YouTube may be trying to shed its image as a home for user-generated videos, but it turns out there's actually real hidden value in those videos, as a syndicated TV program called "RightThisMinute" is proving. Already airing in 47 markets around the U.S., RightThisMinute mines the web for undiscovered video gems, tracks down their creators and tells the stories behind them, all from its newsroom in Phoenix.
The program is the brainchild of Phil Alvidrez of MagicDust Television, who I interviewed at the recent NATPE conference. Phil explained how his background in local news gave him the insight to tap into the "newsroom of the world" which is what the Internet has become. RightThisMinute is co-produced with Cox Media Group, Raycom Media and E.W. Scripps and at NATPE the program selected MGM as its syndication partner.
If you were trying to tune out last week, whether lying on a beach or on a family getaway, you didn't miss all that much exciting online video-related news. However there were some items worth noting and below I've highlighted five that caught my eye.
Amazon has been offering its customers the opportunity to upload video product reviews for years, but peruse the site and you'll see that text reviews still dominate, with only a scattering of videos. No doubt recognizing how powerful video has become, it looks like Amazon may be putting a new emphasis on video product reviews. In an email I received yesterday from the company (which millions of other Amazon customers are likely receiving as well), the subject line read "Review your recent purchases at Amazon.com," with a large callout:
"New on Amazon! Grab your video camera or webcam and add video to your customer review. Click on "Review this product" above to upload a video or find a different product to review"
To be accurate, video reviews aren't a new feature on Amazon, though clearly they haven't been used much; for the 3 products I had bought, all had a healthy number of text reviews, but none had any video.
Settling in over breakfast yesterday with the Sunday Boston Globe (yes, I actually still read my hometown newspaper in print), I was intrigued by a story featured prominently on page 1 , detailing how Tufts University, a highly-selective college in the Boston area, has encouraged freshman applicants to submit one-minute "video essays" of themselves. Of the 15,436 applicants this year, over 1,000, or 6% submitted one.
Talk about a college in synch with the YouTube/Facebook generation. Not only does the idea cater perfectly to what kids today are already doing a lot of online, it provides the admissions office with an unvarnished insight into the kids, talking about what makes them special, in their own unique and creative way.
Video is an emotional medium in ways that text simply is not. That has never been truer than with these submissions. I looked through all the videos that the Globe added to its gallery (you can also go to YouTube and enter "Tufts admissions" to see more) and they are priceless. There's aspiring engineer Michael Klinker flying a styrofoam elephant he designed (Tufts' mascot is the "Jumbo"), to the music from Disney's "Dumbo." And Amelia Downs, whose interests are math and dance, showing the moves she's invented to simulate different math concepts. Then there's Conor Buckley, pianist and Rubik's cube solver-extraordinaire, pursuing both of his passions on split-screen.
The videos are endearing and authentic. Most seem to have been made on a shoestring budget, featuring 17 and 18-year old kids just being themselves, doing what they love. And if you were thinking that the one-minute video idea biases toward wealthier kids, the Tufts director of admissions said that at least 60% of the videos that have been viewed were from kids applying for student aid. With video-ready digital cameras and cell phones, ubiquitous Flip videocameras plus ubiquitous low-end editing software, kids today are more video-capable then any generation in history.
I relate the Tufts admissions videos to Unigo, the Trip Advisor-like site for high school students to check out colleges through videos made by the students themselves, which I wrote about here. Both are perfect examples of what I've called "purpose-driven" user-generated video ("UGV"). What I mean by that is with millions getting comfortable making short videos just for fun and then posting them at YouTube and elsewhere, there's an opportunity to tap this experience, but direct it into specific pursuits. Other UGV examples include the Doritos Super Bowl ads and ExpoTV's "Kitchen Table Conversations" research service. I'm sure there are plenty of others.
I expect many more organizations will leverage purpose-driven UGV going forward.
What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
ExpoTV has formally launched "Kitchen Table Conversations," (KTC in my shorthand) a new research service in which certain members of its community provide video responses to a set of brand-sponsored research questions. The resulting video footage provides authentic, qualitative insights on actual consumers' habits, attitudes and behaviors. KTC is yet another example of "purpose-driven" user-generated video, a concept I began discussing in Fall '08 that continues to gain traction. I talked with Expo's president Bill Hildebolt yesterday to learn more about how the new research service works.
