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The YouTubeification Of America

Oh, YouTube, you're like the little video-sharing Web site that could. And yes, we've been a little bit obsessed with you. But we're clearly not the only ones.

Even if you aren't one of those who charts every indication of a potential change in the media landscape (that would be us, people) after this weekend's New York Times, you probably know by now the meaning of "The YouTube Election". Yes, the publicized idiotic remark from a lawmaker has long been a part of the fine tradition of American politics, but for those like Sen. George Allen, his transgression hit YouTube and took off – far and fast.

Word spreading at the speed of YouTube is indeed not lost on advertisers, either. Smirnoff has seen the payoff with its advertisement (although you might not even notice it's an advertisement) for its newest beverage, which was designed specifically for YouTube viewing. So unique was this move in the world of advertising, The Wall Street Journal picked up on it with a prominent profile on the ad that had shown up in everyone's inbox.

Who else is noticing the usefulness of YouTubery? The news business. In the midst of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, everyone took note as some of the most interesting video from the Middle East could be found at none other than, well, YouKnow. More recently, ABC News' "Good Morning America" arranged a deal with the video-sharing outlet for a weekly segment on the broadcast, the "YouTube GMA Video of the Week," whence GMA will air "several well-trafficked videos" from the site. Writes Broadcasting & Cable, "The show is not paying YouTube for its video, but rather working with its owners for permission to run the clips."

Most industry watchers predict that it may not be long until someone does pay YouTube … a lot. With yesterday's news that Sony Pictures Entertainment bought Grouper, another video-sharing site, for $65 million, it appears only a matter of time before YouTube gets acquired – some speculate for as much as $2 billion. While YouTube itself "declined to discuss how much it would want or whether it was up for sale," BusinessWeek reports that if the price tag were that high, "the pool of buyers would likely shrink to the major media companies without a significant online video presence." Which means that "the
the very biggest of Big Media concerns" (i.e., those that own the broadcast news outlets) "may not be interested," according to analyst Robert Routh. According to Routh, writes BusinessWeek, "the Viacoms and Disneys of the world are unlikely contenders because, for that kind of money, they would be better off using their existing resources and digital presence to build their own sites."

So we may not yet see one of the Big Three picking up YouTube … perhaps they'll just start creating their own. CNN, it appears, has already done as much.