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Analysis for 'UGC'

  • VideoNuze Report Podcast #25 - July 31, 2009

    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?

    Click here to listen to the podcast (12 minutes, 58 seconds)

    Click here for previous podcasts

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

     
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  • 15 Seconds of Fame (15sof.com): A Broadband, Social Media-Based Version of "American Idol"

    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.

     
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  • Google is Being Clumsy in Explaining YouTube's Performance

    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.

     
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  • 4 News Items Worth Noting from the Week of July 13th

    Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of July 13th:
     
    TV Everywhere survey should have cable industry clicking their heels - I wasn't at all surprised to read results of a new Solutions Research Group survey fielded to 500 Comcast and Time Warner Cable subscribers giving the concept of TV Everywhere positive reviews. As Multichannel News reported, in the overall survey 28% of respondents said the idea was "excellent" and 45% said it was "good." Digging in further though, among those 18-49 the "excellent" score surged to 80%, while 87% of Hulu and Fancast users approved of the idea. Unprompted, respondents cited benefits like convenience, remote viewing, getting better value from their cable subscriptions, watching on PCs in rooms without TVs and catching up on missed programs. My take: consumers "get" what TV Everywhere is all about and already have positive initial reactions, meaning there's very significant upside for the cable industry.

    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.

     
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  • Catching Up on Last Week's Industry News

    I'm back in the saddle after an amazing 10 day trip to Israel with my family. On the assumption that I wasn't the only one who's been out of the office around the recent July 4th holiday, I've collected a batch of industry news links below so you can quickly get caught up (caveat, I'm sure I've missed some). Daily publication of VideoNuze begins again today.

    Hulu plans September bow in U.K.

    Rise of Web Video, Beyond 2-Minute Clips

    Update on New Channels

    ABC Content Now on Hulu

    Nielsen Online: Kids Flocking to the Web

    Amid Upfronts, Brands Experiment Online

    Clippz Launches Mobile Channel for White House Videos

    Prepare Yourself for iPod Video

    Study: Web Video "Protail" As Entertaining As TV

    In-Stat: 15% of Video Downloads are Legal

    Kazaa still kicking, bringing HD video to the Pre?

    Office Depot's Circuitous Route: Takes "Circular" Online, Launches "Specials" on Hulu

    Upload Videos From Your iPhone to Facebook Right Now with VideoUp

    Some Claims in YouTube lawsuit dismissed

    Concurrent, Clearleap Team on VOD, Advanced Ads

    Generating CG Video Submissions

    MJ Funeral Drives Live Video Views Online

    Qik Raises $5.5 Million

    Why Hulu Succeeded as Other Video Sites Failed

    YouTube's Pitch to Hollywood

    Invodo Secures Series B Funding

    Comcast, USOC Eye Dedicated Olympic Service in 2010

    Consumer Groups Push FTC For Broader Broadband Oversight

    Crackle to Roll Out "Peacock" Promotion

    Earlier Tests Hot Trend with "Kideos" Launch

    Mobile entertainment seeking players, payment

    Netflix Streams Into Sony Bravia HDTVs

    Akamai Announces First Quarter 2009 State of the Internet Report

    Starz to Join Comcast's On-Demand Online Test

    For ManiaTV, a Second Attempt to be the Next Viacom

    Feeling Tweety in "Web Side Story"

    Most Online Videos Found Via Blogs, Industry Report

    Cox to Turn "MyPrimeTime" Dial to 100

    How to Start a Company (and Kiss Like Angelina)

     
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  • 4 Industry Items from this Week Worth Noting

    YouTube mobile video uploads exploding; iPhones are a key contributor - The folks at YouTube revealed that in the last 6 months, uploads from mobile phones to YouTube have jumped 1,700%, while in the last week, since the new iPhone GS was released, uploads increased by 400% per day. I didn't have access to these stats when I wrote on Monday "iPhone 3GS Poised to Drive User-Generated Mobile Video," but I was glad to see some validation. The iPhone 3GS - and other smartphone devices - will further solidify YouTube as the world's central video hub. I stirred some controversy last week with my "Does It Actually Matter How Much Money YouTube is Losing?" post, yet I think the mobile video upload explosion reinforces the power of the YouTube franchise. Google will figure out how to monetize this over time; meanwhile YouTube's pervasiveness in society continues to grow.

