Monday, July 24, 2006

New York Post



July 23, 2006 -- WHAT is a week at investment bank Allen & Co.'s annual Sun Valley confab worth?

For Chad Hurley, the founder of the hot online video company YouTube, it might be $400 million.

That's how much more he might get if he sold his company now - after he spent five days in the Idaho mountains being sucked up to by virtually every big-name exec in media.

Prior to the Allen & Co. conference, the word in the industry was that YouTube - barely a year old - could fetch $600 million if it were sold to one of the major media companies.

Now, following the Sun Valley excitement, the buzz is that Hurley and his backers have their sights set on $1 billion for the video-swapping site - which now streams nearly 100 million videos per day.

That figure would top the nearly $600 million that both News Corp. - the parent company of The Post - paid for MySpace and NBC paid for iVillage.

The two sides in the high-stakes lawsuit over the renegade file-swapping music service Napster are fighting over missing e-mails.

The suit, which has dragged on nearly six years, pits music giants EMI and Universal Music against two of the piracy-promoting Napster's former financial backers - German media giant Bertelsmann and venture-capital firm Hummer Winblad.

EMI and Universal Music have alleged in a court filing that executives at Hummer Winblad ordered staff members to destroy e-mails. The filing alleges that soon after the firm's investment in Napster in 2000, founder Ann Winblad told staff: "It is your responsibility to delete your handled e-mails immediately."

The order apparently was effective: In one week following the investment, the firm produced 272 e-mails. For the more than three years after that first week - following the destruction order - fewer than 300 e-mails turned up, according to the filing.

The filing compares the case with former CSFB banker Frank Quattrone's missive to his own staff: "Time to Clean Up Those Files."

The VC firm, in its response filed Friday, had a lukewarm explanation: "Although admittedly far from perfect, the Hummer Winblad defendants' document production in this case represented a good-faith effort to preserve and produce relevant documents, including e-mails."

Katie Couric has an answer to why the SEC's idea to require compa nies to disclose salaries for highly paid non-executives - mainly entertainers and TV news per sonalities - took on her name.

"Maybe it's just because I look good dotted," Couric told On The Money, referring to the Wall Street Journal's distinctive illustration style. (The SEC is said to be on the verge of scrap ping the so-called "Katie Couric" clause.)

Couric, who officially takes the anchor chair at CBS News on Sept. 5, recently returned from her six-city "listening tour," and doesn't regret the decision to not allow press at the events - even after taking some heat from re porters who bashed the tour as a cheap publicity stunt.

"That's why I didn't want cameras - I didn't want it to be seen as a promotional de vice," Couric said. "It wasn't a photo op."

HBO is joining many other media outlets in opening up a street-level retail store at its Sixth Avenue headquarters. Construction boarding in front of the site forecasts an opening in November 2006.

But a joke running through media circles has the store opening being pushed back three months because of James Gandolfini's knee operation.

July 24, 2006 08:31 AM

YouTube Worth $1 BIllion? But Who Will Buy It?

This NY Post item caught my eye - YouTube was the toast of Herb Allen's Sun Valley conference, and therefore is now worth $1 billion. I don't buy it. I don't think the founders are smoking this shit, I think the media is - at least I hope that's how it is. Why? Simple really. While YouTube is an amazing service, with extraordinary uptake, I've been told (and it seems obvious on first glance) that its core content is mostly copyrighted material. (I make this statement after being told as much by two very senior folks at major media companies who have studied content patterns on YouTube.)

Now, folks who own copyrights are waking up to the power of letting their copyrighted content flourish on YouTube, but that particular worm has not turned - content companies are very, very wary of letting this genie out of the bottle.

So who might buy YouTube? A major entertainment company, like the ones mentioned in the Post piece? No way. That's buying a lawsuit or ten - if Time Warner bought YouTube, how long do you think it'd be before competitors sued to get their copyrighted stuff off TW's new service? And once that stuff is cleared off (YouTube does make a point of taking down copyrighted material when asked, but policing that massive service is not exactly a hand-rolled affair), what is YouTube worth then?

