Google Tries to Silence YouTube Critics

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Google is doing a little image control this week, trying to swat away criticisms of YouTube, its wildly popular video site. Google is fighting back against questions about the site's finances, as well as attacks on the quality of videos available on the site.

In a post titled "YouTube Myth Busting" on the YouTube Biz Blog, Google spokesmen Chris Dale and Aaron Zamost tackle several YouTube "myths." They write: "Too often, stories dredge up issues about YouTube products, metrics, or the state of our business that we thought were settled a long time ago."

These PR folks are clearly following up on last week's earnings conference call, in which Google CFO Patrick Pichette said YouTube would be "very profitable" in the not-too-distant future. Questions abound, though, including the amount of money it must cost to run such a massive video-sharing site. The YouTube Biz Blog does not care for such concerns.

First of all, don't just call it a video sharing site, YouTube's Mythbusters said. They want you to know there's lots of premium content to be had -- even if a lot of it is old and you can't use the TV-friendly YouTube XL to watch them.

Don't try to guess how much YouTube costs to run, either. Dale and Zamost said YouTube's homemade infrastructure invalidates standard industry pricing, though they don't elaborate any further except to say that growth is good.

But what kind of growth? The YouTube blog insists that advertisers aren't shying away from the site, but the mythbusters conveniently dodge a major criticism: User-made videos are hard to monetize, and they're the heart and soul of the site even as premium content grows.

On a related note, Dale and Zamost dispute the claim that only 3 percent to 5 percent of the site is monetized, but they don't offer a better figure. In any case, they say, monetized views are more important than percentages, and those have tripled every year. But that doesn't get around the fact that the user-made portion of the site, which is significant, is funded by premium or otherwise ad-supported content.

We'll give YouTube one debunked myth hands-down, that the site's content is grainy and of poor quality. That just depends on what you're looking at, but there's nothing stopping anyone from uploading an HD clip.

Look, until YouTube actually does turn a profit, there's going to be criticism and questions, and Google has every right to address them. But I wouldn't call the latest effort "Mythbusting." Let's take it for what it really is: Spin.

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