NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Remember when actor Crispin Glover went nutso on late-night television and came inches short of karate-kicking David Letterman in the jaw? Or that famous roast of insult comedian Don Rickles on the Dean Martin Show back in the ‘70s? If you happened to miss either of those crucial moments in pop cultural history, fear not. They live today on the Web site YouTube.
In just six-months time, YouTube has boomed from a startup viral video site to a Web phenomenon - a virtual library of cultural highlights and amateur video clips uploaded by anybody with a digital camcorder and some time to burn, 50,000 of them a day at last word.
Visitors watch 50 million clips per day. Not bad for a company with 30 employees and an office over a pizza parlor. In certain respects, YouTube does for video what Napster did for audio, and some people predict, it's only a matter of time before, like Napster, it gets shut down.
And, despite its enormous popularity, it remains to be seen how YouTube is going to make money. Right now, the site is propped up almost entirely by venture capitalists. YouTube founders Steve Chen and Chad Hurley say they hope that, eventually, advertising will pay the freight.
Later in the program, Alan Schwarz explains the mysteries and absurdities of major league baseball's amateur draft which started today, and we remember singer Billy Preston. But first, YouTube.
If you're a fan, call and tell us why. If you're a comedian, musician, filmmaker or artist, is YouTube free publicity or a copyright infringement? And we'd also like to hear from investors. Are you afraid of another Internet bubble?
Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. E-mail is who's with us from NPR studio in San Francisco. Nice to have you on the program today.
Mr. THOMAS GOETZ (Deputy Editor, Wired): Happy to be here.
CONAN: And for those of us who don't know or, in my case, didn't know till yesterday, how does YouTube work?
Mr. GOETZ: Well, so YouTube is all built on the basis of user-generated content. It is - you, in your intro, you had a nice description of television. It used to be if you aren't there at the exact time when something happened, you miss it.
CONAN: Mm hmm.
Mr. GOETZ: It was all top-down broadcasting. The networks, the channels dictate when you see what. What YouTube reflects is the democratization of content, of video content. So it's whatever you want to watch, whenever you want to watch, and it's produced all by the users. So it's a kind of cacophony and a mess, but it's the new future of video.
CONAN: Well, you say produced by the users. In some respects, those are people who take a clip off of David Letterman and that's their content, and then they upload it to YouTube.
Mr. GOETZ: Well, that's certainly part of it. I mean, you know, right now YouTube's rules allow - it's all based on the user saying that there's, that they own the copyright.
CONAN: Mm hmm.
Mr. GOETZ: And so it's up to the copyright owners to police YouTube and notify the company if there's anything that's, that they own or they want off. And then YouTube will summarily take it off. That's how Lazy Sunday, the Saturday Night Live clip, that kind of shot YouTube to kind of a massive audience right off the bat, right after they official launched in December.
NBC let it sit on there. In fact, there's some speculation that people in the marketing department of NBC put it on there. A few weeks later, the lawyers at NBC went to YouTube and said take it off.
CONAN: Mm hmm.
Mr. GOETZ: So the copyright issues are definitely there, but that's only part of what YouTube is all about. It's also this huge, mass audience of, well, they're not just watchers, they're also creators. And they're making the content there from, you know, stupid little clips of their dog barking or wearing a funny dress to, actually, almost professional quality news or entertainment productions.
CONAN: And you suggested that Lazy Sunday segment from Saturday Night Live, one of their advertisements, I guess, or fake advertisements, but there were - the marketing department wanted it. The legal department didn't. There was another example of a clip produced by a company in Britain to promote The Simpsons. They used live actors to do that famous opening segment of The Simpsons.
Mr. GOETZ: Right.
CONAN: And they put it up deliberately to create buzz, and it worked.
Mr. GOETZ: Yeah, no. It's all, you know, it's viral media, and it's a great way, if you have something that catches people's attention, it's a great way to just catapult yourself into kind of massive audience and popularity. On the other hand, there are 50,000 video clips being uploaded onto YouTube a day, and, you know, a tiny, tiny fraction of those are actually watched by any more than kind of the guy's friends and family. So, you know, it's all kind of a open field for the cream rising to the top.
