The Wall Street Journal had a big piece today exploring what's gone wrong with YouTube, and the news is even more troubling than expected. Advertisers, it seems, don't like being paired with amateurish videos of random schoolyard fistfights or dogs acting cute, and the Viacom lawsuit has so spooked Google that it has restricted the videos it can sell ads around to a mere four percent of the total films posted on the site. But Google's internal dysfunction was clearly the most surprising element of the story; billing advertisers had to be accomplished manually in some instances, clients had to fill out far too many legal documents, and a temp worker -- that's right, a temp named "Miriam" -- had to sign off before ad representatives could offer certain discount deals. On the other hand, perhaps we're asking too much of just one company; Kevin Delaney glumly reported that Google's YouTube revenue would be a paltry $200 million, far more than anyone had predicted so far. That's what happens when you set out to conquer the world; people actually expect you to pull it off.
One last interesting element to the story: Google apparently plans to sell "preroll" and "postroll" ads, which would run before or after each film. Search Engine Land's Greg Sterling is intrigued at this development, since YouTube had experimented with preroll ads earlier, only to find that viewers walked away from the films faster than you can spit a rat. "Assuming the story is correct and we will start seeing pre and/or post-roll advertising on YouTube, the question is how widespread will it become?" he asks. "Many YouTube users will be disappointed by the development but most will probably accept it."