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YouTube's impact hits home a billion times over

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These days, media analysts are more likely to gush over the Google Decade or the Facebook Generation. But, one day before its sixth birthday, the third-most-visited website in the world demands a bit of attention:


The video-sharing site's domain name was activated on Feb. 14, 2005, becoming an instant favorite for anyone who enjoys home videos of people getting hit in the crotch or misusing Mentos and Diet Coke.

Sold to Google in 2006 for $1.65 billion and now featuring 2 billion ad-supported videos daily, it has changed us in ways we probably can't imagine. But here are a few I could:

Impact No. 1: Kicked off the personal media revolution

We already knew anyone could create a website or online audio. But putting global video broadcasts in the hands of anyone with an Internet connection made it obvious: Any one of us could become our own TV network, whenever we wanted. Which means, at any moment, our media brand could capture the world's attention, elevated by the audience itself.

Impact No. 2: Took some control from media companies and handed it to the audience

The main reason the big TV networks created the video-sharing website was because YouTube was creating a user-generated marketplace filled with their stuff, anyway. Before then, big media companies could ignore the audience's desire for an online link to watch shows on their schedule. But YouTube forced companies to act before the audience stole their business from them.

Impact No. 3: Exposed the knuckleheads

From failed U.S. senate candidate George Allen's "macaca" moment to former Seinfeld star Michael Richards' n-word rant, the long list of scandals memorialized on YouTube includes some of pop culture's most searing moments. The service allowed these images to speak from a thousand blog posts and Web pages at once, letting viewers judge for themselves when our most infamous knuckleheads crossed the line.

Impact No. 4: Redefined celebrity

Even now, there's a new category of notable in pop culture: anybody who can draw a crowd on YouTube. And that list ranges from oddball local TV news interviewee Antoine Dodson to Grammy-dominating pop star Justin Bieber. In YouTube's world, the audience increasingly chooses its own pop heroes.

Impact No. 5: Spread user-generated video everywhere

By making its clips accessible on a host of other devices — from iPhones and iPads to Google TV, Apple TV, Boxee, TiVo and Wii gaming devices — YouTube ensured viewers saw their videos as another entertainment channel. My daughters surf YouTube as quickly as they would call up Nickelodeon or ABC Family, with equal expectations.

TiVo or Ti-No?

Mad Love, debuts at 8:30 p.m. Monday on CBS (WTSP-Ch. 10): In the same way you watch sometimes-brilliant performers like Adam Sandler or Sandra Bullock flailing in an ill-conceived rom-com like a goldfish in dirty water, you will see Scrubs alum Sarah Chalke and ex-Reaper star Tyler Labine straining for excellence in this predictable sitcom, strangled by its rigid cliches. Chalke is the typical TV knockout disguised as an awkward loser, who clicks with American Pie alum Jason Biggs before mistakenly assuming he's a jerk; Labine is the Jack Black knockoff who is Biggs' wacky friend. The rom-com twist here: He and Chalke's best friend can't stand each other but want their buddies to be happy. If you have seen one Jennifer Aniston movie, you know how this ends. For me, it concludes with a big Ti-NO.

Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday on CBS (WTSP-Ch. 10): Sometimes, it's painful to see actors you respect trapped in the kind of predictable, generic crime dramas CBS favors. Oscar winner Forest Whitaker is the earnest capable boss, leading a team of FBI criminal profilers originally introduced in CBS's popular Criminal Minds series and now spun off on their own. Janeane Garofalo is a tough agent working under Whitaker, and West Wing alum Richard Schiff is the FBI director. They all deserve a better show; this one starts with a string of child abductions that ultimately says something powerful about our nation's focus on endangered white girls, until Whitaker's character undercuts it all at the end. Many of you will watch, but I'm going to Ti-NO.

Pop Life

YouTube's impact hits home a billion times over 02/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 12, 2011 3:31am]
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