• Howcast is Innovating in Crowded How-to Video Market

    Last week I got a heads-up on milestones that Howcast, a player in the how-to video market, has recently achieved, from Sanjay Raman, Chief Product Officer and co-founder. Howcast is now doing about 25 million playbacks per month, with about 20% of those happening on Howcast.com and 80% through its partners such as Yahoo, YouTube, MSN, Hulu, TiVo, FiOS, boxee and others.  Howcast is now producing around 400 videos/month and has over 5,000 videos in its library.

    Beyond the web, Howcast is innovating in a number of areas. Mobile has been a big focus, with apps for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Android all released this year. Howcast says that to date its iPad app has been downloaded 150,000 times, second-most of all free apps. Howcast videos are also featured on Virgin Air's "Red" on-demand network. In addition, Howcast is also producing custom videos for corporate clients such as GE, Kodak and others where Howcast retains rights to include the video in its library.

    Howcast and others are benefitting from how well the how-to category fits with online video. If a picture's worth a thousand words, then when it comes to learning how to do something, a video is worth a thousand pictures. I surfed through a number of Howcast videos and found them clear, concise and shot in high-quality, which Sanjay said is one of the company's differentiators.  

    Still, as I wrote 2 1/2 years ago in "How-to Category Gets Crowded" there is intense competition in the how-to video space and videos across various sites look quite similar. For example, I searched for "How to change your car's oil" on Howcast, ExpertVillage, 5Min.com, VideoJug and YouTube. All returned a number of results (note YouTube was dominated by Howcast and ExpertVillage videos) and while there were some differences in video quality and effects, they largely followed the same script. That's not that surprising when you consider the logic of "there's a right way and a wrong way" to do most things in life. In addition to the video, most also included a text transcript.

    All of that leads me to think that the ingredients for long-term success for how-to video sites will include very broad libraries, a presence on all worthwhile distributors/platforms with search optimized for each, low-cost/high-scale production models, targeted monetization and a level of brand-building that helps establish legitimacy for users. I expect lots more growth ahead for this category with competition intensifying.   

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