Ze Frank, A Web Entertainment Pioneer

In his TED speech, Ze Frank inspires the TED audience by focusing his speech on human connection. He describes the way he mobilized his internet audience by having them dress up their vacuum cleaners, put pieces of bread on various parts of the Earth to create an Earth sandwich, re-take their childhood photos as adults, and remixing and seeking out the performer of a viral music piece.

With great passion and vibrancy, Ze explains that Ray’s “I’m About To Whip Somebody’s Ass” inspired him to explore further how far-reaching, user-created media can touch people’s lives. He says, “this is what I wanted to do.” As I watched him, I concurred with this sentiment.

Ze continues to inspire when he brings attention to the way people are now living their lives on digital screens. While at first glance, it may seem like a dangerous trend, Ze reminds us that a perfectly valid aspect of life is being lived in the realm of Web 2.0.  He further explores this topic by bringing up what the end goal is – to connect. And if connections are taking place on the Internet that nurture genuine feelings, why not use the pathways that Internet introduces into our culture to maximize the potential of these connections?

Ze Frank is an expert on this topic, and his short speech offers a poignant reflection on his experiences. He criticizes the simplicity of how the resources for connectivity on the Internet are being utilized. He compares the Facebook “like” button to the scribbled notes of a third grader.

This is what I find particularly inspiring about his approach. These days, there is huge debate about whether or not YouTube can compete with television. Ze’s exploration of the potential of the web, potential that television lacks, is how he overcomes adversity. With Ze’s approach, it can finally come to light what the Internet can offer that TV cannot. TV and theaters can give you shows. What they cannot give you is interactivity.

Ze Frank is one of the few individuals active in the new age of web who has brought true divergent thinking and innovation to online entertainment. He is not only an inspiration to myself, but many who have made a name for themselves on YouTube.

You can view his TED speech here: http://youtu.be/3gSSNHO1dDs
You can visit Ze Frank's official website here: http://www.zefrank.com/ 

YouTube Wants To Help

YouTube nurtures the ambitions and abilities of its vast, content-creating audience with the YouTube Partner Program. YouTube partners are able to earn money from the content they post on YouTube, assuming they follow the proper guidelines. However, being a partner doesn’t just mean you can slap ads on your videos. It also opens you up to exclusive development programs and tools to create better content. YouTube wants you to succeed and create great content just as much you do.

These development programs include Next Vlogger, Next Comic, and NextUp. Participation in these programs offers opportunities for promotion, training, and mentorship. Partner Rewards are there for YouTubers who break boundaries on the YouTube platform, such as hitting major milestones in subscriptions or view counts.

YouTube has a vibrant and active creator community.  You can meet with other creators in your region by visiting one of the many community-run Creator Clubs. You can also communicate with other creators and receive free advice on the YouTube Creator Blog. There is a major push on YouTube to nurture and promote people who are creating original content.

And rightfully so.  YouTube is expensive, and it needs lucrative content to survive. In 2009, YouTube was at a point of absolute desperation trying to host all of its user-submitted content.  As stated in Farhad Manjoo’s article, “Do You Think Bandwidth Grows on Trees,” a simple fact kept YouTube from being lucrative: “Advertisers don't like paying very much to support homemade photos and videos.” For YouTube to be lucrative, it requires advertisers. For YouTube to have advertisers, it must have quality content. Therefore, YouTube wants you to have quality content, and investing in making your content better is in their best interest.

The state that we are in right now has created a beautiful synergy. This is an example of the market creating a win-win scenario. We want to be better. YouTube wants to make us better. Though the industry is in its infancy, the direction we are headed in is very positive.  YouTube is taking steps to make sure that the best content rises to the top, not just the most connected or the most fortunate. Development programs and communities help us inch toward a free Internet, where everyone can do their best, and may the best man win.

YouTube vs. Television

I was intrigued to see that New Media Rockstars had posted an article titled "Why YouTube Isn't Beating Television And Why It Never Will." I expected to be entertained and enlightened, reading about industry and technological truths that partner well with this title. I have found in my own  research that there are many reasons to believe this, and I was hoping for more tidbits to add to the discussion. I was left wanting.

