Benjamin Wayne, CEO of Fliqz, which provides Internet video services, likes to put things in perspective. His perspective.
A couple of months ago, he chose his words softly for Business Insider. Speaking of YouTube, he wrote: "Despite massive growth, ubiquitous global brand awareness, presidential endorsement, and the world's greatest repository of illegally-pirated video content, Google's massive video folly is on life-support, and the prognosis is grave."
His argument was based, as all emotive arguments should be, on the numbers. Using Credit Suisse estimates, Wayne suggested that YouTube was on track to lose, well, around half a billion dollars.
In a new interview with AdAge, Wayne has returned to his thesis of doom with just as much alacrity.
"Consumers are basically unwilling to believe that anything bad could ever happen to YouTube because they've become emotionally attached to a product that they believe should continue to exist and that Google should continue to subsidize," he said.
But there's a recession, money costs far more than it used to and, as yet, no advertising solution has emerged that either YouTube's audience can happily tolerate or that makes exponential earnings magically likely.
"I think that the real problem is that YouTube is taking all the stuff that's good that they can monetize, and they've already monetized that stuff. If you look at the way in which content is growing on YouTube, the user-generated novelty content and the copyright-infringement stuff is growing much faster than the content they can monetize," Wayne argued.
Which leads him to a very unhappy, at least for Google, conclusion: "So whereas, with most businesses you'd say, well, over time it gets better, I think YouTube has a business where over time it continues to get worse, because the proportion of content you can't monetize continues to outstrip the portion of content that you can."
Wayne goes into great detail about how both pre-roll and overlay advertising have, in his view, fundamental weaknesses. He is particularly critical of overlay because he doesn't believe that anyone watching something they actually want to watch will leave that video to go and interact with a product Web site.
This jolly conclusion leaves us with some slightly hemorrhoidal questions. Is Google holding out for the wistful promise of an advertising environment that might somehow make the figures more palatable?
Might the company restrict the site only to proprietary content that is monetizable? YouTube has a chance of becoming one of the major TV portals in future times, but this would require some harsh and clear decision-making and some excellent negotiating. Will Google put itself in a position to make those decisions?
Or, should a double-dip recession or some other business reverse occur, could one ever imagine Google one day deciding to cut its losses on YouTube?
Is it just within the microcosm of possibility that someone at a shareholders' meeting might stand up one day and say: "Look, I know you chaps are terribly busy fighting the huge, but how much did you say you're losing on this YouTube thing?"?