Content has never been king at Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) -- and that's a good thing.

Big G would rather sell you a map to the stars -- a good one, perpetually updated -- than hang out in the mansion itself dodging tour buses loaded with shutterbugs.

However, just as the blogosphere is blowing up over Google giving preferential treatment to its own user-submitted restaurant reviews or Google Health service over more seasoned publishers, a conflict of interest may be about to brew at YouTube.

The New York Times reported yesterday that YouTube is in talks to acquire Next New Networks, a producer of original video content. If you've ever seen a Barely Political or Indy Mogul clip on YouTube, that's Next New's handiwork. As a producer, it has inked deals with dozens of indie video makers that are typically among the most subscribed-to channels on YouTube.

On the surface, it seems like a great plan. If YouTube is able to lock up its more magnetic properties -- while at the same time perhaps keeping the content off of rival video-sharing websites -- it's a win all around.

The challenge here will be convincing everybody else. YouTube's community may see this as a conflict of interest, especially if YouTube begins featuring its owned content over the majority of uploads. Yes, this could be the exact same problem being experienced at Google.com itself, with third-party publishers complaining that Big G is funneling traffic toward its own properties.

YouTube's popularity has stemmed largely from its user-generated nature. Hulu -- the site bankrolled by General Electric's NBC Universal, Disney, and News Corp. -- doesn't even offer users the ability to upload clips. It is strictly a one-way experience. Youku.com (Nasdaq: YOKU) -- the recently public video site that is considered by some to be China's YouTube -- relies mostly on licensed studio content.

There are plenty of smaller sites that are true video-sharing sites, and the last thing that Google wants is for the community to move on to one of those destinations that may be perceived as fairer hubs of democratized content if YouTube begins gobbling up content.

The mansion's nice, Google -- but think of the tour bus.

Should YouTube be acquiring content or remain on the sidelines? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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