For one, the title is misleading. While calling it "Why YouTube Isn't Beating Television And Why It Never Will," they should have titled it "Why YouTube Isn't Beating Television Yet." First, they claim YouTube doesn't have the quality of content that television does, yet they include no argument as to why it never could, even including the phrase "it will be a long time before anything on YouTube can replace them." So where does the "never" come into play? Next, they claim that YouTube doesn't have anything to offer that television hasn't beaten before. This is just a glaring untruth, considering the obvious way that YouTube offers interactivity to entertainment in a way that television is technically unable to.

They bring up a valid point when they say YouTube is too "snackable," offering little bits of content in short packages and falling short in terms of long-form content. What they fail to include in their argument is the "never" their title exclaims. They also fail to address the very legitimate reason YouTube is this way, and if they had done so, they would have better made their point.

The Internet is a goal-oriented medium with active users, as oppose to the passive users of television. People get on the Internet to do tasks, not to relax. This adds to the short attention-span audiences and the easier acceptance of short-form content. Had they made this point, their article would have better supported the argument that YouTube can't compete with television.

In their final paragraph, they explain finally that the YouTube format makes things too difficult for advertisers because people can click  away too quickly, and audiences aren't pulled through a commercial passively as they would be during a television commercial break. The glaring oversight in this article is how phenomenally easy YouTube and web video makes it for advertisers in terms of targeting the ideal market. YouTube videos are all classified with tags and by genre, and they are all dripping with immediately available demographic information. It doesn't require a market research company to identify a YouTube show's audience or their numbers - it only requires a mouse. Even witless machines can partner commercials with the right eyeballs, without a minute of time burned by an intern.

This topic is of great importance to me because I would like to see the platform of YouTube expanded. Why isn't drama flourishing on YouTube? Why has no long-form series exploded in popularity quite like The Guild? With the over-saturation of cheaply-made, user-submitted content, will YouTube ever be seen as a provider of professional, TV quality shows? In what ways can TV and web-based video work together to support each other's industry rather than be seen as competition to one another? I hope New Media Rock Stars posts articles in the future that address these issues with more diligence.

Helping the Cream Rise to the Top

The battle for quality content continues.

The most awesome thing about the Internet is also it's biggest problem. Anyone can post. If anyone can post, quality content is going to get buried under heaps of half-hearted user-submitted content and illegitimate information sources. If this isn't controlled, audiences aren't happy because they aren't seeing content they want, and content creators aren't happy because their quality content isn't getting seen. In order for the industry to survive, web video has to facilitate and environment that connects audiences to the content that they desire.

YouTube recently announced its intention to offer more enhanced watch-time analytics. This is an important turn of events, because YouTube has updated its "video discovery features," making videos easier for users to find based on the amount of time the viewer was engaged by the video. This is to prevent click-based video exposure, which can easily be acquired with trickery as oppose to creating quality content.

Click-based reward is very dangerous to the community. A well-known example would be Reply Girls, where girls who provide meaningless short video responses to viral videos position their cameras to show off their cleavage just to generate clicks. Videos also try to generate fruitless clicks with false tags and misleading titles. Every cent that goes to these people takes money out of the pockets of the genuine creators, and YouTube hopes to limit these efforts by rewarding only consistently engaging content with exposure.

Google is also making efforts to clean their listings of illegitimate content. The new algorithm will increase exposure to links unassociated with copyright complaints. Though on the surface this seems like a fair idea, it gives Google a great deal of power, and may give certain content creators the ability to take advantage of the new algorithm to take down competitors.

This has interesting philosophical implications about the future of web content. There is a tradeoff that we have to consider - if the Internet is free and unregulated, it will be inundated with junk content. In order to reduce junk content, we must have regulation. This limits our freedoms as creators, and gives power to the regulators to bury of promote certain content. This opens the floodgates to agenda-based exposure.

At this point, only time will tell how this issue will be resolved, but hopefully a free market assistant by non-biased algorithms will keep quality content afloat.