    Nielsen study debunks mythology around teens' media usage - Nielsen released a new report this week "How Teens Use Media" which tries to correct misperceptions about teens' use of online and offline media. The report is available here. On the one hand, the report underscores prior research from Nielsen, but on the other it reveals some surprising data. For example, more than a quarter of teens read a daily newspaper? Also, 77% of teens use just one form of media at one time (note, data from 2007)? I'm not questioning the Nielsen numbers, but they do seem out of synch with everything I hear from parents of teens.

    Paid business models resurfacing - There's been a lot of talk from media executives about the revival of paid business models in the wake of the recession's ad spending slowdown and also the newspaper industry's financial calamity. For those who have been offering their content for free for so long, putting the genie back in the bottle is going to be tough. Conversely for others, like those in the cable TV industry, who have resisted releasing much content for free, their durable paid models now look even more attractive.

    Broadcast TV networks diverge on strategy - Ad Age had a good piece this week on the divergence of strategy between NBC and CBS. The former is breaking industry norms by putting Leno on at 10pm, emphasizing cable and avidly pursuing new technologies. Meanwhile CBS is focused on traditional broadcast network objectives like launching hit shows and amassing audience (though to be fair it is pursuing online distribution as well with TV.com). Both strategies make sense in the context of their respective ratings' situations. Regardless, broadcasters need to eventually figure out how to successfully transition to online distribution, something that is still unproven (as I wrote here).

     
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  • WWE's "Smash-Ups" Drives Excitement for WrestleMania 25th Anniversary

    World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has created an innovative user-edited video application called "Smash-Ups" to engage its fans and drive excitement for this Sunday night's "WrestleMania 25th Anniversary" event. It's a great example of how long-form video can be segmented and made available to users to exercise their creativity in support of the brand. In this case, WWE is also offering a $5,000 prize to the user who creates the best clip.

    I've been a fan of these kinds of mashup or re-mix apps, going back to a post I did in August '07 about the one that Universal Pictures and Metacafe created for "The Bourne Ultimatum." More recently, NFL has had success with its NFL "Replay Re-Cutter" launched last fall. I continue to believe they offer a clever way for fans to engage with the brand and potentially tapping into archive content that likely isn't creating any current value. The clips create new video views and incremental ad inventory. And as the clips are shared by users they also become a cheap source of viral marketing.

    WWE gets all this. Brian Kalinowski, WWE's EVP, Digital Media said, "The WWE is renowned for its passionate fans and compelling content, and WrestleMania Smash-Ups allows us to bring both together in an innovative, engaging broadband video experience....unleashing the full value of our library of tens of thousands of video clips to drive greater engagement from our viewers and enhanced content monetization." In addition to the video clips, Smash-Up lets users edit the segments provided, and insert audio tracks and title cards. If there's one downside, it's that the maximum clip length is 2 minutes, which is not a lot of time for hard-core fans to create a meaningful montage out of 25 years of classic footage.

     

    The Smash-Ups are powered by Gotuit, a company I've written about which has also recently announced it is powering Major League Soccer's "QuickKicks" video portal and remix and Lifetime's "Movie Mash-up" feature. As CEO Mark Pascarella and VP &GM Patrick Donovan, explained, a key Gotuit advantage for all these initiatives is that no new video clips are actually being created. Rather, by using Gotuit's metadata and indexing capabilities, the content provider can tag particular scenes and present them as clips. When users create their mixes, they're actually just combining a series of "virtual clips" - time-coded in and out points in the underlying long-form video files. This makes managing these activities a lot simpler and cost-effective. The Smash-Ups also showcase how the Gotuit UI can be fully customized and integrated with WWE's look-and-feel.

    WWE is monetizing the clips through both sponsorships (THQ) and ads. A pre-roll or mid-roll is inserted up to a maximum frequency of 1 ad per 2 minutes of content (a Gotuit setting the content provider can adjust). Users can share their creations with embed code or via email. WWE has also done a great job promoting the Smash-Ups, enlisting its superstars to make their own videos which are posted on YouTube.

