Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Copyright Infringement or Marketing Coup?


"Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free." Is there any woman whose mother has not offered some version of this advice, generally preceded by "Remember!" and followed by, "Don't say I didn't warn you." Inevitably, this advice was ignored on a universal scale. Much was given away for free with, arguably, no impact on livestock sales, or marriage, depending on your tolerance for euphemism.

This phrase popped into my head while reading about Viacom's $1 billion copyright infringement suit against Google's YouTube. The company claims that YouTube is liable for damages for allowing unauthorized viewing of their programming. Does Viacom really believe that the user-published 2-5 minute clips of Jon Stewart's Daily Show, or MTV award show performances are stealing network viewership?

A recent 5-minute clip of a Daily Show segment posted one week ago has been viewed nearly 25,000 times and got 48 viewer comments. That's 25,000 people who have been exposed to a brief clip of the humorous content of the show. They can watch it on demand, replay it, develop an interest in the show, and pass it on to friends. What's more, the video post aggregated the YouTube identities of 48 people who felt strongly enough about it to post their thoughts, giving Viacom the opportunity to communicate directly with them. Isn't that kind of brand interaction a marketer's dream?

I think someone is giving Viacom bad advice. They can spend a lot of time and money trying to litigate complete control over viewer access to their content, a challenge they will never succeed at, or they can recognize this as an opportunities and leverage the inevitable. Engage and legitimize these defacto brand evangelists. Provide them with high quality show clips and encourage show fans to post them everywhere. Exploit the strength of viewer recommendation implicit in these posts. Or, to rewrite mom's advice, "Let them taste the milk. They'll come find the cow for more."


copyright, brands, infringement, marketing, brand evangelist, content, YouTube, Viacom

2 comments:

Ben Leis said...

We all know this is about monetizing the programming and that means control. Shame on google for not knowing this was coming before they bought youtube.

While there is real marketing value in the open forum that currently is youtube lets remember the television writers strike. The content was pushed out over the web before the networks figured out how to control and monetize it. That made the writers very unhappy because what they worked hard for was seemingly being rebroadcasted for more money out over the web but the nets held up their hands saying were not making any more money from this.

Now we are seeing websites like hulu.com that have figured it out (for the moment) and we will soon see with the Google and Family Guy partnership how powerful distribution and great programming perform.

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