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Mark Cuban: YouTube Killing the Internet. Again.

Posted by The Marketing Intern on June 5, 2009

Will someone PLEASE take me seriously?!

"Will someone PLEASE take me seriously?!"

I’m kind of new to the marketing game, so there are certain situations when I can claim ignorance concerning the up-to-the-minute updates on complex corporate interactions and get away with it, at least for the time being. I’m not, however, new to the Internet game (as I’ve said before), so it was particularly embarassed when I had to look up Mark Cuban’s resume to figure out what the hell gave the Dallas Maverick’s owner the authority to be quoted on CNet. (Article by Ina Fried)

Well, I did some research, and it turns out that he is, in fact, qualified, having sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo! for a ridiculous sum of money, with which he purchased a basketball team. This was about a decade ago, in the Pets.com era of the Interwebs. Anyway, the point is that Cuban could be considered to be an authority on digital media, even though Yahoo! doesn’t use the video software that they bought from Cuban anymore.

He’s an authority, that is, right up until he says something dumb like the Internet is dead and boring. Never mind the fact that Cuban invested heavily in the Internet in its boring and overhyped adolescence, let’s consider the statement by itself. Cuban made the same statement almost two years ago, and at the time nothing in the world could have been more ridiculous. In August of 2007, MySpace was still a player in the game that Facebook was starting to run away with, Twitter was an idea, Google still hadn’t gone away, and YouTube was pretty much the coolest thing ever. The Internet seemed to be thriving. Social networking was becoming important not just as a status symbol, but as a business tool.

Today, maybe some of Cuban’s predictions are coming to bear: we’re still pretty much in the same position as we were when Cuban proclaimed, “The Internet is dead, long live the Internet!” YouTube is still king of video (though Hulu is, or was, making a run), Google is still the search king, Facebook is still the social networking king, and Twitter is becoming the mobile networking king. So maybe the Internet isn’t dead, but it certainly seems to be rather stagnant.

Cuban’s problem, as it happens, is with the “disappointing” proliferation of web video. When Google bought YouTube, the focus was on ubiquity, not monetization. From an end-user’s point of view, thank goodness that was the case. I hate the pre-roll and mid-roll TV-style interruptions forced upon me by Hulu (but more on that in another post).

Cuban says something insightful in his D7 interview, though: “Video for the Web has become a testing ground for mediums that actually have revenue.” This is probably true, and I’ll agree that the situation is rather disappointing. Web video, for example, is not television. Podcasts are not radio. Blogs are not newspapers. In each case the former is an Internet adaptation of the latter, and as such has a different audience with different expectations and different limitations. Marketers who use web video as an extension of television (or, I suppose, podcasters who use it as an extension of the radio) are missing the point of the platform entirely.

So when Mark Cuban says that the internet is dead and boring, what he means is that the tendencey for traditional media giants to use the internet as an extension of their medium of choice is cheapening the Internet and its capabilities. That seems reasonable to me. But what seems unreasonable is the idea that Mark Cuban is saying it. It’s easy to sit around and complain, but for a guy who admittedly isn’t investing, there’s really only so much you can say before it just sounds like whining. Seems to me that this guy has been whining for two years now.

So do something, Mr. Cuban. Create advertising standards. Find ways to offer up more bandwidth. Do something that Google or Microsoft or Apple aren’t doing. And when you write a blog post (sidenote: if  you’re reading this, Mr. Cuban, please edit your posts before publishing them — it’s hard enough to take you seriously as is) about what specifically needs to be done, or what you’re doing, or the organization you’ve created to change the things you’re complaining about, then maybe I’ll start listening.

Until then, good luck to you and the Mavs.

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