Mining YouTube for Gold

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Wired's Davey Alba reports on Los Angeles-based Jukin Media, a company dedicated to finding and monetizing those silly videos none of us can get enough of. "Jukin’s main product is a library of short clips—each of them just a few minutes long—cleared for third-party use," the piece explains. "The current tally tops 20,000. When the company’s media partners see something they like, they pay a fee so they can post it on their own social media accounts, websites, blogs, television shows, or practically any digital medium."

With advertisers following viewers from television to social media, this business model has become very big very fast. "According to a study by market research outfit SMI," the article notes, "roughly $1 billion of advertisers’ dollars moved from TV to digital between October 2014 and June 2015. Another research firm, comScore, reported that 188.6 million Americans watched online videos in February—that’s greater than the population of Russia or Japan—and comScore only counts desktop views. And then there’s the 900 pound gorilla that is mobile. YouTube claims YouTube on the web and YouTube on mobile devices now reach more 18- to 49-year-olds than any cable network in the US. The average YouTube viewing session on mobile is now more than 40 minutes.

"Jukin makes its money licensing videos to others," it elaborates. "But it also pulls in cash by scouring YouTube and other sites for people who have reposted its videos. Using tools like the YouTube Content ID system—an automated system for identifying pirated copies on the site, including modified videos—workers identify copies of videos Jukin has licensed and issue takedown notices. Any ad revenue made by these copies is then redirected to Jukin."

The piece points to some lucrative relationships, such as Buzzfeed, and some obstacles, such as Facebook's policies that don't permit the Jukin model. The biggest question might be: Will people continue to love these little videos as much when more and moe of them become part of an enormous commercial enterprise?