CONAN: Mm hmm. We'd like listeners involved in the conversation, of course. If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk@NPR.org, and we'll begin with Juliana(ph), Juliana calling from Portland.
JULIANA (Caller): Hi, I'm a musician and an investor. I mean, if you're gonna be a musician, you have to make money as well, sometimes. And I'd like to just comment that viral media is excellent for artists in so many different ways, as well as for investors, and so I'm a huge proponent of this. And I just wanted to say great job. I hope it goes well.
CONAN: All right, Juliana, is any of your music on YouTube?
JULIANA: No, but, you know, I'm glad to learn about it, and it probably will be very soon now.
CONAN: Okay, good luck to you.
JULIANA: Thank you.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Is the copyright infringement, I mean - is there, in fact, an analogy to Napster? I know that some people have written, you know, the analogy is really this is all too good to be true like Napster was, and they're gonna take it away, somehow.
Mr. GOETZ: Well, it's a very, you know, it's a very easy analogy, because, like Napster, it's individuals putting the content up onto the network. There's a very big difference, though, and that's the position of the copyright owners themselves. Where with Napster, it was very confrontational, and the record labels were immediately on the defensive, and, you know, the record labels were actually trying to outlaw the MP3 format itself, so they were absolutely antagonistic to the technology there.
The difference with YouTube, and actually the online video phenomenon in general, is that the TV broadcasters, the movie studios are actively trying to find a way to exploit this technology, and so you have, you know, eTelevision and MTV have made deals with YouTube to put their content on there and they have them shared. You have movie studios making deals with YouTube to get their trailers hosted, so it's a completely different perspective and different approach that the content owners are taking, so I think the Napster analogy only goes so far.
CONAN: And one distinction, as I understand it, YouTube has inserted for almost all users, a 10-minute rule so that you can't just upload the latest episode of Lost or something, I guess in the hopes if you watch it three or four times, you might be able to figure it out.
Mr. GOETZ: Right, well, that's interesting. So it's a 10-minute limit, but that reflects two things. One, it reflects their attempt to kind of limit copyright infringement, but it also reflects the very different nature of online video, because the audience for television - traditional television, is, you know, 30-minute sitcoms, 60-minute dramas. That's the classic structure that we're used to.
Online video is a very different beast. It is short clips. It's all about - the average clip on YouTube is only three minutes long, and that's the kind of attention span and the appetite that we have when we go online is for these quick, short bursts of entertainment. And that kind of changes the very nature of what is being produced and what's being put on there.
CONAN: You know, it almost sounds suspiciously like this is the medium for cell phones, to watch this stuff, when - a short attention span theater.
Mr. GOETZ: Absolutely, and it's funny, YouTube just announced a, in the last few weeks, it's now - they've allowed people to upload video content from their cell phones. So you could be on the street, see something cool, take it with your - you know, a lot of phones…
CONAN: Mm hmm.
Mr. GOETZ: …now have cameras that have video capability. You can get a little clip and upload it onto YouTube from your phone. So you never have to go to the computer.
CONAN: A recent story in the Alternative Weekly, the Boston Phoenix pondered the popularity of YouTube. And joining us now is Mike Miliard, a staff writer for the Phoenix who wrote that piece. He's with us from member station WBUR in Boston. Nice of you to join us today.
Mike, are you there? Are you there? Now I hear you.
Mr. MIKE MILIARD (Staff Writer, Boston Phoenix): It's great to be here.
CONAN: Okay, there you go. We finally pushed the right button. I apologize for that. Now, in part, your story was a confessional about your own obsession with YouTube. Why do you like it so much?
Mr. MILIARD: Well, I got to say, when I first found it, about eight or nine months ago, I couldn't believe it. It was - I was really kind of like a kid in a candy store. I consider myself somewhat of a pop culture junkie. And I just really love all the great old things that you can find. You know, like you said, clips from Letterman.
CONAN: Mm hmm.
Mr. MILIARD: Chris Elliot's Man Under the Stairs, or, you know, these - Conan O'Brien did a TV show pilot back in the early 90s and only one episode was ever made, and that's on YouTube. And it was terrific.
CONAN: And so these are the - this is the place where these things live on in -otherwise you'd have to go to what, the Museum of Television and Radio, and, you know, fill out a form. And this way, you just sit home and do it.