For those not familiar with Expo, it is a community-oriented site where consumers create videos of themselves reviewing products they've used. The site now offers a catalog of 300,000+ of these "videopinions" on a wide diversity of products, generated by 60K+ community members. Over time Expo has evolved from being an outlet where users alone chose which products to review (which they can still do) to a model where sponsors are able to tap the community for video reviews of specific products. Members receive points in exchange for their video submissions and other activities.
Bill explained that the KTC research service originated from sponsors approaching Expo with a desire to interact with community members on a deeper level. With KTC, the research sponsor (e.g. brand, ad agency, trade organization, etc.) can submit a series of questions and the respondent profiles they want to target. Expo then taps into its member database and offers invitations to participate. Because participants have a track record of submitting video to Expo, a minimum quality level is pretty well assured. As part of its service, Expo can edit the submitted videos into a package or just provide them raw to the research sponsor to use as they'd like.
While online research is not a new concept (how many of us have filled out surveys or email questionnaires), what's different here is the reliance on video, which provides a different level of insight. Bill said that for researchers, KTC fits between traditional focus groups (where a group of individuals is brought together in a room to discuss their views of a product) and "ethnography" (a process whereby professional researchers actually live with participants for a period of time studying and capturing their behaviors). Bill believes that KTC provides many of the same authentic, on-location benefits of ethnography, but at a price comparable to focus groups and in a far-quicker turnaround time of 2 weeks or less.
Expo has run half a dozen KTC research projects over the past 9-12 months, working to refine the process. The adjacent video, from one of the research projects (focusing on moms' grocery shopping habits), is a good example of an edited result. In it, you see and hear women in their own homes, speaking authentically and showing specifics (e.g. a coupon folder, handwritten lists, etc.) of how they do their shopping. The video won't be mistaken for prime-time entertainment, but to researchers looking for nuggets of insight, it's golden. For agencies in particular, which can incorporate select segments of KTC video into their client pitches, it's a totally new approach to consumer research.
KTC is the latest example to hit my radar of how certain types of user-generated video can be used for very productive purposes. Regardless of what might be said about YouTube's and others' inability to monetize the user-generated video uploaded to their sites, one of the derivative benefits of all this user activity is that an army of amateur videographers has been created, many of whom are comfortable in front of and behind the camera. Their video won't win an Oscar or Emmy any time soon, but as Expo and others are proving, their skills and passion are valuable and can be tapped for various purposes.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
I continue to be impressed with how YouTube is evolving from an upstart UGC site, reviled by major media companies for its nonchalant approach to copyright, into a video platform with unmatched audience reach that can be leveraged in myriad useful ways. A great example is how YouTube is attempting to channel some of its users' recreational interest in video creation into more purposeful, and valuable, initiatives for 3rd party partners and brands. I wrote about the concept of "purpose-driven" user-generated content over a year ago and also recently cited YouTube's brand engagement contests.
Now, with "YouTube Direct," the company's latest initiative, unveiled earlier this week, news-oriented web sites can embed YouTube's upload functionality directly into their sites, giving them the ability to request videos directly from their audience members. YouTube Direct also gives the news organization a moderation panel so videos can be approved or rejected. For videos that are posted there's a link back to the organization's own site.
It's no secret that newsroom budgets have been under huge pressure, so the opportunity to access free video reporting should resonate with any organization seeking to bolster its coverage. There are different ways a news site can use YouTube Direct ranging from the CNN iReport model which invites users to upload whenever they see news happening to a more targeted approach of asking for video coverage of a certain event (e.g. a high-school football game or local election coverage) to soliciting video responses to news-of-the-day questions. In short, "citizen journalism" can have a lot of different flavors. YouTube Direct is already being used by NPR, Politico, ABC News, The Washington Post and others.
YouTube Direct capitalizes on the growing trend of consumers carrying pocket video recording devices. Whether a smartphone like the iPhone or Droid, a video camera like the Flip, or just a digital camera with video capability, more and more people are ready to shoot at a moment's notice. The prevalence of video devices is set to grow dramatically as smartphones proliferate.
The key to success is having a platform that's easy for news organizations to manage and for users to access. With tens of millions of individual user accounts, more and more devices that offer one touch "YouTube" uploading, and news organizations hungry for inexpensive video coverage, YouTube Direct has a lot going for it. What would make it even stronger would be ad insertion capability, more extensive video editing functions and integration with the news organization's social media applications. I expect all of these features will come over time.
