Mark Cuban is grabbing headlines -- again -- with his comment that only a "moron" would buy the video-sharing service YouTube, primarily because so much of its traffic is generated by folks who illegally post copyrighted materials.
Not that we think Mr. Cuban reads our little blog, but a couple of months ago we made much the same point about YouTube, and Web 2.0 publishers in general. Most people who actually have any experience in trying to make honest money -- and of course Cuban is a big-time dot-com success story -- understand that the first order of business is to own your content, or at least to have permission to make money from its use.
(If you love contracts, read Blogger's terms and services -- you'll see what we mean.)
In all fairness, YouTube is brokering licensing deals to redistribute music videos and the like. But we have a tough time imagining that what amounts to an ad-driven Expedia for music clip viewing wouldn't easily be undercut by the recording labels themselves or more sophisticated pay services, like iTunes.
We were also taken by Mr. Cuban's assertion that advertisers, where all that money ultimately comes from, probably aren't that interested in reaching people who at the moment are searching for weird personal video clips. (His comment is much funnier, of course.)
So does this mean "community content" is a boom concept headed for a bust? Only in cases like YouTube and the even more useless MySpace -- sites devoted only to creating massive volumes of traffic, no matter how pointless that traffic may be.
Oddly enough, the enterprise -- which can be painfully slow on the uptake with new tech -- is one of the most fertile grounds for meaningful "community"-based content experiences. Internal wikis and blogs are great channels for flat, open information sharing, and the model can easily be extended to qualified, engaged customers and partners who stay focused on a common, defined purpose.
You obviate any concerns over copyright or even extracting revenue from the community by a third-party method, such as advertising. The content itself is the real value.
In Mr. Cuban's parlance: Facebook, cool. YouTube, moronic.