Mr. MILIARD: Right. And you can do it just right online. In the old days, you know, in the old days of the late ‘90s and early 2000s, you would have to go onto file-sharing networks and dig around for this stuff. But now, it's right there online with a quick search, and, you know, hit of return, you can find a lot of what you're looking for.
CONAN: And you also raised the specter of, you know, somehow this is all too good to be true.
Mr. MILIARD: Well, of course, that's always the fear when you see something like this. And although there are media, you know, companies and content producers who are looking for ways to leverage this and use it as free publicity, there are others who are scared. And like the Lazy Sunday was a perfect phenomenon.
CONAN: Mm hmm.
Mr. MILIARD: NBC had them take down the clip as soon as they found out that it was up there. A lot of people think that that's a mistake, because they were just, you know, negating whatever free publicity they could've gotten. But you have to wonder if sooner of later there'll be a critical mass of content producers who find this more threatening than any good.
CONAN: Let's talk with Rudy, Rudy calling us from Wenatchee in Washington.
RUDY (Caller): Hi. Yeah, I love YouTube. The kids love YouTube. All the culture that I lost in the 80s, the videos that I never saw, Depeche Mode videos that I never saw…
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RUDY: I totally watch them now. And the kids have found a new interest in Michael Jackson.
RUDY: Yeah, totally. There's things that they haven't seen and things that I haven't seen and it's all right there, and it's just - you do a quick search and it's better than Google Video.
CONAN: All right, I hadn't heard of - thought of Depeche Mode in quite some time, and well, I'm not sure that I wanted to, but anyway, Rudy, thanks very much for the call.
All right, we're talking today about YouTube. That's spelled Y-O-U-T-U-B-E. It's a Web site: www.youtube.com. We're talking with Thomas Goetz, a deputy editor of Wired magazine and with Mike Miliard, a staff writer for the Boston Phoenix. If you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call: 800-989-8255, that's 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is email@example.com. And well, if the copyright problem does not bring down YouTube - and it may not - there are problems, maybe, with its funding plan, its business plan. We'll talk about that after we get back from the break.
I'm Neal Conan. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.
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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
The Web site Youtube.com has grown from zero to around 50 million views every day. It's now the hottest site for online video. But YouTube has not managed to turn popularity into profits, at least not yet. And there are questions about copyright issues.
We're talking today about the phenomenon of YouTube and if it will last. Our guests are Thomas Goetz, a deputy editor of Wired magazine, and Mike Miliard, staff writer for the Boston Phoenix. If you'd like to join the conversation, the number is 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, Thomas Goetz, one of the reasons for its success has been the ease of use. It's very easy to download these videos and watch them. It's very fast and it's - as I understand it - it's easy to upload, too.
Mr. GOETZ: Yeah. They really nailed the technology model. They - it's incredibly easy to upload videos, unlike with Google Video, which you have to kind of register and do a kind of several steps to getting your video on there. It's really fast and easy to get something up onto YouTube. And it's also incredibly fast to watch stuff on video - watch on YouTube. You don't have to go through a separate player like Real Media or Windows Media.
CONAN: Mm hmm.
Mr. GOETZ: So it's just a really good interface. It's important to remember, though, that - you know, we talked about the Napster comparison and the shakeout - that YouTube is just part of this much bigger context of online video that's exploding. I mean, there's iTunes doing video, there's Google Video, there's stuff like Blinks TV. And, you know, even though Napster was put out of business, file sharing is still alive and well. It's been kind of made respectable via iTunes. And I'm sure if - even if YouTube goes away, and I think it's far from sure that it would…
CONAN: Mm hmm.
Mr. GOETZ: …this online video phenomenon is very much going to be the way we watch video from now on.
CONAN: Mike Miliard, as Tom Goetz was just saying, Napster, in a way, begat iTunes, and that worked out into a pretty reasonable business plan. Does YouTube have a reasonable business plan of yet?
Mr. MILIARD: Well, it is tough to say. They've certainly got venture capital funding and they've got people interested in what they do, because you can't ignore something like this. They're having, you know, 40 or 50 million people, 40 or 50 million videos being watched every day by about six million people, and that's a lot of eyeballs. And that's a lot of - you know, there's a really a good way to leverage this. Now, how exactly that translates into dollars and cents is another issue, of course. But it's - a phenomenon like this is just a very, you know, important and interesting thing to consider.