YouTube Direct is another smart move by the company to change mainstream media's perception of it from foe to friend. Combined with Content ID, which allows media companies to manage and monetize user-uploaded videos, and the trial with FreeWheel to allow premium partners to sell their own ads, plus other initiatives, YouTube is well on the road to repositioning itself. From an outside observer's standpoint, the moves don't necessarily feel methodical or as well-communicated as part of a larger strategy, but they are producing dividends. This week's YouTube deal with Univision for full-length programs, which would have been unheard of not that long ago, is just the latest evidence.
With its share of all views continuing to hover around 40% and its monthly streams now exceeding 10 billion, YouTube has enormous reach to capitalize on. Figuring out how to tap its users' energies for the benefit of premium partners and brands should be a key objective.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Following are 4 items worth noting for the Nov 9th week:
1. Will Cisco's new Flip Video camera ad campaign fly? - Cisco deserves credit for its new "Do You Flip" ad campaign for its Flip Video camera, a real out-of-the-box effort comprised entirely of user-generated video clips shot by ordinary folks and celebrities alike. As the campaign was described in this Online Media Daily article, finding the clips and then editing them together sounds like heavy lifting, but the results perfectly reinforce the value proposition of the camera itself. The ads are being shown on TV and the web; there's an outdoor piece to the campaign as well.
Cisco acquired Flip for nearly $600 million earlier this year in a somewhat incongruous deal that thrust the router powerhouse into the intensely competitive consumer electronics fray. Cisco will have to spend aggressively to maintain market share as other pocket video cameras have gained steam, like the Creative Vado HD, Samsung HMX and Kodak Z series. There's also emerging competition from smartphones (led by the iPhone of course) that have built-in video recording capabilities. I've been somewhat skeptical of the Cisco-Flip deal, but with the new campaign, Cisco looks committed to making it a success.
2. YouTube brings ad-skipping to the web - Speaking of out-of-the-box thinking, YouTube triggered a minor stir in the online video advertising space this week by announcing a trial of "skippable pre-roll" ads. On the surface, it feels unsettling that DVR-style ad-skipping - a growing and bedeviling trend on TV - is now coming to the web. Yet as YouTube explained, there's actually ample reason and some initial data to suggest that by empowering viewers, the ads that are watched could be even more valuable.
One thing pre-roll skipping would surely do is up the stakes for producing engaging ads that immediately capture the viewer's attention. And it would also increase the urgency for solid targeting. Done right though, I think pre-roll skipping could work quite well. At a minimum I give YouTube points for trying it out. Incidentally, others in the industry are doing other interesting things improve the engagement and effectiveness of the pre-roll. I'll have more on this in the next week or two.
3. Watching the NY Times at 30,000 feet - Flipping channels on my seat-back video screen on a JetBlue flight from Florida earlier this week, I happened on a series of highly engaging NY Times videos: a black and white interview with Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem, then a David Pogue demo of the Yoostar Home Greenscreen Kit and then an expose of Floyd Bennett Field, the first municipal airport in New York City. It turned out that all were running on The Travel Channel.
Good for the NY Times. Over the past couple of years I've written often about the opportunities that broadband video opens up for newspapers and magazines to leverage their brands, advertising relationships and editorial skills into the new medium. By also running their videos on planes, the NY Times is exposing many prospective online viewers to its video content, thereby broadening what the NY Times brand stands for and likely generating subsequent traffic to its web site. That's exactly what it and other print pubs should be doing to avoid the fate of the recently-shuttered Gourmet magazine, which never fully mined the web's potential. I know I'm a broken record on this, but video producers must learn that syndicating their video as widely as possible is imperative.
4. Nielsen forecast underscores smartphones' mobile video potential - A couple of readers pointed out that in yesterday's post, "Mobile Video Continues to Gain Traction" I missed relevant Nielsen data from just the day before. Nielsen forecasts that smartphones will be carried by more than 50% of cell phone users by 2011, totaling over 150 million people. Nielsen assumes that 60% of these smartphone owners will be watching video translating to an audience size of 90 million people. Its research also shows that 47% of users of the new Motorola Droid smartphone are watching video, vs. 40% of iPhone users. Not a huge distinction, but more evidence that the Droid and other newer smartphones are likely to increase mobile video consumption still further.
Enjoy your weekends!
