That YouTube Elephant With A Very Long Tail

I missed the occasion entirely, but on April 23, 2005, the very first YouTube video was posted by, Jawed Karim, one of the three founders.

From the start, you might say, YouTube thought big. No playful kitties. Karim chronicled…an elephant.

It was housed at the San Diego Zoo, and this is what Karim had to say:  “The cool thing about this these guys is that they have these really, really, really long trunks. And that’s, that’s cool.” He added, so, so incorrectly: And that’s pretty much all there is to say.”

“At the Zoo,”  this first video, was 20 seconds long, and has now been seen 10,638,024 times, possibly 10,638,023 times for the sake of history (or bloggers).

YouTube, on the other hand has one billion unique visits a month. It now claims 72 hours of video are posted to the site every minute. More amazing facts, in a nice graphic are here. To quote just one, YouTube says that nowadays, four billion hours of video are viewed on YouTube every month.

So here’s to massive social upheaval!

At the same time a certain segment of the universe marked the anniversary of the first official YouTube video–an elephant never forgets, for one–The New York Times Co. on Tuesday was announcing that all video features on its Website will now be able to be accessed without going through the paper’s paywall.

According to the Website Journalism.co.uk, “the number of video views on NYTimes.com had more than doubled over the year from the first quarter of 2012 which had prompted an investment strategy to promote video on the site. At present The New York Times produces more than 250 videos per month for the site but this is set to increase.”  The very Gray Lady also won a Pulitzer this year for its multimedia story, “Snow Fall” about an avalanche that imperiled 16 skiiers in Washington last February.

You could hardly have predicted that video of a zoo with a “very, very, very long trunk” would be a marker in the creation of an industry with such a very, very, very long tail. It’s not that YouTube was the first video site (it wasn’t) but obviously, the one that hit the longest home run.

Today, as the Financial Times reports, “There is a new kid on the block in the advertising world, with online video evolving rapidly and audiences on the rise. Forget about skateboarding cats and the amateur, user-generated videos that used to dominate YouTube: these days the internet is full of slick, professionally produced programming that would not look out of place on prime time television…. Total advertising on digital video is forecast to almost double from about $4 billion in 2013 to $8 billion by 2016, according to eMarketer, the research company.”

All of which may be,  but is in a way very unstartling, like looking at your kid and not remembering that once, that growing child was just a baby. In his 2006 book, The Beatles: A Biography, author Bob Spitz pointed out that not only did The Beatles create a “British Invasion,” they virtually created the British international music business. YouTube and lots of other online video pioneers are doing that now. They’re the new elephant in the room.

pj@mediapost.com

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