YouTube and Facebook are changing the world with unprecedented dissemination of videos and photos.
By providing unfiltered access to undiscovered talent, YouTube has propelled numerous unknowns— singers, actors and comedians—into the limelight. Because of both sites’ popularity among young voters, they potentially could influence the election. Candidates realized this early on, advertising on YouTube and creating their own Facebook pages. CNN aired presidential debates with YouTube users’ questions, which were decidedly more personal and comical than the usual fare from reporters. And increasing numbers of young voters seem interested in the election, based on their opinions about candidates on YouTube and the number of hits on candidates’ Facebook pages.
Founded by CEOs in their 20s, both Facebook and YouTube have successfully captured the same sought-after demographic: the 73 million people born between 1977 and 1994 who never knew life without interactive media.
YouTube exposes users to would-be movie producers, as well as unknown singers, actors, comedians and bands. Receptionist Brooke Brodack posted short comedic videos on YouTube in 2005 that have attracted 35 million viewers. Less than a year later, she landed an 18-month contract with NBC’s Carson Daly Show.
“We want to be the destination that promotes entertainment,” YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley recently told reporters. “Now we’re creating a new way to reach audiences in an era where the traditional TV time slot doesn’t exist anymore.”
Hurley and former PayPal co-workers Jawed Karim and Steve Chen created the video-sharing site in 2005 while working out of a garage. YouTube allows users to upload, view and share original videos, news clips, TV and movie clips, amateur videoblogs and music videos.
YouTube founders realized the need for the site after trying to share videos from a dinner party. Acquired in 2006 by Google for a reported $1.65 billion, YouTube now includes 65.7 million videos, with billions of them viewed in a single month. Hurley’s advice to other entrepreneurs: “Launch your product or service before you have funding. See how people respond to it before you have a PowerPoint and business plan and go from there.”
Facebook, a social and business networking site, was founded in 2004 by then-Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg and some classmates working out of his dorm room. Facebook allows users to connect with others, share photos, links and videos and learn more about new acquaintances.
With estimated value of $1 billion, Facebook grew from a college students’ social networking site into one of the fastest-growing sites for social and business contacts. Users fi nd it a reliable way to keep track of acquaintances since there are no cell phone directories and people change jobs more often than in the past. “People already have their friends and business connections, so rather than building new connections, what we are doing is just mapping them out,” Zuckerberg says.
Some call Facebook “the new Google” because users can pose questions to their network of friends and family. The site is like a search engine that already knows your likes and dislikes. Users can create Facebook Polls, posing questions to a customized demographic. Facebook opens a new world of branding and connectivity with more than 40 billion page views a month. Every Facebook page can include content endorsing products and services. When people interact with a Facebook page, their actions are published to a news feed that friends may view the next time they log in. Facebook enables users to play games, organize events and invite others, and collaborate on projects—even if they’re on opposite sides of the country.
YouTube and Facebook have created new advertising media. YouTube has turned video blogging and sharing into more valued forms of advertising, and Facebook is raising the value of word-of-mouth advertising with its Facebook Beacon feature—essentially blasting your likes and dislikes out to your network of contacts.
Both Facebook and YouTube have their downsides. YouTube inevitably gets the good with the bad with offensive pictures and video content. Facebook, while connecting people, is a public Web site after all, and some users might not be as discreet as they should be in providing their personal information; college admissions officials, for instance, have been known to take peeks at applicants’ Facebook pages.
But overall, the applications for both sites seem limitless, and mostly positive. Says Zuckerberg, “We’re just trying to make it efficient for people to communicate, get information and share information.