Surfing over to YouTube the other day, I was struck by how the site could well become the ultimate brand engagement platform. Below is a screen shot of what I found - nearly all the visible real estate showcased 2 different brand contests encouraging users to submit videos for a chance to win prizes.
The first contest, the "Kodak True Colors: Video Portrait Challenge," was just kicking off, and therefore had prominent positioning. The contest urges users to submit as many 10-second videos as they'd like in pursuit of a grand prize including 2 tickets to a taping of the "Conan O'Brien" show. The other contest, "The Best of Us Challenge," by the International Olympic Committee, shows athletes doing something outside their specialty (e.g. Michael Phelps doing speed putting, Lindsey Jacobellis doing the hula hoop) and asks user to emulate these or create their own challenge. The winner receives a trip for 2 to the 2010 Vancouver winter games. The contest was featured in YouTube's "Spotlight," a section on the home page populated by YouTube's editors based on user ratings.
These types of brand contest are not necessarily new, nor are their inclusion in YouTube. Over a year ago I suggested there was real opportunity in what I called "purpose-driven user-generated video" - the idea that with YouTube turning millions of people into amateur video producers, their enthusiasm and skills could be channeled to specific purposes. The success of campaigns like Doritos' $1 Million Super Bowl challenge has amply demonstrated that great creative and great buzz can be generated from a well-executed UGV campaign.
What YouTube's home page that day demonstrated to me is that as brands continue embracing online video and user participation, the go-to partner will be YouTube. There's simply no better way to reach a broad audience of likely contestants than by making a big splash on YouTube. While YouTube's monetization challenges have become one of the most-talked about industry topics this year, I'd argue there's been insufficient focus on the fact that since May '08, YouTube's share of overall video viewing has stayed right around 40%, at least according to comScore. In that time, YouTube's videos viewed per month have more than doubled, from 4.2 billion, to 10.4 billion in September '09.
Even as sites like Hulu and others have launched and promoted new and innovative sites, YouTube continues to retain its share of the fast-growing online video market. YouTube has also matured considerably, with its Content ID system largely sanitizing the site from pirated video and helping change its perception among copyright owners. (Note that on my recent visit to YouTube I searched in vain for a video of Johnny Damon's double steal in Game 4 and found nothing but "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by MLB Advanced Media." In the old days a video like that would have been available all over the site.)
While YouTube has made headway adding premium content partners, a significant part of its appeal remains users uploading and sharing videos. YouTube's combination of massive audience, ubiquitous brand, user interactivity and promotional flexibility make it an ideal partner for brands looking to engage their audiences through video.
Last summer I got plenty of flak for my post, "Does It Actually Matter How Much Money YouTube Loses?" in which I argued that YouTube's long-term strategic value (and Google's financial muscle to support the site's short-term losses) superseded the company's current losses. While I didn't mean to suggest in that post that a company can afford to lose money forever, I was trying to contend that YouTube, the dominant player in a fast-growing and highly disruptive market will eventually find its way to profitability and is well worth Google's continued investment.
YouTube is a rare example of a "winner take all" situation; there is no other video upload and sharing site even on the radar. As video becomes ever more strategic for all kinds of brands, they will increasingly recognize that YouTube is a must-have partner. If Google can't figure out how to make lemonade out of YouTube's lemons, then shame on them. I'm betting, however, that they will.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of August 24th:
1. Time Warner Cable, Verizon launch TV Everywhere trials - Little surprise that Time Warner Cable announced its own TV Everywhere trial yesterday, given that former sister company Time Warner has been one of its biggest proponents. More interesting was Verizon launching a TV Everywhere initiative, which I regard as a pretty strong indicator that most or all service providers will eventually get on board. (The Hollywood Reporter has a story that DirecTV is in talks too for online distribution of TBS and TNT to start).
I have to give credit to Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, TV Everwhere's key champion, who's clearly generated a groundswell of support. While some critics see TV Everywhere as being at odds with the "open Internet" ethos, I continue to think of it as a big win for consumers eager to get online access to their favorite cable programs. Assuming authentication is proven in during the trials I expect a speedy rollout.