CONAN: It's very powerful. Let's get another caller on the line. Jessie(ph), Jessie calling from Boulder, Colorado.
JESSIE (Caller): Hello, I'm an undergrad at University of Colorado, and me and all my friends use YouTube quite a bit to both see media and share stuff. For instance, I just got an e-mail from one of my friends this morning sharing a comedian skit. And it's really been great to help all of us share media and enjoy ourselves. And it's so much better than Google Video or iTunes video. For me, at least.
CONAN: Yeah, Mike Miliard, one of the advantages, as Jessie suggests, is you can take a clip from YouTube, and then put it on, you know, your blog.
Mr. MILIARD: Exactly, that was just another stroke of genius on their part in making it such an easy thing to use. It's easy to watch, it's easy to upload, and it's easy to share. You can put it on your blog, you can put it on online message boards. It's - they put the code right there for you to insert it. And it's easy as pie.
CONAN: And can you go on the site, in fact, organize your own little net group on YouTube, too?
Mr. MILIARD: Yeah, actually, that's something they just recently introduced. It's kind of like each person has his own channel. You know, not in the traditional sense, but each person has sort of - is able to have an aggregation of their own content or clips that they've uploaded. And that's yet another way that the community is formed on the site.
CONAN: Jessie, I just tried this yesterday for the first time, and I was astounded how easy it was.
JESSIE: Yeah, it's very easy. I originally found it through Blingbling.net when they were sharing some of the NBC clips that got pulled off.
CONAN: Mm hmm.
JESSIE: Since then, me and all my friends have been using it quite a bit. We may be somewhat geeky, but it's pretty big phenomenon among the college-aged group.
CONAN: All right, thanks very much for the call.
JESSIE: Thank you.
CONAN: Let's go now to Annie, Annie calling from Santa Clara in California.
ANNIE (Caller): Hi, yes, I guess my question is more of a concern. With 50,000 people viewing this daily, which is fabulous, but opportunities that provide -I'd love my kids to see a clip of the first Gilligan's Island, but who - is there any regulation or any protection against child pornography being uploaded? Pornography in general?
ANNIE: Appropriate things that people choose to videotape and have different values?
CONAN: Thomas Goetz?
Mr. GOETZ: Yeah, that's all screened. I mean they do - they rely on a flagging system, which is also kind of the community - putting the community to work. It's a remarkable thing. YouTube actually only has 32 employees, but the users police the site and they flag things that are have nudity, or are in any way objectionable. And then they have a staff that kind of monitors that and screens it secondarily. So it's a pretty - it works very well.
ANNIE: Really? And so how many would you say (unintelligible) who add their own?
CONAN: I'm sorry, couldn't hear that, Annie. Your phone was breaking up.
ANNIE: I'm sorry. How many were you saying are added a day by individuals?
CONAN: Fifty thousand, yeah.
Mr. GOETZ: Yeah.
CONAN: Did you - 50 thousand is the answer, Annie.
ANNIE: Okay and so sooner or later, they're hoping that the person who finds it is a responsible adult, rather than a 12-year-old.
CONAN: Well, again, the site, some 12-year-olds are reasonably responsible, too, but the site is being policed is I think what the answer is.
Mr. GOETZ: And I think the challenge isn't so much the content being objectionable or not. It's really just what to do with all this material. And Mike mentioned the channels that YouTube is offering to set up. And that is one attempt that the company's making to help people filter the content.
And that's really the next big challenge throughout the online video universe and with YouTube, in particular, is how do you get people - right now it's kind of a cool new thing and people are discovering it. But once it's been around for a couple of years, people are going to have to be able to use it and kind of interact with it almost like you turn on the television and can just kind of get to see what you want to see. And that's a much bigger challenge.
ANNIE: Okay, thank you.
CONAN: Thank you for the call, Annie.
All right, here's an e-mail we got from Steve Peterson in Saint George, Utah.