    These user-edited applications (especially if they're part of contests with meaningful incentives) are a pretty compelling tactic for content providers to drive viewership and monetization. I expect we'll continue to see more of them launched.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
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  • 6 Reasons Why the Disney-YouTube Deal Matters

    Late yesterday's announcement that Disney-ABC and ESPN would launch a number of ad-supported channels focused on short-form content was yet another meaningful step in broadband video's maturation process. Here are 6 reasons why I think the deal matters:

    1. It validates YouTube as a must-have promotional and distribution partner

    For many content providers it's long since become standard practice to distribute clips, and often full-length content, on YouTube. Yet aside from CBS, no broadcast TV network has seriously leveraged YouTube. That's been a key missed opportunity, as YouTube is simply too big to ignore. It's not just that YouTube notched 100M unique viewers in Feb. '09 according to comScore, it's that the site has achieved dramatically more market share momentum over the past 2 years than anyone else, increasing from 16.2% of all streams to 41% of all streams.

    Increasingly, YouTube is not the 800 pound gorilla of the broadband video market; it's the 8,000 pound gorilla. Disney has acknowledged what has long been tacitly understood - as a video content provider, it's impossible to succeed fully without a YouTube relationship.

    2. It creates a path for full-length Disney-ABC programming to appear on YouTube and elsewhere

    While this deal only contemplates short-form video, and more than likely, mostly promotional clips, it almost certainly creates a path for full-length episodes to appear as well, as the partners build trust in each other and learn how to monetize. Full-length content is most likely to come from ABC, not ESPN (the release pointedly states no long-form content from ESPN's linear networks is included) as part of a newly expanded distribution approach.

    For YouTube, which has been aggressively evolving from its UGC roots in its quest to generate revenues, the current clip deal alone is a big win; gaining distribution rights to full-length programs would be an even more significant step. Underscoring YouTube's flexibility, the current deal allows ESPN's player to be embedded, and for Disney-ABC to retain ad sales. YouTube's reported redesign, which places more emphasis on premium content, is yet another way it is getting its house in order for premium content deals.

    3. It opens up a new opportunity for original short-form video to flourish

    When you think about broadcast TV networks and studios, you immediately think of conventional long-form content. Yet all of these companies have been producing short-form content that either augments their broadcast programs, or is originally produced for broadband, as Disney's own Stage 9 is pursuing. The levels of success of this content have been all over the board.

    With YouTube as a formal partner, Disney can aggressively leverage it as its primary distribution platform, gaining more direct access to this vast audience. Facing unremitting market pressures on many fronts, broadcast TV networks themselves need to reinvent their business models. Short-form original content married to strong distribution from YouTube would be a whole new strategic opportunity.

    4. It puts pressure on Hulu and other aggregators

    It's hard not to see YouTube's gain as Hulu's - and other aggregators' - loss. For sure nothing's exclusive here, and as PaidContent has reported, discussions about Disney distributing full-length programs on Hulu (as well as YouTube) are also underway. But the Disney deal underscores something important that differentiates YouTube from Hulu: YouTube is both a massive promotional vehicle and a potential long-form distributor, while Hulu is really only the latter.

    YouTube's benefit derives from its first-mover status. Hulu has done a tremendous job building traffic and credibility in its short life, but it is still distant to YouTube in terms of reach. I continue to believe it is far easier for YouTube to evolve from its UGC roots to become also become a premium outlet than it is for Hulu - or anyone else - to ever compete with YouTube's reach.

    5. It raises threat warning to incumbent service providers by another notch

    It's also hard not to see the Disney deal moving YouTube's threat level to incumbent video service providers (cable/satellite/telco) up another notch. We discussed YouTube's importance to these companies at the Broadband Video Leadership Evening 2 weeks ago (video here), and I thought the panelists generally did not give YouTube much credit as it deserves.

    I continue to believe that of all the various "over-the-top" threats to the current world-order, YouTube is the most meaningful ad-supported one. It has massive audience, a potent monetization engine in Google's AdWords, and with the Disney deal, increased credibility with premium content providers. Especially for younger audiences, the YouTube brand means a lot more than any incumbent service provider's. If I were at Comcast, Verizon or DirecTV, I'd be keeping very close tabs on YouTube's evolution.

