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Home > Media

The Future's Bright, The Future's Mentos and Diet Coke

4 February 2007

This week Google announced that it’s planning to pay contributors to its new acquisition, YouTube. It’s a sad indictment of the journalism profession that no one appeared to ask ‘Is this just a publicity stunt?’, for the simple reason that the first question in anyone’s mind should have been: ‘Who the fuck is going to pay money for clips of American dickheads putting Mentos mints into bottles of Diet Coke and watching them fizz over?’

Admittedly it wouldn’t be difficult to pay people for good YouTube contributions. Presumably any video clip with a sufficient number of viewings would get some cash, which would surely encourage others to get out their video cameras and camera phones. But how many of the clips on YouTube actually merit payment? We’re still puzzled by the popularity of the guys dancing on running machines. It’s passably interesting, but it’s hardly one of the great creative works of our time, like ‘Citizen Kane’ or ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.

A more pressing question is whether YouTube really is the future of entertainment. The defining feature of YouTube is not the music videos or meritworthy short films: it’s good old-fashioned random Internet shite.

Go onto YouTube and your mind starts to boggle over the sheer amount of spare time people appear to have. It’s one thing getting pissed and dancing around your living room to Abba, it’s another bothering to film it and post it on the Internet. And grotty camera phone footage of hogwhimpering drunk students howling ‘Dancing queen! Young and sweet, only seventeeeeeeeeen!’ before passing out is very much the top end of the homegrown entertainment provided by YouTube, which tends to be:

- Agonisingly unfunny ‘humorous’ short films by people who think they’re Kevin ‘Clerks’ Smith

- Lame-o, sub-‘Jackass’ crap

- Cats being cats

- Stuff that is just... stuff, like people drawing faces on bits of Plasticine and then filming them for no readily apparent reason, or telling people who don't care about the minutiae of their lives

The other major stratum of YouTube, it has to be said, is deeply unedifying stuff: soft porn (‘hot chick strips!’), executions, fights, football violence mash-ups set to Belgian techno, etc. And if you took away copyrighted stuff there wouldn’t be much of merit left. Of course, there’s lots that is great fun or hard to get elsewhere*, but the main problem with YouTube is that, like so much Internet stuff, it’s a distraction rather than anything substantial. Let’s just hope it doesn’t become the model for the entertainment of the future: ‘You’ve Been Framed’ without the intellectual rigour.

*Our current favourite is this.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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