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Monday, October 20, 2014

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Analysis for 'Books'

  • Office Depot and SundaySky Innovating With Customized, Retargeted Video Ads

    Here's a great example of how online video advertising is opening up a new world of opportunities for savvy marketers: office supply giant Office Depot is dynamically creating customized video ads that are retargeted to visitors of OfficeDepot.com for specific products they browsed or purchased. Office Depot is leveraging SundaySky's "SmartVideo" and other technologies in order to re-engage visitors and drive new purchasing. Office Depot's Nicole Fraley explains how this works in the video interview embedded below, and SundaySky's president and CRO Jim Dicso recently provided me with some additional details.

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  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #126 - Sky's NOW TV; iPad's Data Cap Problems

    I'm pleased to be joined once again by Colin Dixon, senior partner at The Diffusion Group, for the 126th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for Mar. 23, 2012. This week finds Colin in London, providing him an even better perspective on our first topic this week, Sky's new over-the-top service called NOW TV, which it will launch this summer. Colin is bullish on NOW TV and likes the lessons it provides for U.S. pay-TV operators.

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  • Video Curation Model Scores With New ClinicalAdvisor Site Powered By Magnify.net

    With the world awash in video, opportunities continue to emerge for publications to intelligently curate the best from around the web in order to add value to their audiences. The latest example is The Clinical Advisor, a 125,000-subscriber publication targeted to nurse practitioners and physician assistants, owned by the British giant, Haymarket Media.

    At its site ClinicalAdvisor.com, a new video section, curated with Magnify.net's tools, presents both its own videos, as well as specialized videos from YouTube and elsewhere. Videos are grouped by category such as Dermatology, Geriatrics, Men's Health, etc. Within each category are news videos, expert interviews and recently posted videos. In addition, there's also a pitch to users to submit their own videos for inclusion in an "Editor's Picks" area.

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  • thePlatform Envisions TV Everywhere With Customized Content Delivery

    TV Everywhere (TVE) should not be a way for pay-TV operators solely to deliver existing content to connected devices, but rather a whole new paradigm for offering subscribers targeted packages of custom content to drive new value and potentially incremental revenue. That's the message video management provider thePlatform is conveying this morning with updates to its mpx system. Though many operators are still early in their TVE rollouts, thePlatform is providing a tantalizing longer-term vision of how they can use TVE to greatly expand their video services in the broadband era, far beyond the traditional one-size-fits-all multichannel bundle.

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  • Vook Continues to Evolve, Introduces Karen Armstrong Vook

    This morning Vook is introducing its next new offering, "A Compassionate Life in 12 Steps," from Karen Armstrong, a prominent religious scholar, TED Prize winner and founder of the Charter for Compassion. With the Armstrong release Vook continues its pioneering work melding text-focused books with original video (hence the name "vook") into new multimedia experiences. I've been fascinated by Vook's concept since I first heard about it and last week I had a chance to talk to Vook's founder Brad Inman to learn more.



    Vook has created over 50 vooks to date, sometimes sourcing books via its partnerships with traditional publishers like Simon & Shuster, HarperStudio and others, and sometimes working with public domain material (e.g. Shakespeare). Brad explained that a typical vook will retain 30-80% of the original book's text and incorporate around 20 original videos. Sometimes, as with a golf instructional book, Vook turned it into 8 vooks, which can be bought fro $5 a piece or as a bundle for $40. The overall budget for the videos is around $2,000-$5,000, with Vook tapping into TurnHere (Brad also founded the online video production company). Brad explained that TurnHere already had a lot of expertise with author profile videos.

    The price for vooks ranges from $1.99 to $16.99, with the sweet spot around $4.99-$6.99. Brad said that Vook targets to recoup its costs within 4-6 weeks of a vook's launch, which is extremely fast by book publishing standards. Vooks are accessible on the web or via apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. An Android app will be available in the next 30-45 days.

    Brad is pretty candid about Vook still being in the early days of experimenting with this format, learning as it goes about what works and what doesn't. No doubt it's going to take some time to refine the product itself and also raise consumer awareness.

    What's exciting to me is that Vook is operating at the intersection of online video, consumer devices (iPad, smartphones, etc.) and traditional book publishing. The rapid technology innovations in video and devices means Vook has ever-stronger tools to enhance its experience (Brad cited the iPad's page-turning effect as just one example).

    Many people have lamented the downward spiral that book publishing has been in recently, with interest in reading books on the wane. E-book readers like the Kindle have helped spark a small resurgence, but while they enhance portability, they don't innovate the overall book experience the way that Vook does. Given how conditioned people are to going on YouTube and other sources to watch video, it feels natural to augment books with specific, related video. For example, how often have you been reading a book and hungered to hear the author, in their own words, describe their inspiration, writing style, creative sources, etc?