"I find it interesting that media entities like E! and MTV are now posting their own content on YouTube in the same place that their viewers also post the content the viewers have created. Is this a sign that media companies are embracing the user-generated part of the current Web.2.0 craze? Is media companies reaching out to customers more and more for new ways to develop content?"
Mike Miliard, what do you think?
Mr. MILIARD: Well, I certainly think they'd be smart to. I think that more and more should, because, as Thomas has said, this really is emblematic of a real sea change, I think, in a way that people interact with media. And I really can only see it getting more and more democratized, and, in a way, decentralized as the years go on.
CONAN: Your company, as I understand it, the Boston Phoenix, is using YouTube.
Mr. MILIARD: Yeah, we use it sometimes when we have a story in the paper, and on our Web sites, we will have a little column on the right that links to supplemental materials, like videos that are on YouTube that help illustrate the point of the story.
CONAN: Mm hmm. Well, Mike Miliard, thanks very much for being with us today, appreciate it.
Mr. MILIARD: Thank you.
CONAN: Mike Miliard, a staff writer for the Boston Phoenix, with us today from the studios of member station WBUR in Boston.
And let's get Trip(ph) on the line, Trip calling from San Carlos in California.
TRIP (Caller): Hi, how are you?
CONAN: I'm good, thanks.
TRIP: I am a high school teacher of moviemaking. And my students have created movies that they have put on YouTube, and they would love to spend much of class just watching other movies on YouTube. And I think it's an incredibly curious and interesting phenomenon. And a lot of the questions that you're exploring don't have answers yet. And we'll see what happens.
My question is, particularly, where do - where's this going to go in terms of substantive entertainment? Is it only going to be juvenile stuff, or is there going to be drama, is there going to be something that's moving, or is it all comedy? In addition, and I'm talking about user-created content, not archival stuff.
CONAN: Yeah, or Thomas Goetz, if people are carrying those cell phone cameras around, are they going to be taking pictures of news?
Mr. GOETZ: Yeah, so it's definitely there's a lowest common denominator thing going on, on YouTube and the other video sites, where, you know, the things that get clicked are the guys who are, well, doing stuff you don't want to say over the radio.
Mr. GOETZ: But you have to remember that the real field of this is massive. And there's really good kind of enterprise video production going on. There's stuff like Rocket Boom, which is an online news show. And that's real news done in a very entertaining way. There are archives, video archives that are putting all of their stuff online, so you can get, you know, archives of World War II documentaries and all sorts of other content. So, it's…
TRIP: I'm sorry…
Mr. GOETZ: I was just going to say, you have to look for it, but it's out there.
TRIP: Yeah, but I guess what I'm asking you - we're seeing an evolution of user created content with the ease of use and access to digital cameras and editing, but are we seeing much - I mean, there are other - I haven't seen anything on YouTube, and granted, I haven't looked very hard, but is there stuff with more artistic value than comedy?
Not to demean comedy at all, but is there more user created stuff that's going to be more artistic, more substantive? Or are we seeing entertainment in general sort of go the low road?
Mr. GOETZ: No, I don't think so. I mean, you know, absolutely, this is what happens when the means of production get democratized. You have - everybody is able to create something, so you see a lot of kind of bad stuff, and then a smaller amount of good stuff. That's just the way the world works. We don't have the filters like TV networks and whatnot mandating production values, etc. But, you know, check out machinima.com, it's m-a-c-h-i-n-i-m-a. Machinima is an evolving art form that's basically film using video game engines.
And it's kind of hard to explain, but basically they're people taking video games, hacking them into little short films, and it's an incredibly vibrant and rich art form that's emerging. And that's basically viral video, and that's out there.
CONAN: Trip, thanks very much for the call.
TRIP: You're welcome.
CONAN: By the way, if you'd like to see some of the clips we've been talking about, the Star Trek Cribs, the parody of The Shining, the Don Rickles Roast from The Dean Martin Show back in the ‘70s, you can go to our Web site at npr.org and see a little taste of YouTube as well.
As we touched on earlier, there's still some questions about how and if sites like YouTube are going to make money. To tell us more about that, joining us now is Paul Kedrosky, who writes the Infectious Greed blog. He's also a partner at Venture West, a venture capital firm in Canada. He's with us today from our member station in San Diego, KPBS. Nice to have you with us.
