Can YouTube even handle movies?

Greg Sandoval at CNET had a story today saying that he heard from a couple of sources close to YouTube that the company will soon be launching full-length movies. This led to a raft of posts echoing the story, most of which mentioned that this seemed like a plausible rumour — since YouTube now offers full-length TV shows from a couple of networks, and also has a “theater” setting that offers a wider viewer and slightly better quality. But only a couple of blogs that mentioned the story raised what I think is the most important issue: Can YouTube’s infrastructure even handle the real-time streaming of full-length movies?

Robert McLaws, for example, mentioned what I think is a pretty routine occurrence for most people when watching YouTube videos, and that’s the “buffering” message (I get that a fair bit even though I have an 8-megabit connection). John Brandon at Computerworld mentioned the crappy quality of most YouTube videos, and Nick Carlson at Silicon Alley Insider noted that YouTube videos aren’t actually streamed, but are downloaded to the user’s computer — meaning they can easily be copied.

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Does Britney really want to get social?

There was quite the hullabaloo in the blogosphere and Twitter-verse over the weekend about pop princess Britney Spears launching a new blog-style website and setting up a Twitter account. Will Brit actually be posting messages to fans on Twitter? Unlikely, I would think — although not impossible, I suppose. Dave Matthews does it (at least from what I can tell this is the real Dave), and even shares his thoughts about personal matters such as… well, go read it for yourself. Other artists do it too, including Ben Kweller and David Usher (who has adopted social media with a real passion, and was our guest on a panel at mesh 2008 in May). And others too.

That said, however — and no offence intended to Dave or David or Ben — there are few stars of Britney’s caliber out there blogging and Twittering. And no, I don’t think Courtney Love counts, although some of her MySpace posts are a lot of fun, if a rambling stream of consciousness (or unconsciousness) is what you’re after. Among other things, it’s fascinating that Britney’s Twitter handle is @therealbritney, something I suppose is inevitable in a world of Fake Steve Jobs and characters from TV shows like Mad Men setting up Twitter accounts. Do people care whether it’s the real Britney? And how would they know, assuming they care?

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McCain and the DMCA: Extreme irony alert

It’s almost too good (or bad) to be believed: John McCain, the U.S. presidential candidate who as a senator supported the draconian rules included in Digital Millennium Copyright Act, now finds himself begging YouTube to stop removing his campaign’s video clips. YouTube has been taking them down because they contain excerpts from news broadcasts, and broadcasters are claiming that is copyright infringement. The McCain campaign is put in the uncomfortable position of arguing that those excerpts are “fair use,” and that YouTube should knock it off.

YouTube has responded to the McCain campaign (while stifling a chuckle, perhaps?) that it can’t play favourites just because the senator is in the midst of an election campaign, and that while Mr. McCain no doubt thinks his clips are of extra importance, “there is a lot of other content on our global site that our users around the world find to be equally important.” Then comes the real zinger: YouTube’s general counsel Zahavah Levine says that: “We hope that as a content uploader, you have gained a sense of some of the challenges we face everyday in operating YouTube.” Bam.

Seth Godin’s advice for aspiring authors

Cartoonist and wine-marketing genius Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void asked marketing guru Seth Godin some questions recently, which he has posted on his blog. One of my favourites is when Hugh asks Seth what the hardest lessons are for a first-time author to learn:

“Books are souvenirs that hold ideas. Ideas are free. If no one knows about your idea, you fail. If your idea doesn’t spread, you fail. If your idea spreads but no one wants to own the souvenir edition, you fail.”

If I were a publisher, or an author’s agent, or teaching a class on writing, I would engrave that somewhere very prominent.

Is online advertising heading for a cliff?

As the markets see-saw between concern and outright panic over the fate of the U.S. financial bailout, the credit shock that’s rippling through not just North America but most of the Western hemisphere, and the potential for a severe economic downturn, anyone with a Web-based business that depends on advertising has to be asking: Is this the beginning of the end? If the U.S., Canada and to some extent even Europe are in the depths of a recession (or possibly even worse), what does that mean for online ad spending? The answer could mean life or death for some startups.

This debate has been going on for almost a year now. Google’s stock price came under fire around the end of last year and the beginning of this year because of concern that the search giant might see a downturn in ad spending that would hit the bottom line. Has it? A little, but not a huge amount (although some say that could change). In fact, there are those who argue that search-related ad spending is likely to be the most durable even in a shaky economy — in part because businesses can get more bang from buying AdWords than a newspaper ad or TV spot.

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