Who is the customer?

Among the millions (quite literally it seems) of comments on Google’s purchase of YouTube, Mark Evans’ comment about focusing on the customer caught my attention. He also commented about YouTube’s lack of paying customers.

But who is YouTube’s customer? It seems to me that would either be the creators of the video – and there were plenty of non-infringing videos – or the consumers of those videos.

While the consuming customers didn’t pay (though advertising would soon change that) the content creators paid by providing content that in turn attracted consumers. This isn’t unique to the web. The television show America’s Funniest Videos has generated revenue for years using free video sent in by just plain folks. AFV just monetized that free content in the same way that YouTube would have.

The social aspect is important as well. Shows like Survivor don’t do well because they are classic television. They excel by involving the viewer, just as YouTube does.

Google started out providing a service for which there were no paying customers; I still don’t pay to use Google’s services but they seem to do ok anyway.

It’s perhaps no longer correct to assume that the only paying customer is the one who pays to consume your service. Other customers may choose to pay in other ways, and content may be even more valuable than cash. In fact, in view of the theory of the Long Tail, niche content may be even more valuable to the targetted consumer.

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