Mr. PAUL KEDROSKY (Partner, Venture West; Author of Infectious Greed Blog): Hey, Neal.
CONAN: Is YouTube a solid investment?
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Mr. KEDROSKY: Solid for whom? You know, YouTube's a really interesting company for all the reasons you folks have been talking about. It's, you know, it's big, it's fast growing, it's gotten a lot of attention, but it's also a very, very expensive business to operate.
One of the perversities of doing media over the web, of streaming all of these little mini-video snippets, is that unlike television - where every incremental viewer doesn't cost you any more money - every incremental viewer who watches a video snippet over YouTube actually does cost you money, because it requires bandwidth.
So, the strange thing in YouTube's business that makes it a very difficult business in many ways to figure out exactly how you're going to pay for this stuff is bandwidth cost, you know. Streaming all those bits out to all those people watching people whack themselves on the side of the head with a board, or whatever they're doing, is expensive.
You know, estimates vary, but, you know, certainly a million dollars a month wouldn't be far off what it's likely costing YouTube today to stream something on the order of 200 terabytes a day of traffic, where the Library of Congress, I think, is something like 20 terabytes. So you're sending out a lot of bits and bits cost money, and you've got to pay for those bits somehow.
CONAN: And I logged on yesterday, did not see any ads.
Mr. KEDROSKY: There is a striking absence of ads, for a bunch of different reasons, you know. And they have, in part, to do with YouTube trying very hard to get enough people on the site to begin with, and not having ads get in the way of that experience.
But then there's a deeper problem, which is as an advertiser, how much control would you like to have over where your ad runs and how fine grained it runs? Do you want it to run in advance of a video of, you know, some skateboarder falling on his head? Or would you want to have, you know, much more careful control where it only runs before ads where skateboarders don't fall on their heads?
And so, as soon as you start introducing this idea that you have to have much more control over where an ad runs, the whole business of running YouTube gets, you know, much more complicated and more expensive. So, where in principal, ads might sound like a wonderful idea, in practice - from an advertiser's point of view - this is fraught with all sorts of problems.
Not least of which is also the copyright issue, where you obviously don't want your ads running in front of an SNL skit that actually isn't YouTube's at all.
CONAN: We're talking about video on the Web in general, and YouTube in particular. That's y-o-u-t-u-b-e. And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
So far, there have been venture capitalists willing to pay the money to not only found YouTube, but to make it grow so phenomenally fast.
Mr. KEDROSKY: Yeah, there are some folks at a group in the Bay Area called Sequoia Capital - who are a well-known venture firm - who've put in, over the course of two financing rounds, a little over 11 million dollars into the company. Which is, you know, in so-called Web 2.0 terms or technology terms these days, is still a pretty darn hefty investment.
But the flip side of this, of course, is that when you're spending a million dollars a month on bandwidth, and there's not a lot of money coming in the door in other form, you can also spend 11 and a half million dollars pretty fast. So, you know, it's kind of like watching, you know, a fairly entertaining, but possibly very exciting car crash as you sort of race to the wall ever faster burning cash very quickly, and watching as the bank balance goes down.
So, you know, working out the calculus of getting paid - which almost certainly has to be advertising, which is fraught with all the difficulties I've described - is the whole story here.
CONAN: And I want to bring Thomas Goetz into this as well, but let me ask you, Paul Kedrosky. There is another business model, and that is to get bought by somebody.
Mr. KEDROSKY: For sure. I mean, this is the essence of the Web 2.0 game, is that it's - a friend of mine describes it as, it's friends selling companies to friends. And I think there's a lot of people who expect, not unrealistically, that the real business model for YouTube is that you get enough momentum and video content and other things pulled together in a single place, and enough eyeballs - and, oh, how I hate that word - watching those things that somebody somewhere will pay something for it. That's a gigantic and titanic gamble, and it led to a lot of silly behavior in the late 1990s. So it's a little bit regrettable we're seeing some of that again. So, I certainly hope that's not what people are pulling for here.
CONAN: Thomas Goetz?
