YouTube Culture: Networking and Networks

I’ve already discussed in previous posts (such this one and this one) why people share videos and content online. Yet this may have given the impression that sites such as YouTube are merely for hosting video, a static parade of content like a wall at an exhibition, whereas all the discussions happen at other sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

The most obvious networking going on is in comments sections which exist on every YouTube video (unless removed by the owner.) Although these sections are often just for making short comments on whether or not the commenter liked the video, they can also spark debates much like forum posts (since you can ‘reply’ to another commenter) or can be a way for creators and viewers/commenters to interact. Any popular YouTube video with a comments section will likely show a mix of interacting opinions.

But over the last few years of YouTube, another form of networking has grown up, both in a grassroots way between video creators getting together to create works, to a more commercial form, through YouTube networks. Some of these networks are the online extension of an established media company (Universal Music Group’s Vevo network is one) whereas such as other such as Maker Studios are online-only media companies, who sign popular or upcoming YouTubers almost in the same way that record labels sign bands. They will promote and advise YouTube channels, while taking a percentage of the money which the videos make. This quote from Erick Schofield sums up why the practice is good for YouTube.

“…each network is like a channel, and YouTube is the new cable system or MSO (multiple system operator). The ABCs and Food Networks are welcome on YouTube, but Networks is very much an attempt to grow native channels on the Web. If YouTube gives them enough support and makes it profitable enough for the Web-only networks, they in turn will be able to pay more for native Web shows and series, and one day the best talent might even skip TV altogether.”*

Of course, much like musicians desperately want (or used to want!) that all-important record contract, many YouTubers seem to be desperately seeking network partnership in the same way, even though popular videos will already receive revenue directly from YouTube through their own partner system. There are even videos on YouTube explaining the debate, such as this one.



*Schonfield E., “(Exclusive) YouTube’s New Strategy: Create a Network Of Networks” on Tech Crunch <> (Accessed 14th November 2012)