Here's a radical concept for you: Newer, more nimble companies should forget about trying to be the leader in either online communities or viral video, and concentrate instead on niche markets. Get ready for the latest web sensation: specialized sites for online interaction.
The SFGate article linked to above is primarily about community sites (ie: mini-MySpaces), but I believe the same principals can and should apply to video sites as well. The article details all the the companies concentrating on either building niche community sites, or providing the tools for users to create their own niche communities.
What I haven't seen in this article, or anywhere on the web yet, are companies focusing on niche markets for viral video sites. Why try to be YouTube, who wants to everything to everybody (and disappointing everybody in the process), when you can be the video leader for a certain sub-market that's already got a community identification? Why not a viral video site just for musicians? Or a viral video site specifically built around the needs of disabled people? Or mountain climbers, or cat or dog owners, or...?
The untapped, open market for anybody planning on creating a viral video site in the next six months is this: niche markets. A viral video site that's not one big open space, but is a combination of smaller, community-branded spaces. Here, I'm giving you this idea. This concept is now out in the ether for anybody to use. But, if you use it, and if you read it here first, I won't complain if you reward me with some pre-IPO stock or other remuneration.
YouTube isn't going anywhere, and it will likely be the market leader for the foreseeable future, but its over-all share will a smaller percentage of the whole. It's not that YouTube's slice of the pie will shrink; it's that the pie itself will grow. And a big part of that growth can (and should) come from more specialized viral video sites.
Topic two: Incentives to participate... One possible way to entice users to these new community sites is to provide incentives. Going back to the SFGate article, here's how one community site about clubbing (sponsored by Anheuser-Busch) does it:
MingleNow has been photographing clubbers "clinking" beer mugs and uploading the photos onto their Web site. Users gather points every time they upload their own photos (4 points), invite a friend online (1 point) or comment (2 points). Those who rack up 40 points become VIP members and gain access to MingleNow parties at their favorite nightspots. ... In some cases, the clubs are paying MingleNow to take pictures in their clubs, and in others clubs are banking on the increased online buzz to drive customers their way.That's a cute idea, and if it works it will be because the incentive (private parties) is meaningful to that community. If the incentive were simply a coupon for $1 off a 12-pack of Bud Light it might not be as effective. Cash is always a good incentive, and both YouTube and LiveVideo have each promised to join Revver in sharing their revenue with content creators. But, specialized communities have more opportunity to create meaningful non-cash incentives than general communities.
Linda Stone, a pioneer in social networking a decade ago at Microsoft who now lectures and writes on technology topics, leaves us with our final word of wisdom for the day, "First, the technology has to be easy for the consumer." Second, "it has to add value to their lives."