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One-off moments in time

Compared with whimsical one-off moments in time captured on video, big media productions just don't seem to matter online. Take a quick scan at the top 100 most popular clips viewed on Google Video, and you'll note that a large majority are far from professionally produced. The No. 1 video, at this juncture, is a 13-second clip, titled "Girl caught cheating." Of all video sharing sites out there, one would think that Google's would be a place where branded productions could get attention. Yet without promotion on Google, CBS content apparently is getting lost in a sea of colorful photo thumbnails, seemingly far more popular if only because they ask little of our time. Consider another example.  The most recent Apple data shows that 30 million videos -- music videos as well as episodes of popular shows, like Desperate Housewives -- have been sold since October 2005, when Apple's store began to offer video. YouTube, the fast-growing video phenomenon, claims that 50 million videos are viewed each day on its site. Put another way, more than 2 million videos are viewed per hour on YouTube vs. 5,000 videos purchased per hour on iTunes, arguably the most successful distribution platform for digital content.
To be sure, statistics barely exist for video streaming and downloading. We rely on companies, like YouTube, to give us their internal numbers without really knowing what they're counting exactly. So, for now, we have to settle for video viewing stats that are decent at best, or entirely inaccurate at worst. The result: misguided conclusions.  For instance, MSN Video was the No. 1 video site ranked by unique visitors, followed by [email protected], YouTube and then Google Video. According to comScore, MSN Video had 14.9 million unique visitors in January 2006, or 5 times more than YouTube, with 2.7 million visitors. Yet over at Nielsen//NetRatings,
YouTube's audience figures were nearly twice as high, and MSN Video was doing worse. YouTube had 4.9 million unique visitors in January while MSN Video had 9.6 million, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. For those watching traffic data over the decade-long commercial life of the Internet, it's not a surprise that the numbers vary since the methodology at the research companies is different.The point remains that the imperfect data likely misstates the real activity of these self-produced, non-copyrighted videos.

While it's hard to be sure, I'd say there is a lot of overstating of true demand going on. That's because at least some of the activity at these video-sharing services can be attributed to spying (hundreds of rivals trying to find out just how video services are working), experimenting, pirating and double counting (the same video sent around and viewed on multiple sites or platforms). This is not the kind of activity one should extrapolate from; the Internet bust taught me that.

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