3.8 Social Media
Social media refers to any media shared online (e.g., videos, music, photos, news, etc.). Hitwise reported that “increasedbroadband penetration, combined with the rise of consumer generated content and the proliferation of webcams and cell phone and home video cameras have firmly entrenched online video viewing into the habits of entertainment seekers in the United States.”1
YouTube, launched in late 2005, is the leading Internet video site. In true Web 2.0 fashion, the entire site is based on user-generated content. Users upload videos, and rate and comment on videos posted by other users. YouTube’s Quick Capture Flash software makes it easy to upload content directly from a webcam. Users can browse videos by category, tag, or by following “related video” links. Highly rated videos are featured on YouTube’s homepage. While many professionals and film students post content on the site, the most popular submissions are often simple spoofs or home videos. Because of the viral network effects of YouTube, these amateur videos can quickly gain worldwide attention.
Users can subscribe to other users’ content, share videos with friends by e-mail, or embed videos directly into their blogs or other websites. YouTube addresses privacy and spam concerns by allowing users to set videos as “public” or “private” and flag inappropriate material for review by YouTube’s staff.
Less than a year after its official launch, YouTube was acquired by Google (which had its own less popular Google Video site) for $1.65 billion. Less than six months after the acquisition, Viacom sued YouTube for $1 billion for copyright infringement.2 The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 protects companies from prosecution due to user actions if they work in “good faith” to remove offending content.3 However, interpretations of this act vary, and it has become a point of contention for many companies. YouTube is developing a mechanism that automatically detects copyrighted material. Currently, illegal content is removed from the site manually.
Many mass-media companies now offer full-length episodes of popular television shows on their websites to tap into the increasingly popular Internet television market. The average American watches 4.5 hours of television a day, not including Internet television.4 Sites, such as Joost, Veoh and MobiTV, have emerged as a new way of watching television. Joost, for example, uses semantic technologies to help users find programs that interest them. (See Section 3.18, Future of the Web.)
Limited by copyright issues, Internet TV sites must make deals with mainstream networks to offer their content online. Viacom made a deal with Joost, allowing the site to include some shows from networks such as MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central.5 As users take back the power to choose what they watch and when, networks may find themselves making more deals with Internet TV companies. As technologies continue to improve, Internet TV has the potential to radically change the television industry. Already, smaller content creators are able to gain access to worldwide audiences. In late June 2007, MySpace joined the market with its MySpaceTV. With MySpace’s enormous membership, it could rapidly become a direct competitor toYouTube and Internet TV websites.
Internet TV allows advertisers to target their markets more precisely than with broadcast television. Advertisers can use demographic information, such as location, gender and age, to serve appropriate ads.
Digg features news, videos and podcasts, all posted and rated by users. It has gained popularity by allowing users to “digg” or “bury” posts and user comments. Valuable sites, marked by large numbers of diggs, are moved to the Digg front page where other users can easily find them. Formulas were adjusted to make sure the “wisdom of crowds” was not being hijacked by users trying to promote their own posts.6 Sites that are “dugg” and featured on the homepage typically experience a traffic surge. Bloggers can add Digg buttons to their sites, making it easy for readers to “digg” their posts.
Digg uses collaborative filtering to help reduce spam by “burying” it (users can vote against posts they don’t like). Users can also set the threshold of diggs to automatically filter out content with low ratings. The site was criticized for removing popular posts of HD DVD security cracks (on the advice of lawyers); however, Kevin Rose (Digg’s founder) decided to support the crowds and “deal with whatever the consequences might be.”7 Digg has additional social networking capabilities; users can view their friends’ Digg activities and the Diggs of other users with similar interests. Some Digg-like sites include Netscape, Reddit and Newsvine.
Last.fm is an Internet radio website that uses Web 2.0 concepts to make music recommendations and build communities. The site provides open source desktop software that can be integrated into most popular music players. Its scrobbling feature tracks the music users listen to so that Last.fm can provide users with personalized recommendations. A streamable radio with “discovery mode” and a network of like-minded listeners help users find new music. Groups and an events section add social value. The site also offers tagging and wiki pages for artists and record labels.
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems add software to media files to prevent them from being misused, but these systems restrict compatibility with many media players. Companies want to protect their digital products from illegal distribution; however, users want unrestricted access to media they’ve purchased.
iTunes, Apple’s music store, has been criticized for restricting users’ access to their own music by allowing only up to five computers to be authorized to play any given file. However, Apple’s Steve Jobs advocated a DRM-free music world in February 2007, arguing the greater risk for piracy is in DRM-free CDs, which make up the majority of music sales.8 CDs remain DRM-free because many CD players are not compatible with DRM systems. In June 2007, Amazon offered DRM-free downloads from more than 12,000 record labels, and both iTunes and Amazon sell DRM-free music from EMI (one of the four major record companies).9
Podcasting was popularized by Apple’s iPod portable media player. Apodcast is a digital audio file (e.g., an .mp3) that often takes on the characteristics of a radio talk show (though without live callers).10 Much as blogging has made journalism accessible to everyone, podcasting has introduced a more democratic form of radio broadcasting. Podcasts are easily created with audio software and can be played on a computer or portable media player. The files are posted online at individual websites or distributed via programs like Apple’s iTunes. Listeners can often subscribe to podcasts via RSS feeds. Forrester Research predicted 12 million households will be regularly subscribing to podcasts by 2010.11