    In fact, as Brad says, Vook's secret sauce is perfecting how video should be integrated in an elegant/useful way with the text. Creating any new media format is of course a tall task. But in a way, I liken what Vook is doing to what magazines are doing with their iPad apps - making them more visually engaging and interactive. As these catch on, Vook's value proposition will become more familiar.

    Books have been around for a long, long time, but in their traditional format they are beginning to look dated. By adding meaningful new value for readers, authors and publishers while keeping its expenses low, Vook may well be on a path to success.

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
     
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  • 4 Items Worth Noting for the Nov 2nd Week (Q3 earnings review, Blu-ray streaming, Apple lurks, "Anywhere" coming)

    Following are 4 items worth noting for the Nov 2nd week:

    1. Media company and service provider earnings underscore improvements in economy - This was earnings week for the bulk of the publicly-traded media companies and video service providers, and the general theme was modest increases in financial performance, due largely to the rebounding economy. The media companies reporting - CBS, News Corp, Time Warner. Discovery, Viacom and the Rainbow division of Cablevision - showed ongoing strength in their cable networks, with broadcast networks improving somewhat from earlier this year. For ad-supported online video sites, plus anyone else that's ad-supported, indications of a healthier ad climate are obviously very important.

    Meanwhile the video service providers reporting - Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV all showed revenue gains, a clear reminder that even in recessionary times, the subscription TV business is quite resilient. Cable operators continued their trend of losing basic subscribers to emerging telco competitors (with evidence that DirecTV might now be as well), though they were able to offset these losses largely through rate increases. Though some people believe "cord-cutting" due to new over-the-top video services is real, this phenomenon hasn't shown up yet in any of the financial results. Nor do I expect it will for some time either, as numerous building blocks still need to fall into place (e.g. better OTT content, mass deployment of convergence devices, ease-of-use, etc.)

    2. Blu-ray players could help drive broadband to the TV - Speaking of convergence devices, two articles this week highlighted the role that Blu-ray players are having in bringing broadband video to the living room. The WSJ and Video Business both noted that Blu-ray manufacturers see broadband connectivity as complementary to the disc value proposition, and are moving forward aggressively on integrating this feature. Blu-ray can use all the help it can get. According to statistics I recently pulled from the Digital Entertainment Group, in Q3 '09, DVD players continue to outsell Blu-ray players by an almost 5 to 1 ratio (15 million vs. 3.3 million). Cumulatively there are only 11.2 Blu-ray compatible U.S. homes, vs. 92 million DVD homes.

    Still, aggressive price-cutting could change the equation. I recently noticed Best Buy promoting one of its private-label Insignia Blu-ray players, with Netflix Watch Instantly integrated, for just $99. That's a big price drop from even a year ago. Not surprisingly, Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandros said "streaming apps are the killer apps for Blu-ray players." Of course, Netflix execs would likely say that streaming apps are also the killer apps for game devices, Internet-connected TVs and every other device it is integrating its Watch Instantly software into. I've been generally pessimistic about Blu-ray's prospects, but price cuts and streaming could finally move the sales needle in a bigger way.

    3. Apple lurks, but how long will it stay quiet in video? - The week got off to a bang with a report that Apple is floating a $30/mo subscription idea by TV networks. While I think the price point is far too low for Apple to be able to offer anything close to the comprehensive content lineup current video service providers have, it was another reminder that Apple lurks as a major potential video disruptor. How long will it stay quiet is the key question.

    While in my local Apple store yesterday (yes I'm preparing to finally ditch my PC and go Mac), I saw the new 27 inch iMac for the first time. It was a pretty stark reminder that Apple is just a hair's breadth away from making TVs itself. Have you seen this beast yet? It's Hummer-esque as a workstation for all but the creative set, but, stripped of some of its computing power to cost-reduce it, it would be a gorgeous smaller-size TV. Throw in iTunes, a remote, decent content, Apple's vaunted ease-of-use and of course its coolness cachet and the company could fast re-order the subscription TV industry, not to mention the TV OEM industry. The word on the street is that Apple's next big product launch is a "Kindle-killer" tablet/e-reader, so it's unlikely Steve Jobs would steal any of that product's thunder by near-simultaneously introducing a TV. If a TV's coming (and I'm betting it is), it's likely to be 2H '10 at the earliest.

