In a move that’s been grinding away in the rumour mill for quite some time, YouTube has finally announced their acquisition of Next New Networks, a web video production company that is behind more than 25 popular web video properties distributed primarily through YouTube.
Next New Networks has played a major role backing independent producers such as Obama Girl, Auto Tune the News and The Key of Awesome, gaining an overwhelming 2 billion views and 6 million subscribers across all channels.
On their official blog, Next New Networks CEO and co-founder Fred Seibert posted details about the deal, saying that it will become a core component of YouTube Next.
“Our company will become a core component of YouTube Next, a new team that will focus on supercharging content creator development on YouTube, driving deeper expertise in partner audience development, and incubating new ideas that can be shared with the broader community.”
Although this wasn’t like any other acquisition announcement, YouTube also announced the launch of YouTube Next, which, alongside the promised content creator “supercharge”, will help award funds from the Partner Grants program and provide lessons in audience development. The intention here is to accelerate the time it takes to grow from lowly bedroom vlogger to a fully formed YouTube Partner with an audience in the thousands, or millions.
On their official blog, YouTube did their best to reassure the community, reminding them that this doesn’t change anything.
“At YouTube, we’re focused on building a great technology platform for creators, and so we leave the actual creation of great videos to the people who do it best: our partners. This new group and the addition of the Next New Networks team doesn’t change that. But being a great platform for creators also means helping our partners get the tools and guidance they need to develop higher quality videos and drive bigger audiences to their work.”
With Next, YouTube is functioning like a television network, working directly with producers and developing content. The trick will be monetizing said content. Their acquisition of a company called ‘next new networks’ is not only an ideal brand fit, but the name itself foreshadows where YouTube will end up. Watch out, YouTube is the next new network.
Many have concluded that YouTube is now a content company. I think YouTube Next is a close relative of the New Zealand Film Commission. We might not call the NZFC a ‘content company’, but like YouTube Next, it certainly is a ‘content catalyst’, providing financial assistance and nurturing the growth of a particular kind of content.
What is interesting though is that YouTube is ‘supercharging’ a new form of content that erodes the differences between professional and amateur, personal and professional. YouTube has certainly helped to pioneer content that blurs traditional distinctions, content that the almighty YouTube community has so rigorously defined, produced and helped evolve.
Maybe the community is too slow to bring up the kind of content creators that will eventually become a YouTube Partner. Maybe YouTube can do a better job of turning the next Joel Penna into Mystery Guitar Man or the next Justine Ezarik into iJustine. You could tell by the choice of words in their blog post that ‘acceleration’ is the dominant theme of their content strategy.
What this move suggests to me, above all else, is that YouTube is becoming more involved in our community. And that could be a good, or bad thing.