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Videos that Put on the Map

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Videos that Put on the Map

Digital Life

Videos that Put on the Map

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The Internet and financial worlds are still gaga over Google last week paying $1.6 billion to acquire the video Web site YouTube.


YouTube's rise from indie Web site to the Internet's top TV channel happened so fast that only the most obsessive surfers have kept up with its entire story.

CHADWICK: So a few milestones may help put YouTube into context. Here is Slate contributor Paul Boutin with a primer.

PAUL BOUTIN: Launched in August of last year, it wasn't the first video site. But YouTube cut through the clutter by making it head-slappingly easy for non-techies to upload video, no harder than attaching a file to an e-mail message.

(Soundbite of video clip)

Mr. JON STEWART (The Daily Show): Your partisan - what do you call it - hacks.

BOUTIN: YouTube's slogan may be "broadcast yourself," but a huge component of the site's appeal comes from TV and movie fans who rebroadcast other people's clips.

(Soundbite of "Crossfire")

Mr. STEWART: If you want to compare your show to a comedy show, you're more than welcome to.

BOUTIN: Jon Stewart's October, 2005 stop-hurting-America plea on Crossfire became the shot heard, or rather seen, around the world. More viewers watched the clip online than saw it on CNN.

(Soundbite of TV show "Saturday Night Live")

Mr. ANDY SAMBERG (Comedian): (Rapping) Lazy Sunday, wake up in the late afternoon...

BOUTIN: In December, the site was flooded with bootlegs of the Saturday Night Live short Lazy Sunday.

(Soundbite of clip)

Mr. STEPHEN COLBERT (Comedian): Tonight it is my privilege to celebrate this president.

BOUTIN: And Stephen Colbert's over-the-top roasting of President Bush at the White House correspondent's dinner in April seemed to be written for YouTube, rather than for the room full of journalists and the president, who endured Colbert's act in nervous near-silence.

(Soundbite of clip)

Mr. COLBERT: The president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down.

BOUTIN: Reporters who were there said it wasn't funny, but on YouTube the next morning it was hilarious.

(Soundbite of clip)

Mr. COLBERT: Make, announce, type. Just put them through a spell check and go home.

BOUTIN: Far and away the most-watched clip on YouTube is Evolution of Dance, a six-minute comedy dance routine by Cleveland-based motivational speaker and comedian Judson Laipply that's pulled more than 35 million views since Laipply posted it in April.

(Soundbite of "Evolution of Dance")

BOUTIN: Watching the balding, cherubic Laipply flawlessly mime Elvis, the Village People and M.C. Hammer in rapid succession is funny and impressive, but is this really the best video online?

(Soundbite of YouTube video)

Unidentified Woman #1: I love all you (unintelligible) YouTubers, and I love you, YouTube.

BOUTIN: YouTube's audience size surpassed in May, and the site's ease of use has spawned a sort of citizen journalism. But it's not the muckraking, truth-outing investigative journalism promised by futurists. The site's hits are first-person memoirs like Telling it All, an autobiographical series by a British 70-something. His member name: geriatic1927.

(Soundbite of video)

GERIATRIC1927: Hello, YouTubers. Grandpa's back in his chair...

BOUTIN: His goal, when he began posting in August, was to, quote, bitch and grumble about life in general.

(Soundbite of YouTube video)

GERIATRIC1927: I am still being bothered by television people who want me to do things, and I have to tell them to - I was going to swear then. Oh, that would spoil my image, wouldn't it?

BOUTIN: But not every YouTube self-documentarian is real. In September, diligent YouTubers cracked the cover of actress Jessica Rose, who had begun posting over the summer as Bree, a supposed real-life teenager with the username lonelygirl15.

(Soundbite of video)

Ms. JESSICA ROSE (Actress): Hi. So I'm up here in my room again because I'm grounded.

BOUTIN: Since her outing, Rose has appeared on The Tonight Show. But once revealed as a fictional creation, her popularity on YouTube plunged.

(Soundbite of video)

Ms. ROSE: That's a juicer, for juicing things. Anyway...

(Soundbite of song "Hey" by the Pixies)

BOUTIN: With 100 million videos played every day, you'd think YouTube has no trouble attracting advertisers. But just a few months ago, CNET reported that ad experts were skeptical whether advertisers would buy placement on a site known for bloody fistfights, half-dressed teenagers gyrating in their bedrooms, or spectacular car and plane wrecks. Today, you can see a teaser for Diddy's next album.

(Soundbite of video)

P. DIDDY (Rapper): Let's play a game. Let's pretend for a second you don't know who I am and what I do. Let's just put it to the side...

BOUTIN: Give him credit. YouTube founders Steve Chen and Chad Hurley announced their acquisition by Google with their own home-grown clip.

(Soundbite of video)

Unidentified Man #4 (Co-founder, YouTube): The king of search and the king of video have gotten together. We're going to have it our way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BOUTIN: Fans have posted dozens of their own analyses, but the general take is that a Google/YouTube pairing doesn't have the Orwellian overtones of, say, GE buying NBC. Instead, it gives the Internet's largest TV station a relatively hip, permissive corporate parent, capable of paying its fast-growing bandwidth bills.

CHADWICK: Paul Boutin writes about technology for the online magazine Slate, and you can see the video examples mentioned in his story at our Web site, And stay with us, there's more to come on DAY TO DAY.

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