    4. Get ready for the "Anywhere" revolution - Yesterday I had the pleasure of listening to Emily Green, president and CEO of tech research firm Yankee Group, deliver a keynote in which she previewed themes and data from her forthcoming book, "Anywhere: How Global Connectivity is Revolutionizing the Way We Do Business." Emily is an old friend, and 15 years ago when she was a Forrester analyst and I was VP of Biz Dev at Continental Cablevision (then the 3rd largest cable operator), she was one of the few people I spoke to who got how important high-speed Internet access was, and how strategic it would become for the cable industry. 40 million U.S. cable broadband homes later (and 70 million overall) amply validates both points.

    Emily's new book explores how the world will change when both wired and wireless connectivity are as pervasive as electricity is today. No question the Internet and cell phones have already dramatically changed the world, but Emily makes a very strong case that we ain't seen nothing yet. I couldn't help but think that TV Everywhere is arriving just in time for video service providers whose customers increasingly expect their video anywhere, anytime and on any device. "Anywhere" will be a must-read for anyone trying to make sense of how revolutionary pervasive connectivity is.

    Enjoy your weekends!

     
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  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #35 - October 9, 2009

    Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 35th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for October 9, 2009.

    This week Daisy and I first discuss Daisy's New Media Minute piece on how book publishers and authors are building iPhone apps, which include video, to enhance their books. The apps also present content in the interval between when a book is finished and when it finally hits the store shelves. Daisy highlights apps for marketing expert Bob Gilbreath's new book "The Next Evolution of Marketing" and novelist Nick Cave's new book "The Death of Bunny Munro." While the book publishing industry is not known for being on the bleeding edge of technology adoption, interest in iPhone appears to be building.

    Speaking of publishing, I provide more detail on my post this week "Goumet Magazine's Closing Offers Lessons for Navigating the Broadband Era." I received a lot of emails in response to this post, as the 68 year-old Gourmet clearly had a passionate following and its shuttering by owner Conde Nast was further evidence of how the media industry is changing. I contend that media brands need to embrace a multi-platform approach to survive. It's not good enough to simply be a great magazine anymore. All media brands need to figure out how to play in both online and mobile video.

    Click here to listen to the podcast (15 minutes, 2 seconds)

    Click here for previous podcasts

    The VideoNuze Report is available in iTunes...subscribe today!

     
  • Major Book Publishers Are Asleep to Broadband Video's Upside

    Looking for an industry that is almost entirely asleep to broadband video's upside? Look at the major publishers of fiction and nonfiction books.

    I was intrigued about what publishers were doing with broadband when I recently noticed a full page ad for the current #1 fiction book, "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." Promoted at the bottom of the page was a "live webcast event" with the book's author at www.oprah.com/bookclub.

    I thought that seemed like a pretty smart thing to do, and it must be relatively common. However, when I researched the authors' web sites and the respective publishers' web sites for the top 10 hardcover fiction and top 10 hardcover nonfiction books, I was surprised to see how little broadband video is currently being used.

    Most of these sites offered no video at all and of those that did, only three offered any meaningful amount. Those were the web sites of Ted Bell, author of the #8 fiction book, "Tsar," Thomas Friedman, author of the #1 nonfiction book, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" and Friedman's publisher Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, all of which offered video galleries of these authors being interviewed mainly on TV shows. That these two authors alone should have strong broadband presences is not that surprising; Bell is a former top advertising executive and Friedman is very plugged into the technology scene.

     

    To me it's bizarre that publishers aren't embracing broadband, and it seems like a huge missed opportunity. Book publishing is a brutally competitive industry, where big money is spent promoting primarily well-known authors' latest works (note virtually all the authors on the fiction top 10 list have successful track records). This means there is a built-in audience likely interested in high-quality content related to the author's new work.

    Video-based promotion seems like a natural for book publishers. Authors are sent on book tours, where they do local readings and signings. These would provide great fodder for video. They also do a lot of TV interviews, particularly on cable, which could be repurposed. Then there's the infinite number of book groups who meet to dissect these books - how about gathering and posting video of some of their discussions?

    There's also the "behind-the-scenes" potential. This one is particularly intriguing as I had a personal experience with it recently. After watching HBO's "John Adams" miniseries on DVD, I also watched the special feature behind-the-scenes profile of author David McCullough. It was every bit as interesting as the program itself.

    I think passionate readers of certain authors would love to have an intimate look into how these books come to be. How is the research is done? What moved the author to choose his/her subject? What's the setting look like where they actually type? What are the author's key challenges? And so on. This "meta-story" around the book itself is supplemental content that can be used to promote the book and make it feel more like an event (or a continuation of events if it's a repeat author).

    As I've explained in the past, video is becoming table stakes for all product promotion. Books are no different. The key is publishers thinking about how video can new value for readers. Book publishing is one of the most traditional businesses around, and when it comes to its limited pursuit of broadband video, the industry seems to be living up to its reputation. As a result they're missing out on big opportunities to further engage their readers and drive sales.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
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