By Richard Menta 10/27/07
As I lie in bed on a late evening watching jazz great Clifford Brown on a 1956 episode of the Soupy Sales show it became evident to me that YouTube benefits from the iPod touch as much as the iPod touch benefits from YouTube.
It is with the iPod touch that I am wirelessly streaming video clips before I retire for the evening. This is something I would normally never do so late, because I have no desire to drag my laptop into bed with me nor do I enjoy sitting in my study in front of the PC half-drowsy. I also like my sleep too and am more likely to just roll over and snooze it up. But when I do desire a little post-midnight entertainment the iPod touch's ability to tap into YouTube's short clips proved to be a very convenient way to select a little late night programming.
Such use would not be compelling in any way unless YouTube had such compelling content. Content that some sources have worked deals with Google to allow and content that other copyright owners, like Viacom, want to remove permanently. Few post baby-boomers know who Soupy Sales is or even care that such old television clips exist on YouTube, but it is that site's greatest legacy.
But for the most part YouTube is chained to the PC. Some companies, including Apple, are attempting to free this limitation with a number of efforts to port YouTube clips to the home television. Yet these efforts, like Apple TV, seem a little less compelling to me on a practical level than what I experience now with the iPod touch. Maybe it's because I was able to watch our own iPod touch Unbox video from the local coffee house while waiting for my pharmacy to fill a prescription. The portability of the device combined with the brief run time of each video seem better mated to each other.
The fact that I use the combined iPod touch/YouTube pairing specifically to occupy myself during short interludes of downtime is very interesting, because frequently these are moments I either occupy myself in other ways or don't at all. This is important for YouTube, because it is hard for me to find time to scour its library for nuggets. The iPod touch and YouTube union has made it easier for me to view this content during those moments I do have free.
This is a habit I have actually gotten into and that is what is key here. Not everyone wants to purchase videos from iTunes and Apple is desperate for a healthy stream of content to supply for its video portables. File sharing aside, YouTube provides this content, much of it amaturish, but plenty of it vintage professional. I tend to be drawn to the efforts of heroes of old, whether Joe Dimaggio or Charlie Parker or Jack Benny. Content that has been withheld from circulation for decades, because there was no longer an audience big enough to monetize it under traditional distribution schemes. There is a small audience, like myself, who will watch it on YouTube as long as there is no cost to us. Advertising is the best way to profit here, but some content holders insist on a un-compelling pay-for play scenario and would rather see this content supressed than have it distributed any other way.
Unfortunately, Google is in the process of developing a filter for YouTube to satisfy this latter group of content holders. Soon, much of YouTube's best content, both vintage and contemporary, will disappear. Then how compelling will the iPod touch and YouTube mating be? My guess is that there will still be more than enough content to make it a draw, though it would be a damn shame if all of the show links I placed up above became dead by this time next year.
In the end, the deal between YouTube and Apple helps both companies significantly. The two complement each other that well. It brings a sizeable mobile audience to YouTube that will hopefully entice more content holders to deal than litigate. It also means Apple becomes more dominant in the mobile video domain, a fact that might have an unfortunate side effect. Due to concerns Apple might become TOO powerful it gives the major content suppliers like the big television networks and sports leagues another reason to pull their content away from YouTube.
Nothing is ever as easy as it should be I'm afraid. For you iPod touch owners, enjoy YouTube as long as it lasts in its present form.
Apple iPod Touch
The Creative Zen 16GB flash player is available on Amazon