2. Conde Nast distributes through boxee - I was intrigued by news that Conde Nast Digital will begin distributing video from its Wired.com and Style.com sites through boxee. boxee and others who connect broadband to TVs are valuable for magazines and other content providers who have long been shut out of the cable/satellite/telco distribution ecosystem, thereby unable to reach viewers' TVs. Years ago special interest magazines missed big opportunities to get into cable programming, allowing upstart cable networks to grow into far larger businesses (consider ESPN vs. Sports Illustrated, Food Network vs. Gourmet or CNBC vs. Forbes). Broadband gives magazines, belatedly, an opportunity to get back into the game.
3. Amazon announces 5 finalists in UGC ad contest - Have you seen the 5 finalists' ads in Amazon's "Your Amazon Ad" contest, announced this week? They're quite clever, with some amazing special effects. The contest is another great example of how brands are tapping users' talents, posing new competition to ad agencies. I haven't written about this in a while, but I continue to be impressed with how different brands are pursuing this path. Doritos has been the most visible and successful with its user-generated Super Bowl ads.
4. Microprojectors open up mobile video sharing opportunities - Maybe I've been living under a rock because I just read about "microprojectors" for the first time this week (I have a decent excuse since as I non-iPhone owner I wouldn't have a use for one, yet). As the name suggests, these are pocket-size projectors that allow you to output the video from your iPhone to project onto a large surface like a wall or ceiling. According to this NY Times review the quality is quite respectable, and is no doubt only going to improve. The mind boggles at what this could imply for sharing mobile video. Imagine bringing a kit - consisting of an iPhone, portable speakers and microprojector - to your friend's house, then plugging in and projecting either a live stream or an on-demand program for all to see.
Enjoy your weekend!
The college football season hasn't yet officially begun, but the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has already fumbled the ball a couple of times with its confusing new media policy which bans fan-generated videos at games.
The confusion began when the SEC told its member universities that "Ticketed fans can't produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information concerning the Event." As Mashable and others noted, the policy effectively - and bizarrely - barred all social media activity at games. The policy was widely translated to mean that Facebook updates, Tweets, photo uploads and of course YouTube clips would be verboten.
But, faced with a sharp backlash, the SEC softened its stance, allowing "personal messages and updates of scores or other brief descriptions of the competition throughout the Event." Further, it allowed photos to be taken, as long as their "distributed solely for personal use..." But while Twitter, Facebook and the like would be allowed under the new policy, fan-recorded game action videos would still be prohibited.
In an interview with The Buzz Manager Blog, Charles Bloom, the SEC's Associate Commissioner of Media Relations explained, "the intent of the policy....is trying to protect our video rights, as they pertain to our television and media partners. So, someone in the stadium can enter Twitter feeds or Facebook entries and photographs, but the game footage video is something that we will try to protect." He added further "We're in the new year, the first year of our television and digital rights agreement, so there was a feeling that we needed to push this through pretty quickly..."
The SEC indeed has two big money contracts - a $2 billion, 15 year deal with ESPN, and an $800M+, 15 year deal with CBS, which includes an assortment of wireless, VOD, and data rights. The SEC also recently announced a partnership with XOS Digital to launch the SEC Digital Network, intended to be the "largest online library of exclusive and comprehensive SEC sports content available anytime, anywhere." With so much on the line, the SEC pursued the hardline path - pre-emptively prohibiting fan-generated video.
Is this a smart policy? Does fan-generated video really "compete" with professionally-captured video? And is the policy even enforceable? I'd argue the answers are no, no and no, making the SEC look both paranoid and out of touch.
First off, fan video serves to enhance the overall event experience, a key goal of the sports-crazy SEC. One can imagine fans at various locations in the stadium capturing compelling new angles that the TV producers may have missed or edited out. A curated collection of these clips could be added to the SEC Digital Network, possibly in a well-marked, "Fan Zone." Note this would be free content the SEC would be getting, that could also be monetized.
Second, it's ridiculous to think fan-generated video "competes" with the networks' feed. The limited zoom and audio capabilities of an iPhone or Flip video camera mean the fan videos captured in a raucous 90,000+ seat stadium are going to be iffy at best. That's not to say these videos won't have value, but please - nobody is going to turn off their HDTV to watch some fan's live stream. At some point technology may evolve so that a fan's inexpensive video camera can produce comparable video to a professional's; but that point is still a ways off.
Third, the video policy is impossible to enforce. Is security at the stadiums going to frisk students before entering and then confiscate phones with video capabilites, while letting others pass through? All while it tries to hustle tens of thousands of rambunctious fans through the gates? Bedlam would result.
