by Jeff Jarvis
I’m in San Jose at the first day of Jeff Pulver’s second Video on the Net confab. On the stage are three of our video hosts: Dina Kaplan of Blip.TV, Dmitry Shapiro of Veoh, and Robert Petty of Roo with Om Malik moderating. Some live-blogging:
Dina Kaplan of Blip.TV: “This year… we will think about shows as just being shows” no matter where we watch them. More web shows will be available on TV, and more TV series will be available on our computers. So what matters is quality.
Dmitry Shapiro of Veoh says that the producers of small TV are getting more and more resources. This, too, will improve quality and so that means that quality — not medium — is what will matter.
Robert Petty of Roo says that people watch more and more video online. On Roo, a year and a half ago, they watched an average of 4 minutes 30 seconds; last July, that had increased to 30 minutes.
Om Malik says it’s his job to play devil’s advocate and he asks whether we are entering phase two of internet video, when it will be made with the same production value (and cost) that makes broadcast TV “worth stealing.” Dina says that Michael Eisner bought Sam has Seven Friends, a successful web serial, and it was not made to Hollywood standards and budgets. Dmitry acknowledges that when you throw money at something, you will see a difference.
Dmitry says that internet TV is not new TV, it is an evolution of TV as we knew it. I heartily agree. He also talks about watching tech talks on Google and the context, not the production quality, matters in that case. I also say that TV can be overslick and that leaches its authority in certain cases.
Om points to YouTube’s new awards and wonders whether Blip and Veoh will become like networks. Dina disagrees and says that the users are the programmers and so the Blips and Veohs are not in the position to make stars. “We’ve created the first ever entertainment marketplace where the best content rises to the top, not based [on programmers] but on what you people say,” she says.
Dmitry says that he believes in a few years, “every single video on Blip will have the opportunity to be monetized… it may be by the laundromat down the street, but the money will be there.” Later, he says that the money in this space will be “obscene.”
Dmitry says let’s be honest, “we are video hosting sites… but we are the beginning of a new medium I call internet television.” It will start with hosting sites that will evolve with better tools and monetization and such. Om says there are now 367 such sites. Dmitry says there will be thousands. The big problem is how we help people discover content. Amen. How do you look for Lost: search for ‘deserted island’? ‘Weird plot’? So finding the videos will need to improve and so will the viewing experience. “If I go to CBS on my cable box, and then I go to NBC, the user interface is exactly the same.”
J.D. Lassica of Our Media says that today is their two-year anniversary. He thinks they may have been the first. Look at what has happened since…
I ask what the role of these companies will be in the future. I say that I love Blip and Veoh and know investors in Roo and can’t avoid the power of YouTube. I say it’s like dating three women at once: who gets dinner? (I admit that I never had this problem but, hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?).
Dmitry says Veoh serves viewers, producers, and advertisers. “For content owners we provide a comprehensive platform for them to reach their viewer: hosting, syndication, monetization….” For viewers, they provide a player that will deliver videos not just from Veoh but from your own feeds. ” You shouldn’t have to care as the viewer where the content comes from.” Or you may not know what you want to watch and the service tells you. So I think he’s saying that the real role of these companies in the future is as aggregation and recommendation services. “Discovering, consuming, interacting with, organizing….”
Roo says it is not a destination. They provide the tools for partners.
Dina agrees with Dmitry that just as there are thousands of sites that do well serving text on the web there will be thousands for video. But they will be specialized. She says YouTube is about viral video. There will be sites for skateboarding videos. Blip caters 100 percent to people making good shows (that is, series). She says that too their surprise the company is becoming a new-media talent agency. They’ve had two of their shows sign deals with HBO and another with MTV. And Dmitry adds that, of course, the traditional talent agencies are getting involved as well. UTA is here.
I’m at the Online Publishers Association confab in London and Jeff Rayport is leading off. He is a former Harvard Business School genius (former HBS, still a genius) now leading a consultancy called Marketspace. I’m taking extensive notes because he’s sure to be provocative and this will be on the final. From his Powerpoint and spiel:
He says the challenge for online publishers is to “build volume through aggregation and margin through engagement.” Trends:
* “Community is the new engine of content creation,” his PowerPoint says. I’d day that content is the gas of the community engine.
* “Social networks are the new distribution channels.”
* “Social intelligence is the new source of editorial filters.”
* Tools and applications are the new editorial bundles.”
