I have just watched the latest programme of the BBC’s The Culture Show. It looked at the phenomena that is young people creating ‘programmes’ on YouTube that are attracting audiences as large as those associated with conventional TV programming. It therefore posited the question “Is YouTube the future of TV?”
On one level it was an interesting and well produced programme – but on another it was naive and deeply flawed, exposing the familiar inability of traditional media to understand social media.
The first flaw was the idea that social media only starts to become serious when it produces something that looks like traditional media. The artists and programmes featured may well be generating large audiences, but they none-the-less represent only a tiny fragment of the content or usage of the platform that is YouTube. It is of course this other usage of the platform, that The Culture Show did not feature, which is having by far and away the greater cultural, social and economic impact. But because this didn’t look like TV, it was ignored. This is a usage, incidentally, which YouTube itself is also ignoring, because you can’t easily grow advertising dollars within it. Continue reading