While the SEC rightfully wants to protect the value of its TV contracts, its lack of understanding for how its policy plays out in the real world is plainly obvious. If the SEC - and others - looked at social media and user-generated video as an opportunity rather than a threat then the policies they created would make a lot more sense.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
In last Friday's "4 Items Worth Noting..." post, I made a quick reference to the Megawoosh Waterslide video - what I thought was a genuine user-generated video of a German man barreling down a huge waterslide into a small pool. It turns out that I, along with many others, got punked. It's a fake, created through effects by a German marketing firm and sponsored by Microsoft Office. If you want all the details, NewTeeVee has a great write-up.
The waterslide incident contrasts with a second incident that happened to me just two weeks earlier. Taken together, I think the two represent a fascinating, yet unexplored side-effect of the broadband video revolution that all of us as human beings are currently experiencing. Let me explain what I mean.
In July 31st VideoNuze Report podcast, Daisy Whitney was very excited to describe the "JK Wedding March" viral video phenomenon (19 million + views to date) and how YouTube was publicizing on its blog that it was generating exceptional click-throughs and revenue for the video's background song "Forever" by Chris Brown through overlay ads.
When I quickly watched the video, my internal "authenticity detector" went off loudly as I wondered whether the wedding march was authentic or simply staged to generated buzz and sales for the song. I expressed this skepticism to Daisy on the podcast, and it wasn't until I did further research, and found the young Minnesota wedding couple interviewed on the "Today" show that my suspicions were allayed.
Meanwhile, when I quickly watched the Megawoosh video I thought, hey, it's an outlandish stunt. I wondered about the engineering involved to pull it off, but my authenticity meter remained relatively quiet.
Here's what I think the difference is: In the JK Wedding March I saw an obvious commercial opportunity that made me suspicious, while with the Megawoosh slide I did not see such opportunities so I was more willing to accept it as genuine. My authenticity lens has been shaped by having watched many broadband videos over the years where brands were involved in subtle and clever ways that I've become very aware. On the flip side, I've seen so many incredible user-generated stunts, that I've become conditioned to thinking that just maybe, anything is possible to pull off and some people's willingness to risk injury and death in the name of fleeting celebrity is unlimited.
The larger point here is that broadband video puts all of us in unchartered waters with respect to understanding if what we're watching is real. In the past, we rarely needed to question this. We knew when we were watching special effects or a documentary, reality programming or scripted fiction. And when authenticity representations were breached, it was a big deal (remember the outcry when NBC's "Dateline" admitted staging a test crash of a GM pickup truck?).
With broadband video however, we often don't even know who the producers are, much less what hidden motivations they may have or what third parties may be involved. Sometimes things are incongruous - for example, why is Microsoft Office even involved in sponsoring this German waterslide stunt?
Bottom line: all of us are on a new learning curve, requiring that we develop entirely new media literacy skills so we can successfully navigate broadband video's unchartered territory.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 25th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for July 31, 2009.
This week I provide some additional thoughts on the new web site 15 Seconds of Fame (http://15sof.com/), which I posted about yesterday. The site is a broadband, social media-based version of "American Idol," offering multiple online contests. Users pay $1 to enter their 15 second (max) video, which then funds the prizes ranging from $25-$100. It's a great example of what I call "purpose-driven" user generated video, meant to appeal to people who have talent and already have experience uploading video to YouTube and other video sharing sites.
Speaking of YouTube, Daisy picks up on her post about its latest sensation, the "JK Wedding Entrance Dance" which has gained over 12 million views. The video shows a wedding party proceeding down the aisle dancing to Chris Brown's "Forever." The video is a blast to watch, but more importantly, YouTube is highlighting on its blog that the video has also become a big money-maker for its rights-holders. By using YouTube's content management tools and "Click-to-Buy" links, there are now overlay ads to buy the song at Amazon and iTunes. YouTube reports that the click-through rate is 2x the average and helped drive the song to #3 on iTunes and #4 on Amazon. It's a nice win for everyone. Think the bride and groom (interviewed here on NBC's Today Show) are getting a cut?
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Andy Warhol's famous quote that "everyone gets their 15 seconds of fame" is the inspiration behind a new web site called 15sof.com that is like a broadband, social media-based version of the hit show "American Idol," but created and promoted at a fraction of the cost.
