Chris Anderson, the curator of nonprofit organization TED, has written an op-ed piece today at CNN.com, and I think it's well worth a read. Titled "The Secret Power of YouTube," it's a bit of a defense of the online video portal, but it's much more than that too. It's a defense of online video as a whole, and it's power to drive innovation.
While it's true that there's a lot of junk on YouTube, Anderson thinks it gets a bum rap:
"Hidden among all the cute kittens and pirated TV shows, online video is driving astonishing innovation in thousands of different fields ranging from the ultra-niche to the sharing of truly world-changing ideas."
The chief argument Anderson makes is that YouTube makes it easier for innovators to find an audience, and the audience's approval and praise drives further innovation. It's dead on accurate, in my opinion.
To illustrate what he's talking about, Anderson coins a phrase: crowd-accelerated innovation. He says it's a new term, but an age-old process. There are three ingredients he says are required for crowd-accelerated innovation to occur: Crowd, Light, & Desire.
YouTube provides the Crowd, in the tens of millions of daily viewers. It's the world's largest video audience every single day.
The "Light" in Anderson's formula, is another term for exposure. And YouTube provides exposure just by making its technology platform free to anyone. Further Light is available in the form of video ratings, favorites, and channel subscriptions. YouTube has leveled the playing field for innovators of all kinds--not just filmmakers, but scientists, teachers, and more--the way iTunes (and MySpace, back in the day) did for musicians. And for the most part, the cream rises to the top.
And the Desire--the element that drives further innovation--comes with the fame and popularity YouTube affords the best of the best. This also leads to one-upmanship, where one person's innovation drives another person to go one step further... to push the envelope even further.
With each of the three main ingredients of this crowd-accelerated innovation, YouTube is stretching the boundaries and multiplying the possibilities. Says Anderson:
"I'm convinced that the latest iteration of crowd-accelerated innovation, fueled by Web video, is about to ignite the biggest learning cycle in human history. There are huge implications for the future of global education. Tomorrow's best teachers will be global stars reaching literally millions of kids. And talented students around the world will no longer have their potential destroyed by lousy teachers. They can learn directly from the world's finest."
I believe he's 100% correct. We're already seeing exponential growth in the creativity of advertising from online video, and many more industries are experiencing creative high points as well. YouTube and the other video sharing platforms are far more than just websites. They are powerful new communication tools that make an age of accelerated innovation possible.
I would also encourage you, as Anderson does in his article, to watch his whole TED talk on the subject below: