So it is the fifth anniversary of the YouTube Beta version being launched, and in a blog post yesterday the site announced that it has now hit the two billion views a day mark. It makes me a tad skeptical that YouTube says it hit this media-friendly conveniently round number high water mark on its anniversary. But no matter; there is no question that YouTube has infiltrated daily life. The amount of (wo)man-hours lost to UK businesses as office workers watched and re-watched Susan Boyle's first outing on "Britain's Got Talent" or laughed at that Panda sneezing is immense: YouTube says that users log on for an average of 15 minutes a day.
But has YouTube been a boon for books? Well, it has certainly made the video book trailer an integral part of many a publisher's marketing strategy. Having been a judge for shortlisting of this year's Bookseller Book Video Awards—in its third year in conjunction with Random House and the National Film and Television School—I can attest the slickness and quality of book trailers matches and often surpasses the standard you get from Hollywood trailers.
Yet it is safe to say that no book trailer has yet to go truly viral like SuBo and one could question the bang for the buck. Quirk Books' Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is the most viewed book trailer, approaching 224,000 hits since it was uploaded last year. A clip of Twist and Pulse, a spotty teenage dance duo off of this past weekend's "Britain's Got Talent" surpassed that today (264,888 views as I write). Most trailers simply get lost in the vast sea of content and often don't even break four figures.
It's not just about trailers, of course. There are author interviews—a favourite is a very funny Harlan Ellison ranting on Orion's YouTube channel, which has been seen over 385,000 times—that enable readers to get close to their favourite writers from the comfort of their computer screens. And some YouTube content has found its way into books: Canongate's Simon's Cat, based on Simon Tofield's animations of the same name was a hit last Christmas.
The true worth of YouTube has been not that it is a site that streams video, it is that it is a community that happens to stream video. It's even more of a community since Google acquired it three years ago, as you can now link your Gmail account to it and link it to Facebook. The embed feature, which allows for YouTube videos to be repopulated across the web, from publishers and retailers websites, to blogs, is as important a tool as the videos themselves.
I've uploaded the trailer for Chris Anderson's Apt Studio-produced The Long Tail (Random House) because, though three years old, it still highlights the possibilities and challenges of YouTube. It is a wonderful opportunity to get this new marketing content out there; the problem is how to direct people to it, to cut through the noise and sheer mass of information to make any kind of impact.