* “Multiplatform is the new basis of online ‘publishing.’ ”
* “Video is the new lingua franca of online content”
Now to the strategies he recommends. Note how big-company-centric they are (I argue that you have to see yourself not at the center but at the edges, serving the community at the center, but more on that later). Powerpoint quotes:
* “Own the audience: Overwhlem the microcosm. Deliver shock and awe in content abundance by geography, interest, or identity.” Where do I start? We’re not an audience and you can’t own us. And you likely can’t awe us either. His example is Toyota’s launch of Scion because they are selling cars “designed to be completed by the owner.” Or I’d say, owned by the owner. He says this was the first major auto brand launched with no television but with web and interactive media. Online, his examples include the knot for “condition” (“it touched 85 percent of weddings” last year), femail for identity from the Daily Mail in the UK, xionet.com (a Chinese Facebook, the second-largest social network in the world after MySpace) for location, bebo for interest (a MySpace up-and-comer in the UK). He says that online, “audience growth is often strongest where community is most palpable” — e.g., The Economist, The New Yorker. He’s not wrong but I still say he’s looking at this the wrong way. These things an help enable people to do what they want to do or to do what they already do better. Flip the model: You’re not at the center, we are.
* “Claim the community: Ensure membership has its rewards. Forge communities of conviction and reward loyalty.” His example is online travel and “gives us cause for great hope for claiming the relationship.” In content, he argues that free content “drives volume or traffic” while bundles of proprietary offerings “defy aggregation;” he uses Times Select as an example because it “drives pricing power.” Insert standard argument here.
* “Work the web: Let the outside in… and let the inside out. Adopt ‘open source’ thinking as an aggregator while exploiting network effects. This, he says, is the network effect. Letting the outside out is Progressive Insurance providing quotes from other insurers. Letting the outside in is Starbucks pushing into consumer environments (aka grocery stores) instead of just pulling them into destinations (the Starbucks store). Sure. This is about a newspaper providing links to the world and about going to where the people are. This is Google. Citizen journalism is letting the outside in. He says the more interesting story this year is citizen editing. Yup. Factoid: “up to 60 percent of YouTube’s streams are viewed on third-party websites.”
* “Design for occasion: Make each interaction a divine revelation. Customize online content interfaces for consumption contexts and occasions.” He says that Daily Candy is an example of form-factor optimization. Oh, my, that’s a fancy way to say it. But yes. Factoid: Daily Candy commands CPMs as high as $280 and is on track to generate $18 million in revenue in 2006 with margins over 60 percent.
* “Integrate the experience: mandate a unified field theory. Orchestrate multichannel delivery to establish best ecosystem.” Example: American Idol spreads internationally and into mobile and the internet and merchandise and concerts. Being a former business school academic, he draws a two-by-two martric: Amateurs acting like amateurs (e.g., Numa Numa guy), professionals acting like amateurs (e.g., LonelyGirl15), amateurs acting like professionals (ZeFrank, AskaNinja), professionals acting like professionals (e.g., OK Go, Beppe Grillo, and, surprise, me at PrezVid).
He has five strategies, “x factors” for online video (from Andrew Heyward).
* Extend content you have and bring it to online media.
* Expand video activities to make new and experimental forms of content.
* Expose (let the outside in; e.g., NY Times wedding videos, Le Monde user videos).
* Explode (let the inside out; syndication, in other words).
* Exhale (you don’t know what will work so relax).
There’s a lot of meat in this. I might grill some of what he fries, looking at things from a different perspective (ours v. theirs), but I think he brings together important observations, conclusions, and recommendations.
Next is a panel with Betsy Morgan of CBSNews.com, George Kliavkoff of NBCU, Alberg Cheng of Disney-ABC, and Tony Ageh of BBC internet with Larry Kramer moderating.
Betsy says that they are sold out in video advertising and that’s why they are syndicating their content to get more inventory. Kliavkoff, who extolled the virtues of marketing by putting clips on YouTube (yea), says that CPMs are high for online video but there is a shortage of quality inventory. He argues against the dreaded “user-generated content” usage saying that Spielberg is a user, too. He says the lesson of YouTube is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s amateur or professional; quality wins (I agree in spirit but in specific, it’s hard to judge the quality of a flaming fart and so quality is what you have to seek and find).
Betsy tells the story of her sister-in-law, who got Direct TV and made an either-or decision: TV or internet. She chose internet and she’s now watching her TV via the internet, including paying for shows via iTunes etc. See yesterday’s post about the end of the remote control clickers.
George says that an SEO company trying out for a gig with NBCU made measurements on the sly, looking at blog talk about shows from five weeks before they launched and then compared the ratings five weeks later. No surprise (to us): We the people formelry known as the audience (now known as the programmers) predicted that Heroes was a hit and that other shows would not be hits.