Mr. GOETZ: Yeah, well it's very much - I mean, you know, to talk of a bubble this time around. The big difference is last time it was a stock market bubble, and this time it's not. There's almost no IPO's going out the door right now. And so it's a lot of venture capitalists, and people like Paul who have an inside kind of perspective can see the machinations going on and see whether these companies are going to live or die.
For most people, for the listeners, you know, they have the opportunity to play with some cool Web sites. Whether YouTube's around in a few months or it's something else, I - again, I don't think that experience is going to go away.
CONAN: And the phenomenon of drawing that many - and we'll use that unfortunate word eyeballs - suggests that somebody's going to figure this out somehow.
Mr. GOETZ: Yeah, absolutely.
Mr. KEDROSKY: Yeah. I think so. But I just think, you know, we watched this game play out once before in the late ‘90s, where we said someone will figure this out somehow, and well, nobody did figure it out somehow. The only is the same answer as then. It's largely advertising.
And YouTube, I think, is going to come out with some creative ideas for trying to bundle ads with the videos. But nevertheless, there are some serious issues with bundling ads to content that you cannot control.
CONAN: All right. Guys, stay with us. We have to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation. And again, if you'd like to joins us, 800-989-8255. E-mail us: email@example.com. Our guests are Thomas Goetz, deputy editor of Wired magazine and Paul Kedrosky, who writes the Infectious Greed blog, and he's a partner of Ventures West, a venture capital firm in Canada. I'm Neal Conan. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Here are the headlines from some of the stories we're following here today at NPR News. Fifteen members of a terrorist ring accused of plotting bombings in a major Canadian city appeared in court today near Toronto. The suspects, all Muslims, were arrested over the weekend in Canada's largest counter-terrorism operation.
And Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has extended a deadline for agreement on a new Palestinian political platform. Abbas wants the Islamist group Hamas, which now controls the government, to accept a plan for a two state solution to the conflict with Israel, implicitly recognizing Israel's right to exist. Details on those stories coming up later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
Tomorrow at this on TALK OF THE NATION, when Amish children turn 16, the rules change. They're encouraged to experiment and explore, the idea being that teens will make an informed decision to join the church after tasting the world. A new book explores this ritual called Rumspringa. And we'll talk with its author tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION.
In a few minutes, decoding Major League Baseball's amateur draft, plus news that singer Billy Preston has died. We'll remember him and some of his music. But first, the popularity and the future of YouTube.com. Our guests are Thomas Goetz, deputy editor of Wired magazine, and Paul Kedrosky - a partner at Ventures West, a venture capital firm and writer of the Infectious Greed blog.
And now let's get a caller on the line. This is Varoon(ph). Varoon calling us from San Jose.
VAROON (Caller): Hi, my question is more on the copyright lines. Basically, I do understand if somebody's producing a TV show, they want to make money, and a reasonable amount of money. But if you take the same concept in the pharmaceutical industry, what happens there is that, okay, a drug is made, and there is a patent on that so nobody can copy it. But after some time, it's released to the general public so that people can make generic drugs. So, similarly, why can't we work on something on these lines so that these TV shows can legally be posted on these kinds of Web sites and everyone can share it?
CONAN: Mm-hmm. Thomas Goetz, surely, nobody's making any money anymore on the Dean Martin Show.
Mr. GOETZ: Well, that's a good point, but you also have all of these content owners who are trying to exploit their backlists, their back catalogs. And, you know, the analogy between patents and copyrights is kind of complicated. But copyrights do have a window that expires. Unfortunately, it's something like the lifetime of the creator plus 50 years, so it's pretty moot. But having some mechanism to, you know, create a more free library is people like Creative Commons are working on that everyday.
CONAN: Mm hmm. And let me ask you, Paul Kedrosky. Are people worried about this copyright issue?
Mr. KEDROSKY: Well, do you mean in terms of whether or not the contents stored at YouTube violates copyright? From that standpoint, for sure.
CONAN: Indeed. And whether a hammer is going to drop on them.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. KEDROSKY: Well, you know, I mean, certainly - a reasonable person would expect the party can't go on for too much longer. Although these things have a tendency to last longer than any of us think. I mean, I just did a quick search moments ago for the three letters SNL, which is many people's favorite short form for Saturday Night Live. And despite the infamous or famous Lazy Sunday video having disappeared, there are lots of other Saturday Night Live clips that are still happily residing up on YouTube.