It's something of a catch 22, and augurs a waiting period of sorts. I personally believe YouTube proves that our culture wants desparately out of the traditional model of force fed television, and wants to move to a model where we participate in it - indeed, where we remix and share it. But change takes time, and Big Media Companies With Alot To Lose don't change that quick.

What about a new media giant buying YouTube - Yahoo, say, or Google? Or Microsoft? Nope, nope, nope. Yahoo is a media company, and acts like one. Google doesn't have it in its DNA to run a service like YouTube (though Google, with its Switzerland like approach to content, is the best fit, in my opinion). And Microsoft? They don't need any more legal headaches over in Redmond right now.

It should be an interesting Fall season, that's for sure. I'll be watching.

Boing Boing

Thursday, July 20, 2006

More on YouTube's controversial new terms and conditions: UPDATED
Update: YouTube's response is
here (scroll down to the end of the post).

Earlier today on BoingBoing, I pointed to discussions around the blogosphere about YouTube's newly updated Terms & Conditions. As Eliot Van Buskirk wrote on the Wired News music blog "Listening Post," the new policy appears to give YouTube more rights over user-uploaded content than before. Link to post, with some insightful comments, both pro and con, from readers. I asked Jason Schultz of the EFF what he thought of the news, and he tells BB:

Your commenters are pretty much correct. YouTube wants to CYA itself in case it flows into new formats with old videos, e.g., cell phone downloads. They don't want to have to go back and relicense all the content in new mediums. And its also true that simply yanking the video will cut off all their rights, which is a powerful weapon to keep them in check.

When the Billy Bragg folks complained about MySpace, it was basically over the same issue, so now that MySpace has responded with some clarity, it might behoove YouTube to do the same.

One thing they could say is that any reproductions, distributions, derivatives, etc. that they make of your work would not be sold separately as a distinct product. This would keep them from burning CDs or DVDs and the like.

Reader comments...

Blogger Mary Hodder posted some thoughts about this here.

Aaron Newton of CNET says,

I launched and ran CNET's Music service and worked at length with our lawyers to craft our terms and conditions.

What I can tell you is that these words, such as "to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform..." etc. are really more about hosting media than anything else. For instance, a derivative work is a sample or a screenshot. Embedding the media for consumption is a performance. When our lawyers first wrote our Ts&Cs they read just like this because these words carry specific legal meanings. I eventually convinced them to re-author these terms in, you know, English, and to say that we have the right to host your material, display the material on our site and our business partner's sites, make the material available to our users as downloads and streams (artists can choose streaming only), etc.

My point is that looking at YouTube's policies, they read like they want to own your soul, but in legal terms, they look very common and reasonable. Personally, I think that services like these should spell it out in plain English.

July 21, 2006 (6:15 PM EDT)
techweb techweb

YouTube Growth Continues To Soar

By Antone Gonsalves, TechWeb Technology News

Video-sharing site YouTube attracted 19.6 million visitors in June, a 297 percent increase from January, a market research firm said Friday.

The site's growth has been even more dramatic in terms of number of Web pages viewed, Nielsen/NetRatings said. In June, that number rose 515 percent from January to 72.4 million. The average time spent at the site during the same period increased 64 percent to 28 minutes from 17 minutes.

On a week-to-week basis, the number of visitors to YouTube increased by 75 percent in the week ending July 16 to 12.8 million visitors.

Despite YouTube's phenomenal growth, some analysts have questioned whether the site can transition from a free service to one that can make money. Experts are skeptical that people visiting the Internet company's site would be willing to pay for content, and believe mainstream advertisers would likely avoid having their brands associated with the oftentimes edgy and racy content.

Nielsen found that men are 20 percent more likely to visit YouTube than women, and people between the ages of 12 and 17 years old are nearly 1.5 times more likely than the average Web user to go to YouTube.