Yesterday I received an email saying that Channel 4 has requested my video be removed from YouTube. I was trying to spread buzz online about something I liked, but they ordered me not to and deleted my content. It got me thinking about online publicity, content ownership, and word of mouth. I started wondering why on earth Channel 4 would do such a thing, and I ended up feeling, unnecessarily, like I hate Channel 4. Here's what happened.
Two nights ago a snippet on Celebrity Big Brother made me chuckle, so I wanted to share it with my social network. It was a clip of the middle-aged gobby scouser Tina Malone, the one off Shameless, explaining her views on the internet.
So I recorded the clip on my mobile to send to YouTube. Publishing it online to Twitter and FriendFeed had the desired effect... Two priceless snippets from the TV clip:
"The internet, yes it's about information, but mainly, the internet is about PORN!"
"Facebook?? Pick up the fokking phone!!!!!!"
(I actually think someone should stick her on BBC News and get her to comment on tech trends. It would be priceless viewing.)
So when I was told the next day that Channel 4 wanted it removed from YouTube, I wanted to know why.
* Why, when I'm promoting your TV show, would you want my promotion deleted?
* Why would you wind me up so much by telling me via email, using a 'no reply' email address so I can't engage in a dialogue?
* Why would you risk turning a fan into a hater? Couldn't you just ask me to paste a link to your show?
* Why couldn't you see this as an endorsement, and nowhere near a content rip-off?
Then I thought, playing devil's advocate, maybe Channel 4 is right.
* Maybe they want people only to see Big Brother content that has adverts on it. My clip didn't.
* Maybe they want to control the online content, so that they get lots of hits?
But it just makes no sense. It was just a one minute clip that promotes Big Brother. In fact, when I got the cease and desist email off YouTube and told Twitter, people actually said that my video was the only reason they watched on the following night.
The fact is that a number of organisations employ colleagues and industry peers of mine to inspire precisely this kind of coverage. Create such buzz and advocacy that someone would video, blog and Tweet about you - that's utopia. But Channel 4? They aspire to achieve the exact opposite. Smart move. Kill a few more viewers.
And if you want to see the vid? Sorry. It's been deleted.