And, I mean, you know, you can only go so far with respect to sort of, you know, playing this game. Either you're policing this stuff and the copyrighted content comes off, or you're not. But if play too fast and loose for too long, someone eventually is going to become cross. They will come and do bad things to you.
CONAN: Hmm. Varoon…
VAROON: If I go to this Web site and download a TV show, am I in violation of any law?
Mr. KEDROSKY: You're not actually downloading it, you're streaming it. So, no, you're not.
VAROON: All right, thank you.
CONAN: Varoon, thanks very much for the call. And let's see if we can get Matt on the line. Matt calling from Tucson, Arizona.
MATT (Caller): Hi.
MATT: Thanks for taking my call.
MATT: I have a related issue about copyrights. I'm an internet content producer, and we actually sell our content for cash money. The one problem I have or the one thing I don't understand is that there's kind of an ideology of criminality that's formed up around the Internet that people think that internet content is free. I have customers calling me and being angry at me because I'm not giving away free stuff.
MATT: Now, my question and kind of my comment is what is being done by YouTube to educate people? When you say people are streaming these, as opposed to downloading them, it doesn't matter. Is there a respect for the law? Or, what is being done besides harsh penalties to inform people that these are people's livelihoods, that people make money off of them. And I'd just like a little perspective on, you know, kind of the idea of what is free on the Internet and what we should or should not pay for. And I'll take my comments off the line.
CONAN: Yeah. That's a good question, Matt. Tom Goetz?
Mr. GOETZ: Well, one of the founding precepts of Wired has always been information wants to be free. And that doesn't mean that nobody has rights to exploit their creations, but rather that digital technologies have made it very possible for all of us to take advantage of other people's creations and have made the actual creations far more powerful in that loop.
So something like, you know - again I'll point you to Creative Comments, which is an organization which is trying to negotiate copyright for the 21st Century, where, you know, in the face of digital technologies, in the face of people being able to share things so easily, how can we reach a new middle ground that doesn't presuppose that everything needs to be locked down; which is actually an impossibility these days.
CONAN: Yeah. Paul Kedrosky?
Mr. KEDROSKY: I'm kind of with the caller in that I think there is a culture -I don't want to say necessarily a culture of criminality - but I think too many people are too coy about this issue, and they end up falling back on this defense and saying whatever technology makes possible must be okay. Or at least we need to sort of respond as if technology is the driving interest here.
And there are many, many copyright owners who have a legitimate interest in not having their content - and even that word is too euphemistic - having their product, having their creation, be spreads freely. And they should, you know, expect legitimately that YouTube and others would take an active interest in helping police it. And to this day, that's going on, but it's at nowhere near the level that you might expect as someone whose property is being spread around so freely.
Mr. GOETZ: But I have to say that something like Saturday Night Live, you know, nobody that that show was - many people who would consider it on a downward trend until Lazy Sunday made it cool again. And YouTube made that property, if you will, far more - worth much more, and it made it cool to watch Saturday Night Live; it made it hip. And I think, you know, you can't just say that locking it up is effective.
Mr. KEDROSKY: I think it's a dangerous metaphor, though. I think you're right, it helped make that SNL a little more hip again, but it's a little bit like saying, you know, I - you had something in your closet that no one was seeing in your house and I broke into your house and took it out; and now everyone's excited because they think you're cool and hip again. It doesn't apologize for the initial act, which was, in its nature, criminal.
Mr. GOETZ: Well, not if the NBC Marketing Department was the one putting it on there.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. KEDROSKY: Well, it's - right. Although that's the - I don't think that's been established.
CONAN: All right, we're going to have to end it there. But gentlemen, thank you very much.
We were talking with Paul Kedrosky, the last voice you heard; he's the writer of the Infectious Greed blog, and he was with us today from KPBS, our member station in San Diego. Thanks very much.
Mr. KEDROSKY: Sure. Thank you.
CONAN: And Thomas Goetz, who - Deputy Editor of Wired magazine, with us from NPR Studios in San Francisco, and thanks for your time, as well.
Mr. GOETZ: My pleasure.
CONAN: And when we come back, the baseball amateur draft.
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