I asked the group to give advice to the makers of new TV at the Video on the Net conference I’ll be attending in a week and a half. Betsy said they are seeing “microjournalists” who are expert and credible and they’d like a relationship (promotional and commercial) with them but also need a trust system to help determine who is good (a system used by the public, not the network). George advised focus (serve a topic and stay on topic) and scale (get distributed). Larry advised aggregation, putting together shows/sites in networks large enough to be worth advertisers’ effort.
TV Guide gave me a sneak preview of their new video search, due out in April. Click on the thumbnail to get your sneak preview of the home page.
The world does, indeed, need new guides to the new television. The old TV Guide wouldn’t suffice because TV isn’t scheduled anymore, it’s on-demand; the choices are unlimited now, as are the sources. So a guide for the new age of TV has to provide the means to search and browse and, I’ll argue, recommend from an endless supply of content to a boundless world of individual tastes.
The new TV Guide search is emphasizing “professionally” created video. As you can guess, I’ll quibble with that. Much of the interesting TV being made online isn’t coming from big companies and studios and isn’t necessarily professional. We need a service to help us find the good stuff among the new stuff. See Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal praising some of this new series TV; he, like I, discovered much of it on Blip.TV. Mossberg also praises another guide, Network2.TV (on whose advisory board I sit).
It’s a damned complicated new dial TV Guide finds itself spinning. So I agree with their mission to find good TV, not all TV; we need a meritocracy of recommendations. I also understand their decision to go with the big guys. They want to serve a mass audience still (though the mass audience remains an illusion and some of the small TV shows being made by little guys are drawing audiences as large as those on big, old cable). They don’t want to provide a guide to flaming farts; the world doesn’t need that. And they don’t want to overwhelm people looking for TV online. So searching just the studios and networks gives them a more manageable world, safer and bigger. But they say they will expand their sources beyond the 50 big-media sites they’re starting with to what they call “semipro content.” I’ll certainly encourage that.
Now having said all that, the search is nifty (click on the thumbnail for a view). If you’re looking for ‘The Office,’ you’ll get the show, not office parties on YouTube (though, just to beat this horse, I’d also like to find Office parodies on YouTube). When you search on Office, TV Guide will give you 222 results, all related to the series; Blinkx returns 900,000 results and Google Video 24,000 (only from Google and YouTube), most obviously unrelated to The Office.
TV Guide lets you drill down in any search by network, genre, length, and soon star. Click on an episode and you’ll go to the source and watch it there. That includes going to iTunes, where you can watch, buy, or subscribe. TV Guide is not hosting the videos and doesn’t have relationships with the studios and networks (though they’ll clearly be delighted for the direct links to them). TV Guide will also make editorial recommendations on the home page. And they will be linking to their incredible data base of reviews and listings of shows. No one knows more about TV — at least old TV — than they do. They’ll also point to the most popular shows (as measured by clicks from the TV Guide site). And you’ll be able to create playlists. They’ll enable linking from their very active blog community and also enable users there to upload their own videos. In a later version, we’ll be able to syndicate our playlists to our sites.
Now that some networks are pulling their clips off YouTube (stupidly, I’ll say again) and retreating to their own walled worlds, it is harder to find big-TV shows online. So TV Guide’s timing could be better. That will be the first place to go to find network series online. Now we’ll see who will be providing similarly authoritative guides for the new TV.
Added disclosures: As the producer of two new small-TV series, PrezVid and IdolCritic, I clearly have a vested interest in being found. And I was the Couch Critic at TV Guide for six years in the ’90s. I’m a TV guy.
Oh, and yes, I’m glad to be getting two sneak previews of new stuff in two days. Keep ’em coming.
: ALSO: The aforedisclosed Network2.TV is giving away $25,000 in prizes for winning videos about “How to Watch Internet TV.” You have a week to enter and explain to big media executives everywhere how TV is exploding. Winners will be announced at the Video on the Net conference, in San Jose in two weeks (I’ll be there).
At the VON conference, I told about recording a CBS Evening News free-speech segment and Steve Garfield lamented that CBS was inviting selected people to record these pieces rather than asking for submissions from the public. I suggested he didn’t need to wait until CBS called. Start your own site: Say it Katie. And that’s just what he did. Go to Blip.TV, submit your video, and tag it SayItToKatie. Jonny Goldstein has the first one up, a video about such videos. I suggest you now make videos about any topic in the news, especially topics that are getting bad or insufficient coverage. Maybe we can convince CBS to start airing the stuff we make. ABCNews.com did.
: Speaking of the ABCNews.com segment, Fred Graver — who knows whereof he produces — scolded me and Steve Safran for chiding ABC for overproducing the segment: “I call it “produced.” Steve, did you WANT to look at Jeff’s talking head for a whole three minutes? Didn’t you appreciate the eyecandy?”