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Social media makes difference; just ask Ted Williams

Photo courtesy of MCT

It’s hard to believe Ted Williams used to beg on the Hudson Street exit of Interstate 71, just seconds down the street from my apartment. Thousands of people drove past him every day, disregarding the man with the sign. Now, after a short video posted by the The Columbus Dispatch, Williams will never feel ignored again.


Williams’ example just goes to show how quickly social media can spread something around the world. In a matter of seconds, Williams went from standing jobless on the curb to receiving employment offers from Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and the Cleveland Cavaliers. If you would have asked about Williams just eight days ago, everyone would have thought you were talking about the Red Sox baseball great. Now, Williams’ name means something quite different.


I watched the video the morning it was posted on the The Dispatch’s website, but had no idea how big it was going to get until later that night, when friends from across the country were talking about the homeless man with a “golden voice” on Facebook and Twitter. I noticed most were linking a video on YouTube, which was stolen from the Dispatch.com. I didn’t think anything of it, as this happens to most viral videos today. It seems like you can always find multiples of the same video when you’re searching on YouTube.


The Dispatch reported the video got more than 12 million views before YouTube acknowledged the media outlet’s copyright complaint and removed the video. It’s simply wrong for other people to steal a website’s content, but at the same time, would the video have received as much attention if it wasn’t posted on YouTube?  


People are criticizing The Dispatch for requesting the video to be removed from YouTube, but wouldn’t you be upset if someone posted your video? For some reason, it seems as if many people don’t consider this stealing. And it just doesn’t happen with news videos — music artists continually have their music and music videos put online without their permission. Internet users have come to feel as though online content should just be free.


Though I don’t believe stealing videos and putting them up on YouTube is right, it did help spread Williams’ story more quickly. From now on, I can imagine The Dispatch will surely put all of its videos on a YouTube channel as well as their website. At the very least they will watermark all of their videos, putting a logo on the video that can’t be cut as easily as credits that run at the end.


In all fairness, I don’t believe the YouTube user who posted the video had bad intentions. After all, the stolen video was accompanied with this message, according to The Dispatch: “Throwing this video from The Columbus Dispatch out there, hoping we can find this talent a place to call home.”


Did The Dispatch go too far in removing its stolen video from YouTube when that video was responsible for launching Williams’ story across the world? Would the story had ever been as big if it had never been put on YouTube? Who knows? These are hard questions to answer and you can argue either way.


In a statement made by The Dispatch explaining the removal of the video, it was said that the YouTube video was posted “in violation of The Dispatch Printing Co.’s copyright” and the person who uploaded the video was “unauthorized” to do so. The Dispatch probably pulled the video off of YouTube because people were viewing its content there, which doesn’t earn The Dispatch money. A media outlet makes money on the page views of the content it creates, and when people are directed to content on anything other than the website, it doesn’t get recognized for those views.


A lot of people are attacking The Dispatch’s decision, calling it behind the times. But the newspaper is dealing with a new problem presented by social media.

Perhaps The Dispatch could have approached the problem in a different way, but who could have predicted the attention that “golden voice” would attract?

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