Taylor Swift, Kanye West and the Primitive State of Capitalizing on Viral Video

Last Updated Sep 14, 2009 10:13 AM EDT

No. The embedded clip above isn't of Kanye West engaging in one of the most noteworthy public disses ever, which happened last night at MTV's unfailingly controversial Video Music Awards. That clip shows West taking the mike from female video award winner Taylor Swift, and proclaiming that Beyonce, actually, had done one of the best videos ever. Swift is stunned into silence, as the crowd gives West a Bronx cheer. It's the kind of moment that sends you running to YouTube the second you hear about it, in this case, only to be disappointed.

As Peter Kafka points out, where MTV is concerned, the absence of the official clip on YouTube is s due, specifically, to a lawsuit between Viacom and YouTube over copyrights, but that aside, it's still a common experience to find only unauthorized grainy clips of viral video phenomenon on YouTube, with the benefits only existing in the psychic reward unauthorized posters get from repeated viewings of the version of the clip that they posted. What a dopey way for media companies to handle online video.

So, while the Internets are a-buzz about this clip, what do you find in terms of a monetization model on YouTube for it? The clip above, which sums it up when it comes to the primitive art of capitalizing on viral video. It, of course, wasn't even from MTV, but from the Associated Press, and it features a pre-roll ad before the video plays. (I'm assuming that it's a revenue split between AP and YouTube.) But the video isn't even of the moment when West took a swipe at Swift. It's of the follow-up, when Beyonce, upon winning an award herself, welcomes Swift back up on stage to have her "moment."

Talk about massive disconnects -- here we have a media company that's not MTV making money off of part of this year's big MTV scandal, but it's not even a clip of the scandal itself!

The clip of the diss is available from MTV, but only on its site. (When I went there this morning, it was being monetized by a Sonic Burger ad.) It's basically good that MTV has made good quality clips of the video available, but here's the thing: YouTube has become the default place consumers go when the viral tsunami hits, and as a media company, it's where you gotta be, with your monetization strategy firmly in place.

Just think of what MTV could have done in terms of creating what you might call a Video Music Awards after-market: whether the network knew it was going to have lightning in a bottle with the West/Swift fracas or not, it's pretty obvious that during the morning after, millions of people would be watching snippets of the show; maybe over time, some of the clips would have an even bigger audience than the show had when it aired. MTV could have had a channel on YouTube, sold in advertisers, and started to really capitalize on its content in ways it never could have a few years ago. What a missed opportunity. In fact, even on MTV's own site, there's nothing out-of-the-box going on in terms of making money off of the VMAs. A Sonic Burger ad? Feh!