perhaps), what about the users? YouTube highlights the likes of Michael Buckley, whose What The Buck? celebrity nozzlefest is reported to make him over £60,000 a year. But for every such queen in a tie who's been locked in a cupboard full of Sunny D all day, there'll be thousands of users making next to nothing.
There have been massive digital media deals that have worked out - Facebook is now in profit, so why can't YouTube do the same? Facebook can be monetised in a more contextual and influential way because users must be registered; it's difficult for YouTube to profit from a video that goes viral and is seen by a million random and potentially anonymous users in a week, while lumbered with the costs of serving the content regardless.
As vital a service as the internet considers it, if YouTube doesn't make enough money to even cover the costs of operations, it won't survive. But let's not worry about it for now, and enjoy YouTube's own efforts with this, the very first video uploaded to the service. We'd pay to learn such amazing facts about elephants, and you most certainly would too - as it is, right now they're effectively paying for you watch it:
* obviously 1 billion skateboarding cats is entirely wrong, because it's a reference to the number of views a day, not the number of said cats on YouTube.