I was really caught off guard to learn that Google will lose $470 million on YouTube this year.
Social and new media pundits — and there are so so many these days — smugly track and announce the failings of the newspaper, media and advertising industries. Rightly so. Those "models" aren't working and there is a lot at stake with their quickening demise. What increasingly disappoints me is how little critical thinking, interesting ideas and action are coming out of the social media sphere. Don't get me wrong, there are some brilliant minds out there and I still read a lot of blogs and listen to many podcasts but the signal to noise ratio has me cutting way back.
The numbers on YouTube are an indication to me that the promises of social media and digital aren't playing out like many of us thought it would. I thought we would have seen more stable materialization of business models by now. Google's online advertising model is showing signs of weakness. Yesterday I read this: Display ads just as effective as search, says Google... Really? I find that so unsettling.
There is actually a very good reason not to listen to social media pundits and tech evangelists. Almost no one is ever right, at all, when it comes to predicting the course of technology and the social and economic impacts. The history of technology is a history of "got it wrongs" and "didn't see it coming". No one saw Twittermania coming and no one can still be really certain what it means or how it matters. Whether is more resembles The Beatles or the hula hoop is still up for grabs.
In the nascent days of web 2.0 and social media there was a lot to be excited about. There was a small community of people doing interesting things that were really worth paying attention to. The people getting attention now are people that talk and speculate. The biggest business model to emerge is that of the pundit/consultant. Tacky cottage-industry entrepreneurs who's overly optimistic views of new media and sideline, cheap-shot criticisms of old media are little more that ham-handed pitches for consulting fees. The emergent social model is meta-conversation (talking about people talking) which is revealed so clearly with the "number of followers" obsession.
All this talk about "the conversation" is wrecking my new media buzz. We need a little less conversation, a little more action.
I have to close this post with an ironic YouTube embed. While I still can.
Our frank and open. Deep conversations. They get me nowhere. They bring me down, so. Give it a rest, won't you? Give me a cigarette. God give me patience. Just no more conversation. — Morrissey "Our Frank"
From Slate: Do You Think Bandwidth Grows on Trees?: According a recent report by analysts at the financial-services company Credit Suisse, Google will lose $470 million on the video-sharing site this year alone. To put it another way, the Boston Globe, which is on track to lose $85 million in 2009, is five times more profitable—or, rather, less unprofitable—than YouTube.