According to Claire Cain Miller and Brian Stelter of The New York Times, "YouTube, the video site owned by Google, is in talks to buy Next New Networks, a Web video production company, according to two people briefed on the discussions." Now, who might those two people be?
Yes, yes, there are lots of other reports about the talks -- but they all came hours after the first report in the Times. And many of them credit the Times with breaking the story.
Wendy Tanaka of the Forbes Technovore blog wrote, "YouTube is in talks to buy web video production company Next New Networks, according to the New York Times."
Greg Sandoval of CNET News said, "YouTube has plans to acquire Next New Networks, a Web video production company known for producing video hits online, according to a report in The New York Times."
And Doug Aamoth of the TIME.com Techland blog noted, "The New York Times is reporting that YouTube may be attempting to acquire Next New Networks, a company that owns 25 episodic video networks operating within the all-encompassing Next New Networks brand."
So, what does this mean to marketers?
Well, it obviously means that if you leak a story to The New York Times, then you can count of lots of other media to jump on the bandwagon, too. But it also means something else -- especially when two companies are still involved in sensitive negotiations.
Since the people who really know what YouTube and Next New Networks are actually discussing will generally "decline to comment," then it's safe to predict that the two people briefed on the discussions can spin the story any way they want to.
So, what was their spin?
According to the Times, Next New Networks was founded in 2007 to create original Web television shows, and has had success with series like "Barely Political" and "Indy Mogul." (I don't know about you, but I think I've just found a few clues on the identity of the suspects for this leak.)
At the end of the story, the Times mentions, "YouTube's two most watched videos in 2010 were from Next New Networks video creators." One was the "Bed Intruder Song" by the Gregory Brothers and the other was Barely Political's "Key of Awe$ome: Tik Tok Keshia Parody: Glitter Puke." (I don't know about you, but I'd dust those clips for fingerprints.)
A year ago, Next New Networks broadened its focus to also play a role that's similar to a Hollywood producer, by scouting new video creators and helping them to distribute their videos, find an audience and make money, through the Next New Creators program. The company now has 65 independent creators whose videos represent more than half of Next New Networks' monthly viewing. (But none of these 65 independent creators got mentioned in the leaked story, so there's no smoking gun at their feet.)
According to the Times, "That production role is what YouTube is most interested in, said two people briefed on the discussions." (Right, so if two people briefed on the discussions were told that YouTube is interested in the production role, then it's logical to assume that they could be professional content creators who think they know how to attract audiences and advertisers to their programming.)
Get it? Got it? Good.
Now, I'm intrigued that the related images that Google News displays with the 40 news articles about this story include ones of the "Bed Intruder Song," which was the most-watched video on YouTube in 2010. There is also a related image from Barely Political, which became known for its Obama Girl videos, which racked up 50 million views on YouTube.
And the story by Austin Carr in Fast Company even embedded Barely Political's spoof of Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" music video, which landed in second place on YouTube's most viewed videos of 2010, receiving more than 52 million views. (I'm shocked, shocked to find that an embedded video in a story may help it to get more views.)
So, somebody has played The Times like a fiddle. I can't prove who they are beyond a shadow of a doubt. But there's no reason why anyone at YouTube would want to leak the story.
Besides, why would anyone at YouTube think "Next New Networks has already been sending significant traffic in YouTube's direction," as the Times article claims. Wouldn't the people at YouTube think they've been sending significant traffic in the direction of the videos from Next New Networks?
So, who leaked YouTube's talks with Next New Networks to The New York Times? If you round up the usual suspects, you could start looking for a bed intruder, a glitter puke, an indy mogul, or someone with motives that are barely political.
By the way, Next New Networks got more than 1.2 billion video views in 2010. How did they do it? According to Ben Relles, who heads up the company's programming and development, there were three key drivers for this year's dramatic growth.
1. Betting on new talent for a new medium.
2. Consistent programming, not just viral hits.
3. Optimizing for how audiences watch online.
Now, I could tell you what Relles has to say about each of these three key drivers, but you can also watch Justin Johnson's explanation (which sounds a lot like the spin in the story by the Times).