Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Shark Week Plus Web Video Plus Comedy = YouTube’s New Ad Pitch

YouTube wants to be more like TV — at least when it comes to attracting TV ad dollars.

So here’s its latest strategy: Copy TV’s programming stunts.

Specifically, copy Discovery’s “Shark Week” — the cable channel’s enduringly popular week of programming about … well, you know.

YouTube’s plan is to do a handful of themed weeks each year. The first, focused on comedy, is set for May, industry sources say. I’m told to expect a combination of pre-taped video packages as well as live events; one source tells me the company plans on hosting at least one event from its YouTube Space studio in Los Angeles. Scheduled for later in the year: “Geek Week.”

The company plans on talking publicly about the idea, which it has been referring to as “Destination Moments,” at its May 1 “Brandcast” event for advertisers in New York, sources say.

It’s easy to see YouTube’s logic here: If you package together a bunch of similar content, and distinguish it from the rest of the site’s clips, that should make it easier to sell to advertisers.

That’s the same logic that is behind the company’s “channel” strategy, which has had a mixed record. But one advertiser complaint about YouTube’s channel strategy is that it’s still too hard to buy on the video site the way they’d buy a TV show, when they can attach themselves to a certain property at a certain time with a certain audience.

YouTube seems unlikely to radically change the way it sells its stuff — it’s a Google company, and Google doesn’t seem interested in selling video advertising the way it has been sold for the last few decades — but this is a relatively easy concession.

As far as I can tell, the company isn’t offering video makers any special incentives to participate in the themed weeks, beyond the fact that they’ll be part of a high-profile programming push. And that may be more than enough.

The real question is whether YouTube viewers, who show up to snack on videos at all hours, and usually want to consume specific clips — that’s why the site is the world’s second-biggest search engine — will care about videos programmed like TV. But we should see soon.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik