The first, most pressing question is this: Did they get so much for their money? According to Billboard, the video, which has been getting attention internationally, was released to “very much positive fan reaction from an international audience of fans. . . .” That makes it sound less like a product that was sold as a promotional tool for the company and more like a clever marketing ploy. It is certainly interesting to note that a “hugely successful” video from a music company does not mean that it’s a lucrative deal for its content owners. And yet that is exactly what it seems to have turned out to be.
That it was released to “very much positive fan reaction” shows that the executives knew this: their YouTube channel had been on the YouTube hitlist for a while and the YouTube advertising program has a “tens-of-millions” dollar cap. The site and service would pay for videos, but they would also pay the ad agency a “share.” It would essentially be an “end of the line” payment.
The video’s “global viral success” is also worth noting, but it’s also misleading. “Global viral success” usually refers to the “number of times a video is shown on YouTube,” not an actual number of views, which may well be higher. It’s not like this is some kind of scientific study into the phenomenon of the “crowd favorite.” The video could’ve generated hundreds of millions of views after it was released — but not nearly the tens of millions that Forbes calculated.
YouTube’s parent company, Google, is clearly trying to drum up its own product and advertising dollars. The problem is that no one expects Google to actually make money. YouTube generates a relatively small amount of profit in the US alone. On the other hand, Google also makes money in other ways, and these revenues are more or less predictable.
It might make sense to think of YouTube as a “crowd favorite.” And that’s because it’s hard to imagine a better example of a product that can reach a large, global audience in the way that “the Internet as a whole has achieved” — that is, hundreds of millions of people online. (And this is true especially of people with the Internet and not with a TV or a computer.)
As long as this strategy continues, it will be hard to know where YouTube’s future lies. If the company is able to create a product and ad package that is as popular as its video service, I think the odds
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