As George mentioned in his earlier posting, “Clown Co.” is Google’s internal nickname for the joint venture by News Corporation and NBC Universal to create a competitor to YouTube. The name’s catching on; Michael Arrington uses it in his latest TechCrunch piece titled Dear Clown Co.: Name This Thing Fast Before Its Too Late. I have a hunch that it’s already too late, a fact that will annoy both NewsCorp/NBCU partners (and possibly the company whose actual name is Clown Co).
Isn’t that just like a clown: bringing a TV to an internet fight. The two key messages being pushed by Clown Chernin and Clown Zucker were “respecting copyright” and “creating the largest advertising platform on earth”. Arrington nails it with his comment: “That may be good messaging to stockholders, but it isn’t what the public cares about.”
Why would I want to watch TV when I can watch it smaller and blurrier? I wish that line was mine, but it’s from last night’s Daily Show segment on YouTube and Viacom. It may have been a joke for John Stewart, but it actually sounds like Clown Co.’s strategy. They made almost no mention of user experience, save for “we are shocked at the willingness of the consumer to sit through the whole show with ads on NBC.com”, which suggests that they have no idea why YouTube is so popular.
Maybe they’re scared of clowns. Only two networks signed up, and Viacom didn’t join in.
These clowns don’t know what they’re getting into. YouTube, now with added Google, have the experience and infrastructure to run web apps that are simple enough to get out of the user’s way and powerful enough to be useful and compelling.
These clowns have history working against them. Valleywag brought up the case of MusicNet, the BMG/EMI/Sony alliance that was formed to take on Napster and eventually became a flop that was named by PC World as one of the worst tech products of all time.
Even vaporware has names! By not giving even an interim codename to their already vague and amorphous project, they made their project hard to talk about and left the door open for anyone to stick it with a moniker that they’ll be stuck with. Letting their Google/YouTube competitors do that was even worse. To borrow a line from the Bart Gets an Elephant episode of the NewsCorp property The Simpsons, “How about those clowns at Clown Co.? what a bunch of clowns.”