• Metacafe Drives Community-Based Programming Model

    Metacafe continues to march to the beat of its own drummer and with around 30 million unique visitors/month, do quite well at it. It steadfastly refuses to be lumped in as yet another "UGC/video-sharing" site, instead considering itself an online entertainment destination that is focused on short-form programming largely selected by an elaborate community-based selection process.

    Last week I caught up with CEO Erick Hachenburg to get an update on the business and more particulars about how the community acts as the site's content curator. Erick asserts that no other site does community curation as deeply as Metacafe and I'm inclined to agree with him. With this community emphasis and short-form focus, Metacafe presents yet another example of how broadband is re-shaping consumers' video choices and expectations.

    Metacafe maintains a volunteer panel of about 80,000 users, a small subset of which receives alerts to review each new video submission to the site. Their opinions and behavior determine which ones make it onto the site, and get elevated to prominent positions. Metacafe's "VideoRank" algorithm takes account not only of the panel's ratings for each video, but also the specifics of each panelist's behavior with the video. This includes things like: how often was the video watched and forwarded to friends, each session's length and other factors that proxy for the video's quality.

    The result of this process is that only a very small percentage of video submissions actually make it onto the site, dramatically enhancing the quality. The community is also very adept at weeding out pirated material. These two features alone distinguish Metacafe from sites in the UGC/video sharing space.

    Erick believes a key driver of all behavior is the "cultural difference in the ecosystem" of Metacafe's users and producers. Since Metacafe offers payments for top producers and the process for getting approved is well-understood, there is a strong incentive for producers to put their best material forward. Between Metacafe's community-based editorial process and policy not to fund any content development, it's really a sink-or-swim environment for producers looking to succeed.

    True to its short-form orientation, the average video length is just 90 seconds, and the top producers have come to understand which categories or genres perform best. For example, the top producer focuses exclusively on "entertaining how-to" videos.


    Funny Invention - Click here for more home videos


    Erick believes that Metacafe's combined focus on video and social media/interactivity makes it a very appealing environment for brand advertisers who have largely stayed away from sponsoring the UGC sites. While it's still testing formats, the company is heavily focused on overlays, with very short pre-roll introductory ads used sporadically. Proving that its programming model can be monetized will be a key focus for '08.

    If successful, I'd bet on Metacafe becoming a certain acquisition target for a traditional media company looking to sink its roots further into the broadband video space.