This piece was originally published in The Wrap
Soon after YouTube’s inception, the young founders of the site witnessed the incredible power of the fan community. This community was passionate about sharing snippets of their favorite movies, television, and music on this new, exciting video platform.
We all know the story since then: YouTube was purchased by Google a mere 19 months later, and a major lawsuit was filed by a media company in response to that fan activity. What was built and released in response to the increasing pressure (from the lawsuit) to address fan activity was YouTube’s Content ID, a system which empowers media companies to assert their ownership over content which is uploaded and shared by fans.
That was the revolution moment. Fans win. Media companies win. Platform wins.
Here are the four most important takeaways that Facebook can glean from their rival’s learned experience as they too enter into the increasingly competitive and complex digital-video space:
1. Distribution Is Not What People Think (aka: You can’t stop the fans, nor do you want to)
On YouTube, ZEFR calculates that 95 percent of views and engagement around media assets and brand assets come from the content that is uploaded by the fans. Once the media companies realized the power of this activity, most of them decided it was time to harness that activity. Harness the data, harness the passion, and harness the advertising revenue associated with the activity. This strategy turns out to be a lot more lucrative than playing a never-ending game of whack-a-mole, trying to pull down fan-uploaded videos as fast as they get posted. The truth is this: The fan community won’t be stopped, now or ever.
2. The Tipping Point for Media Companies
The more media companies familiarized themselves with the power of the fan community, the more they embraced the platform. Companies like VEVO and MOVIECLIPS emerged on YouTube, as well as thousands of official channels from the media companies for marketing purposes.
3. The Speed of Sharing Is Scary (And Facebook Has Cornered the Market)
People share YouTube videos and the views stack up fast, but the nature of Facebook is 100 percent focused on sharing. This fact is why Facebook is already seeing 4 billion views of video content per day. That’s staggering. What is also staggering is how fast an infringement violation can become a massive problem. The efficiency of the world’s leading social network can act like lighter fluid to this flame if Facebook does not address this problem swiftly and smartly.
4. There Is a Silver Linings Playbook
YouTube’s ContentID was built and released quickly. It has seen major improvements, but the system still has issues. For Facebook, the great thing about not being first to this market is there are best practices to learn from and huge mistakes that have played out publicly which can now be anticipated and avoided.
The days of holding on tightly to content are over — people love video and are sharing more than they ever have before. It’s up to companies like Facebook to find solutions that empower both their users and copyright holders. Among all the headlines and potential legal battles, the biggest threat to Facebook is time — because the fans won’t be stopped.
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