• 1Cast's Launch Adds to Competition in Personalized Video News Category

    1Cast, an aggregator of short-form news-oriented video clips from premium content providers, is announcing its commercial launch today, joining others in the personalized video news category like Voxant, ClipSyndicate, RedLasso (for local news), plus other online news aggregators. Following its year-long private beta test, 1Cast is also announcing today a redesigned UI, distribution partnerships with boxee and Clearwire, the WiMax wireless provider, and a new entertainment category anchored by E! Entertainment and Style. Yesterday I caught up with Anthony Bontrager, 1Cast's CEO to learn more.

    Anthony explained that 1Cast users are now consuming 3.5 million video clips/mo, contributing to average session lengths of 14 minutes on the desktop and 36 minutes on mobile devices. With average clips running 2-3 minutes apiece, that means users are watching a series of clips back-to-back when checking the site. 1Cast gives users the ability to set up their own "casts" selecting from preset categories and networks. The casts are automatically updated each time new content is added by 1Cast. I've played around with the site and have found it very straightforward to find and organize content. My only knock is that sometimes content is not that current. For example, even though the Red Sox played until Oct 11th when they lost the ALDS to the Angels, a search for "Boston Red Sox" on 1Cast listed the first video result from Aug 26th.

    1Cast obtains clips from news providers like AFP, Barron's, BBC, MarketWatch and Reuters. For these providers 1Cast represents additional distribution and revenue. 1Cast is completely ad-supported, and Anthony said that it is selling 80% of its own ads, with YuMe selling the rest. CPMs are in the $25 range. Ads are primarily 15 second mid-rolls and post-rolls, with bumpers at the beginning of sessions. 1cast revenue shares with its content partners, but Anthony wouldn't disclose what percentage. He did point to a recent 6 figure campaign Infinity ran on the site as a major validation of 1Cast's model.

    1Cast and the other personalized video aggregators play well to the short-form consumption behavior of online video users. This is even more so the case with mobile consumption. The distribution deals with boxee and Clearwire will help 1Cast gain more visibility and usage.

    As I said when I first covered 1Cast in Aug '08, I think personalized video news is a very compelling concept, but my concern with 1Cast and the others specializing in this area is whether they can build sufficiently large audiences and scale their businesses.

    I think the issue is that most heavy Internet users have long since decided on their preferred news aggregator and customized their content feeds. Portals especially have also been beefing up their video news content offered as well. And since users have integrated their email, RSS feeds, stock quotes and other custom touches, getting them to switch, or even add another news aggregator - even if it does offer real differentiation with video updates - is not a trivial challenge. There's also YouTube to worry about which seems well-positioned to focus on video news if it chose to. And as Anthony pointed out, there are also many sites that scrape and aggregate video content illegally. All of this leads me to think that distribution partnerships are the main way for personalized video news providers to grow their reach.

    Still, I'm a huge believer that a superior user experience can quickly build attention and loyalty. And most content providers are very willing to add new distribution outlets as long as they're legitimate and offer further potential reach and revenue. So I'm open-minded on 1Cast and the others and am eager to see how they continue to grow and evolve.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.