YouTube and the Importance of Top-of-Mind

Top-of-mind was just sold for $1.65 Billion dollars. That’s the amount Google paid for the social video site YouTube, which owns the top-of-mind space for the word “video” in the minds of the populace.

When I think of the word “video”, I immediately think of Youtube. When people want to upload “video”, they immediately think of YouTube. When people talk about where they saw the latest episode of the Daily Show, they talk about YouTube. When advertisers think of “video”, it’s all YouTube.

YouTube is what people think about when they think of the word “video”…

Top-of-mind was just sold for $1.65 Billion dollars. That’s the amount Google paid for the social video site YouTube, which owns the top-of-mind space for the word “video” in the minds of the populace.

When I think of the word “video”, I immediately think of Youtube. When people want to upload “video”, they immediately think of YouTube. When people talk about where they saw the latest episode of the Daily Show, they talk about YouTube. When advertisers think of “video”, it’s all YouTube.

YouTube is what people think about when they think of the word “video”.

And because YouTube has top-of-mind, it means that people are not thinking about all the competing services out there. Google Video, Yahoo Whatever, or Microsoft Whatever, and the countless other video startups that want even a sliver of that ridiculous pie. Those services have very little top-of-mind share for the word video. (for the record, it’s MSN Soapbox and simply Yahoo Video).

Top-of-mind share is really interesting because it has the potential to be so transient, yet isn’t. We’re talking about what web site comes to mind when you think video, and right now that site is YouTube. Couldn’t that change in an instant? Couldn’t some other service easily eclipse that overnight, and tomorrow everyone will simply have another site in mind when the word video pops up?

Google doesn’t think so. That’s why they spent an unimaginable amount of money on a site who they compete with directly with their own video service. Google already has much of the technology. It’s not like they’re just blindly entering the video game…they’ve been trying! And in one year YouTube has rebuffed their attempt!

Google is making a huge bet that YouTube will stay top-of-mind for a long time to come, at least long enough to gain much of their money back on advertising and search-related ventures.

Google, of course, has top-of-mind for the word “Search”. They have for several years now, and probably will for several more. Even in an age where Microsoft can redirect you to their search engine simply because you’re using their crappy browser, Google has conquered the Search top-of-mind. So, even if other companies come up with better search than Google, it will still take years before they wrest away top-of-mind.

The importance of top-of-mind cannot be understated. If a web site has top-of-mind, it is the first thing people talk about. Like MySpace in social networking, Netflix in movie rentals, Microsoft in monopolies, Macintosh in fine computing. ;)

And now YouTube in video. Even the founders of YouTube realize this. Check out Chad and Steve’s personal message about the announcement. They acknowledge their dominance in video, saying that “two kings have gotten together, the King of Search and the King of Video”.

Susan Mernit has a great piece on the YouTube deal. She’s looking at it from the perspective of what Google Didn’t Buy. And what Google could have bought but didn’t, in her estimation, is a little company called the New York Times. She points to the staggering implications of this, and what it means for social media:

“The point here–just to kick it a little harder–is that this is yet more evidence how social media platforms that are shifting the paradigms in a profound way–Not only does YouTube have a mass market, it’s video on the web appeal that the more high-brow Times will never have (Is YouTube the next MTV?). Furthermore, it’s a platform that gives Google the opportunity to morph into a multimedia MySpace ecosystem, way beyond what Orkut could ever be–and most cruelly, it’s something that teens and twenty-somethings care about, which may no longer be the case for The New York Times.”

Published: October 10th, 2006

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