Oprah did a show about YouTube yesterday. Ironically, I’m not sure many regular YouTube viewers and creators watched it. The show took the typical “mainstream media” angle of YouTube, and missed some of the more subtle but important aspects of online video:
- Community (there is an entire social fabric at the center of YouTube that has unwritten rules Oprah broke this week).
- Media’s reduced barriers to entry (Oprah spent a career becoming one of the most powerful people in entertainment, but now amateurs can find global audiences almost instantly with just a camera and computer).
- Changing patterns of media consumption (Oprah would have covered YouTube years ago if she was interested in the “new media” angle, so her timing suggests she’s starting to appreciate the widespread impact of online video).
Candidly, her show and YouTube homepage takeover felt to most of us like rich Aunt Oprah squeezing the cheek of her cute but helpless nephew Online Video.
Want proof? Her homepage video was punished with a 3 out of 5 rating, and the comments that were going to be “moderated” never appeared at all. My short critical vlog about her is now the second top-rated comedy of the day (after a condom commercial, but how do you top that). It isn’t that funny, but I think I tapped a nerve.
And when one of YouTube’s top partners, “What The Buck” (who I am convinced will go mainstream media imminently) appeared to “suck up” to Oprah, another popular YouTuber (Sxephil) did a bitingly funny video about it. Notice, Oprah, the difference between these two creators- setting, speech cadence, volume, packaging. Both of these are in the top 10 best-rated entertainment videos of the day. One wants to be a star and the other just wants to be hot with the chicks. Of course Mr. Pregnant loves Oprah. Just had to get that out there.
Let’s give Oprah an 7-part online-video makeover:
- Oprah- we wanted to see you in a more authentic atmosphere. Not talking loud and fast, and sitting before loads of television monitors. In your dressing room or house in a relaxed setting “being yourself.” Her debut video on YouTube was anything but that.
- Oh for goodness sakes, who puts this kind of language on their channel page? “Please note that, while we invite your comments, due to the number of comments received, only selected comments will be posted at the discretion of the channel manager.” Let’s try this, “Hi, and welcome to my channel. I hope you understand that I’ve been getting a lot of messages an comments this week, and will try to respond and approve as many as I can — good and bad!” It’s got to come in her voice, not the child of a PR person who married an attorney.
- The ten videos Oprah selected for her YouTube “editor’s picks” included four of her own. That’s like giving away toasters to her studio audience, then giving herself a toaster, a Weber grill, chocolate-dipped roses and a new jet. The rest (with an exception or two like this one) were videos that most of us have seen dozens of time. They’re literally online-video cliches.
- Oprah- you’ve learned a lot through your many controversies from the children to the ranchers. One thing tough about YouTube is that you’re a step closer to your fans and those that love to hate. It’s hard to moderate comments, but find an intern to do it for you. Let them through even when they’re negative- and respond to some of them. The camera talks back in this media, and it’s faster than the tabloids.
- Deglamorize your channel. You’ve got a commercial looking page with an airbrushed picture and a banner that looks like you paid someone $500 per hour to design (plus “out of pocket.”) Seriously- who are you trying to be? Renetto or WhattheBuck?
- Talk and listen to YouTube. I’m sure you spent time with the public relations people. Did you talk to any of YouTube’s community people? I’ll bet they were cringing when they saw this. Next time, ask them for some advice.
- We want to see Oprah with other YouTubers in non broadcast settings. Have a lunch with HappySlip and all will be forgiven.