YouTube is a style now, an aesthetic of its own. It didn’t take very long, but it has lodged itself into our consumer psyche as a recognizable visual, aural and narrative convention. In that sense, it’s a huge and notable success deserving of at least a footnote in media history.
So hurray for democratic authorship, right? Except, as the lightning fast emergence of these television commercials suggest, it’s an aesthetic that has become almost instantaneously co-opted.
Which is to say that the YouTube phenomenon, as entertaining and paradigm-shifting as it might be, is at its core a marketing tool. That’s probably not a revelation to anyone who’s seen how much attention media companies have been paying to YouTube over the past two years. But I still think it’s worth noting that in the Web 2.0, crowdsourcing frontier we’re all so excited about, it takes virtually no effort and no time to turn genuinely exciting social phenomena into just another technique for businesses to sell stuff to us. It’s almost like we’re a research and development laboratory for our own bamboozlement.