15sof.com is meant to capitalize on the growing subculture of society (that tends to skew younger) who are either seeking fame and fortune or want to influence the process of who attains it. These motivations have been the key forces behind the explosion of reality-based contest shows now running and arguably drive many of the most outlandish stunts seen on YouTube.
15sof.com's founder/CEO John Bonaccorso explained to me that the site offers aspiring contestants a simple but novel proposition: pay $1 to submit your 15 second (max) video to one of the myriad contests running at any one time on 15sof.com. The community then votes on the submissions and moves a handful of contestants on to subsequent rounds where lengthier videos are accepted. The prize money is funded from the contestants' fees. Contestants can enter as often as they'd like, but precautions are in place to prevent voting fraud. 15sof uses a white-label social media platform from Reality Digital, which I last wrote about here.
With current top prizes in the $25-$100 range, nobody's going to get rich, but they will gain visibility and of course psychic gratification. As John explained, particularly for the high school and college-aged drama crowd, 15sof.com offers them an opportunity to show their stuff, which is plenty enough.
15sof.com is itself a pure social media creation: John said the site hasn't spent any money yet on conventional marketing. Instead it has built awareness and participation solely through Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social media platforms. In the world of 15sof.com - and many other social sites and apps launching today - there's no need for tune-in ads, billboards or other expensive marketing tactics. Sites like 15sof.com grow out of the burgeoning social community, dominated by the young. John wouldn't disclose numbers, but said the site beat its first month traffic goal in the first 3 weeks. That's no indication of future success, but it's a good start.
For me, there are 2 other noteworthy aspects of 15sof.com. First, the site reflects yet another example of "purpose-driven" user-generated video, a concept I've explored in the past in connection with Unigo, a start-up trying to use student-created videos to disrupt the college guidebook industry. The "purpose-driven" video idea is to get the multitudes of amateurs whom YouTube introduced to video to turn their newfound skills and passion toward something more remunerative and possibly productive. Purpose-driven video concepts are proliferating. Most notable are the myriad brand-sponsored consumer video contests and also the many sites featuring user-created how-to videos. I continue to believe there will be many bona fide business opportunities based on purpose-driven video.
Second, 15sof.com also illustrates the evolving interplay between online and on-air programming. We are starting to see how programs born in one of the mediums can create a variation in the other, or where a concept can migrate from one medium to the other. For example, John's vision is that 15sof.com - the spawn of American Idol - could itself eventually become a TV show. Another example of this phenomenon is Scripps Networks' Food2, where new talent being showcased could eventually graduate to programs on the Food Network itself. I suspect some of this multi-platform thinking is behind Ben Silverman's new venture with IAC. My point is that broadband is giving programmers a lot of new flexibility in how they bring their creative concepts to market.
Meanwhile, if you're expecting to find yours truly belting out a song on 15sof.com, you'll have to keep waiting. I'll be here hiding behind my keyboard.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Yesterday's "YouTube myth busting" post on its YouTube Biz Blog had the opposite of its intended effect: rather than providing more transparency about YouTube's performance as it hoped to do, it only set off another round of frustrated posts in the blogosphere imploring Google to release actual YouTube numbers.
The post came on the heels of last week's Q2 '09 earnings call and supplementary briefing call (transcripts here and here) which were full of optimistic, yet confusing comments about YouTube's "trajectory" from a handful of Google's senior executives.
Here's what CFO Patrick Pichette said on the supplementary call: "I think that it is true that we are pleased with YouTube's trajectory. And in part the reason why we're communicating it to the Street is there's been so much press over the last quarter with all of these documentations of, you know, massive cost and no business models and all kind of negative press that we've read a lot about. And we just wanted to kind of reaffirm to the Street that this is a very credible business model and it's one that's got trajectory. So in that sense it's just to kind of tell everybody that we're on progress on the plan that we had made for it."
But what plan is he referring to? In almost 3 years of owning YouTube, Google has never publicly disclosed a specific plan for YouTube or laid out its business model, so attempts at reaffirming it fall flat because there's nothing against which progress can be judged. Here are other comments, with my reactions in parentheses.
Pichette on the earnings call: "We are really pleased both in terms of its (YouTube's) revenue growth, which is really material to YouTube and in the not long, too long distance future, we actually see a very profitable and good business for us, so from that perspective, we are really pleased with the trajectory." (WR: that sounds pretty bullish)
Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP of Product Management on the earnings call: "I think what I said - or what I meant to say was that monetizable views have tripled in the last year and that we are monetizing billions of views every month." (WR: that sounds bullish too, but wouldn't some actual numbers really bolster this point?)
