From “Google It” to “YouTube It”

I can't recall the last time I watched a program on TVB. For a long period of time, I used to watch TVB news occasionally and check out its weather report when there was a typhoon. But now, I don’t even bother.

It might sound a bit cliche for someone considered a “digital guy” to say that. But to me, the fact is, it is only a matter of choices rather than a competition between traditional and new media.

Welcome to the era of choice, and I'm just talking about video content here. The amount of local or international content that we can choose from, whether it from my paid TV set-top box, Apple TV, YouTube, Vimeo, Apple Action News or Bloomberg iPad app, is enormous and is easily accessed anytime, anywhere, and most importantly, any screen.

Last week, I learned from local news (sorry, not TVB again but a free newspaper) that the new TVB talk show Sze U Tonight is being accused as a copycat from those famous US TV shows. My first reaction, instead of turning on my television or getting on the app myTV, was to “YouTube” it.

It was no surprise that I couldn't find any official content of Sze U Tonight on YouTube, not even a trailer. Instead, I found a couple of unofficial clips including one that was stolen from Apple Action News. The clip is also about ranting how this show as a copycat.

The TVB comedian Johnson Lee is notorious for his impersonations of other local celebrities. So I am not surprised that this time, he could impersonate Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel or anyone else simultaneously.

But I have no interest to argue how similar his impersonations were. I am more curious if the news about this TVB show did trigger Hong Kong audience who haven’t watched Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman and others, to go and “YouTube” the “original” content.

That triggered me to do some basic research on Google Trends a week after. It showed a spike on the demand of these US comedians from Hong Kong lately. Jimmy Fallon is on the top of the game. I couldn't reach the representatives of YouTube to reconfirm when writing this article. But from my educated guess, I believe it should be a correlation.

In fact, all of these US comedians have an official YouTube channel. You can watch most of the latest content from their official accounts. I used to watch Late Show with David Letterman on ATV International (yeah, ATV did have good content). Now I can watch the show’s highlights right on YouTube. At home, I can even stream the video to my big LED TV via Apple TV.

“Before you ask, Google it”. This is what we used to say. But I believe this is what we say now: “Before you ask, YouTube it”.

Over the past two months I have been moonlighting a music column for a local monthly magazine. In every issue, I interview one local musician and ask them how they learn music.

My first guest was Subyub Lee, a 23-year-old talented guitarist and singer-songwriter. I asked how he learned his virtuoso guitar techniques and if he was formally trained. He told me that basically he learned almost everything from YouTube.

Subyub inspired me the fact that for the YouTube generation, when they want to look for answers about anything, be it a specific skill, technique, knowledge, music, movie, show, or literally almost anything. They might skip the step to Google but go straight to YouTube to find out the answers. It is because the answers they prefer are in video format.

Welcome to the era of video-on-demand consumers. The results of the post-MTV second generation.

As we all know, Facebook is also driving aggressively on video content lately. And they will definitely become a competitive rival for YouTube.

In the light of this, many brands are prepared. What has seen there is a growing trend for Pages (brand, publisher, or hobbyist) uploading video directly to their Facebook account instead of posting a link from YouTube or other sources. But I have found very few are originally produced by the Pages’ owner. Shamefully, I have seen a majority of Facebook video content these days are stolen from other video sites.

I am a strong believer that the fundamental online behaviour is based on search, no matter it is a vertical channel or social network. No matter how big the number of shares or likes of these Facebook videos is, as most of them are still unsearchable, it can only become a temporary hit. For a same piece of video content, it’s still lacking of a long tail effect like those hosted in a search engine friendly website.

Back to this “YouTube it” behaviour and the curious case of Sze U Tonight, it triggered me to think, as a marketer, how can we leverage on this ecosystem between various media channels that can trigger such cross-screen search action?

Can an outdoor billboard, TV commercial, print ad trigger a target audience to search for a piece of video content (not an extended version of TV commercial please)?

Can we craft the messages or even keywords that can trigger someone to “YouTube it” from their mobile or tablet after seeing our ads?

Can we produce our video content in a mobile friendly context?

You don’t need a crystal ball to predict mobile video content is the new black. But the key is that how we can oversee various media channels from a holistic perspective rather than still argue between traditional and digital.

Generating online video content that can extend the brand storytelling from other media channels is also the key. And these content shouldn’t be just a variation of TV commercial or advertisement. They should be quality content that can bring value to our customers. Ultimately, the goal is to bring back value to build our brand.

Google Trends Results On Web Search.

Google Trends Results On YouTube Search.

Rudi Leung is Partner & Co-Founder at Turn Plus.