Mark Cuban is wrong even when he’s right

Mark Cuban is his usual out-of-focus self with a post (Hulu is kicking Youtube’s ass) declaring Hulu the winner over YouTube. The problem, of course, is that these two companies are not now and have never been in competition, although Cuban thinks otherwise. To Mark, YouTube has always been about the theft of copyrighted material, so he never really bothers to examine what makes it hum.

It’s all about the money to Mark. A media business can only exist if its revenue model is built around scarce content, so he proclaims Hulu king and makes a prediction:

…by next year, not only will Hulu have more monetizable traffic than Youtube, but it will have more total revenues than Youtube as well. It wouldn’t sup rise (sic) me if they are already at a higher annual run rate than Youtube.

Here’s the thing. Mark’s probably right, but in thinking of YouTube only in sustainable business model terms, he misses the larger picture and continues to prove himself ignorant about the Web. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to do things contrary to the P&Ls of the past, if they work towards a longer term return (why doesn’t Google sell ads on its home page?). He has always viewed YouTube through biased eyes (those damned thieves), and for a smart guy, he sure comes up short here.

“Youtube hides behind the Digital Millennium Copyright Act,” he writes, as if its reason for being is to steal copyrighted material and profit from it. If it looks like a red herring and smells like a red herring, then it’s probably a red herring.

YouTube is about sharing, people sharing what they see and what they make, things we’ve been doing since before the term “media” referred only to the home of the Medes. In the 15th Century, the Roman Church didn’t want the Bible being shared with the laity, because they felt they “owned” it. I took my 45s with me to friends’ homes back in the 50s, so that they could hear the music too. Back then, the record industry knew that exposing people to the music was the best chance they had to sell another record.

YouTube’s tentacles within the personal media revolution go on for miles, because people don’t use it to view stolen goodies. Its business model hasn’t been written yet, and those who insist on looking for one just don’t have the patience to wait. I use YouTube to post videos that I’ve made on my MySpace page. There are lots of ways I could do that, but the Flip camera and YouTube make other options seem obsolete. How does YouTube gain from that? For one thing, they keep anybody else from charging fees or profiting from interruptive commercials, and in so doing, buy time for an acceptable business model to develop.

But that’s not the point. We’re in another Gutenberg moment here and the “church,” led by priests like Cuban, want absolute control over material the law tells them they own. I don’t think anybody objects to that concept, but the more people like Cuban press the matter, the more unseemly the whole thing seems.

I love Hulu and have expressed that love before. I watch “House” via Hulu, and while I wonder why there’s such an emphasis on clips from shows instead of the shows themselves, it’s a great experience. But I go to Hulu knowing what I’m getting, just as I go to YouTube knowing what I’m getting.

They’re two different things.


  1. Denial is not a river in Africa but Media is (also) a town outside of Philly.


  1. […] I also think that Ashkan Karbasfrooshan of WatchMojo has a point when he says that to some extent YouTube and Hulu are apples and oranges. In other words, they are kicking different asses, so to speak. Terry Heaton makes a similiar point on his blog. function fbs_click() {u=location.href;t=document.title;‘’+encodeURIComponent(u)+’&t=’+encodeURIComponent(t),‘sharer’,‘toolbar=0,status=0,width=626,height=436’);return false;} html .fb_share_link { padding:2px 0 0 20px; height:16px; background:url( no-repeat top left; }Post it | Share This | Related links […]

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