Rosenberg on the supplementary call: "And that's part of why I think it's taken us time to kind of triangulate toward what works, and I think some of the things that we have now are still in the pretty nascent stages..." (WR: nonetheless, per earlier comment, profitability can already be forecast in the not too distant future?)
Nikesh Arora, President of Global Sales Operations and Business Development on the earnings call: "So we are seeing significant sell-through in most of our major markets where we have YouTube homepage for sale." (WR: of what ad unit - pre-rolls or display?)
Arora on the earnings call: "So I think the next phase of YouTube is going to be toward pre-roll video on short clips and long form video (which we are in the process of doing) various deals in, which we've announced in the past." (WR: that's new news, YouTube's spoken primarily of overlays in the past)
Rosenberg on the supplementary call: "I would not say our overall optimism that we expressed with respect to YouTube is primarily a function of one specific format. We've actually been testing pre-rolls, I think, for quite a while. So if you interpret that one single comment to pre-rolls to imply the broad conclusion with respect to optimism on YouTube, I think that's probably a mistake." (WR: so maybe pre-rolls aren't actually the next big thing?)
Yesterday's post: "Myth 5 YouTube is only monetizing 3-5% of the site. This oft-cited statistic is old and wrong, and continues to raise much speculation." (WR: what is the percentage then?)
CEO Eric Schmidt on the earnings call: "The majority of YouTube views are not professional content. They are user generated content because that's the majority of what people are watching." In response to whether YouTube is able to monetize user-generated content: "Has not been our focus." (WR: again, letting us know what percentage is professional and the focus of monetization would be very helpful)
These comments raise lots of questions about how far along Google actually is in understanding YouTube's traffic and its ability/plan to monetize it. I think Google is being clumsy in explaining YouTube's performance because it got nervous about the eye-popping estimates that have been floating around lately about how much money YouTube is losing and rushed to try to mitigate this perception, but without being ready to present real numbers as backup. Further, I don't think it rehearsed its executives very well about what to say or how to say it, so the improvised comments did not convey a clear consistent message.
As someone who believes YouTube has enormous long-term value for Google, my advice is that its executives should just stay mum on YouTube until they're ready to make a logical case backed by facts and data. That may take longer than Google or the market hoped, allowing the rumor mill to continue to churn. But continuing to make unsupported statements will only rile YouTube followers further, and eventually sap Google's credibility.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Paid video forecast to surpass free - A Strategy Analytics forecast that got attention this week says that the global paid online video market will be worth $3.8B in 2009, exceeding the global free online video segment which will total $3.5B. I haven't seen the details of the forecast, but I'm very curious what's being included in each of these numbers as both seem way too high to me. The firm forecasts the two segments to grow at comparable rates (37% and 39%), suggesting that their size will remain relatively even. I suspect we're going to be seeing a lot of other research suggesting the paid market is going to be far larger than the ad-supported market as sentiment seems to be shifting toward subscriptions and paid downloads.
Consumer generated video contests remain popular - VideoNuze readers know I've been intrigued for a while now about contests that brands are regularly running which incent consumers to create and submit their own videos. Just this week I read about two more brands jumping on the bandwagon: Levi's and Daffy's retail stores. NewTeeVee had a good write-up on the subject, citing new research from Forrester which reviewed 102 different contests and found the average prize valued at $4,505. I see no end in sight for these campaigns as the YouTube generation realizes it's more lucrative to pour their time into these contests than training their cats to skateboard. Brands too are recognizing the wealth of amateur (read cheap!) talent out there and are moving to harness it.
MySpace has lots of work ahead to become a meaningful entertainment portal - The WSJ ran a piece on Monday based on an interview with Rupert Murdoch in which he was quoted as saying MySpace will be refocused "as an entertainment portal." That may be the winning ticket for MySpace, but I'm not totally convinced. MySpace has been in a downward spiral lately, with a 5% decline in audience over the past year, a 30% headcount reduction and an executive suite housecleaning. While always strong in music, according to comScore, its 48 million video viewers in April '09 were less than half YouTube's 108 million, while its 387 million video views were about 5% of YouTube's 6.8 billion. Clearly MySpace has a very long way to go to give YouTube serious competition. It will be interesting to see if the new management team Murdoch has installed at MySpace can pull off this transition.