    6. It exposes the absurdity of the ongoing Viacom-Google litigation

    Two weeks ago at the Media Summit I listened to Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman describe the status of his company's $1 billion lawsuit against Google and YouTube. As he talked of mounds of data and reams of documentation being collected and reviewed, I found myself slumping in my chair, thinking about how well all the lawyers involved in the case must be doing, and yet how pointless it all seems.

    The old adage "2 wrongs don't make a right" fits this situation perfectly. There is no question that in the past YouTube was lax about enforcing copyright protection on its site and cavalier about how it responded publicly to the concerns of rights-holders. But it has made much progress with its Content ID system and a good faith effort to become a trusted partner. All of this is evidenced by the fact that Disney wouldn't even be talking to YouTube, much less cutting a deal, if it didn't view YouTube as reformed. While the media world is moving on, adapting itself to the new rules of video creation, promotion and distribution, Viacom continues to waste resources and executive attention pursuing this case. To be sure, Viacom has been plenty active on the digital front, but it is long overdue that these companies figure out how to resolve their differences and instead focus on how to work together to generate profits for themselves, not their lawyers.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
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  • For YouTube, A William Morris Deal Would Create Issues

    The NY Times reported this week that YouTube is in talks with the William Morris talent agency about a possible deal to have some of its clients create videos especially for YouTube.

    Nothing's confirmed at this point and who knows if an actual deal will result. However, if one does it would be a major strategy change for YouTube and I believe would create lots of new issues for the company to deal with. YouTube has always insisted that it is not a content creator; rather its goal has been to be a platform partner for premium video providers seeking to get the most out of the broadband medium.

    The company has made significant progress on this front while recognizing that its vast collection of user-generated video will always be valued by its users but will be largely unmonetizable. Still, YouTube has been viewed cautiously by large media companies wary of its reach and disruptive potential. There's still lingering concern about why it took so long to get its Content ID system in place to protect its partners' copyrights (lest we forget the residual of that delay is the Viacom lawsuit that still looms).

    From my perspective YouTube risks its credibility with its premium partners if the Morris deal happens. It is going to reopen the debate about what YouTube wants to be when it grows up: distribution partner or content creator. Other questions abound: Will the YouTube-Morris content compete directly with certain premium partners? Will the Morris content receive preferential promotional treatment? And how about the risk that data YouTube keeps about its premium partners' channels could be shared with Morris to help guide its content strategy? The questions go on. YouTube may feel it can finesse these questions and/or that its 40% video market share gives it leeway to push the envelope.

    I've long thought that YouTube would find it irresistible to eventually get into the content business itself. The logic flows from precedent. For example, in the cable TV world, TCI was once the largest cable operator. It recognized the enormous financial leverage it enjoyed if it evolved beyond simply being packager of others' channels. As partner in channels in which it owned equity, it guaranteed them distribution, which in turn created viewership, ad and affiliate revenues and big-time value. In fact, TCI's content activities were so successful that it ultimately spawned a whole new company, Liberty Media, to manage its programming investments.

    Similarly for YouTube, its access to millions of eyeballs creates a lot of temptation to have its own content properties, all the more so as broadband finds its way to the TV. No doubt YouTube has been pitched on this idea repeatedly over the years. But if it chooses to proceed this time it will no doubt hear concerns raised from its partners. Can it be a neutral, committed distribution partner while it also tries to build up its own content portfolio?

    Further, there's the specter of Google and its potent monetization engine backing YouTube's content properties, which could also be viewed as competitive with its partners' ad sales efforts. Put all of this together and the potential Morris deal creates lots of new issues. If it comes to fruition it will be interesting to see how YouTube navigates them.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.
     
    (Update 2/3/09 - Since I posted this piece, sources close to the YouTube-Morris deal have reached out to me and explained that the deal will be similar to the Seth MacFarlane-Media Rights Capital deal previously unveiled on Google Content Network. They have also clarified the point I discussed above, saying that YouTube and Google will remain a platform for distributing content, but will not be involved in producing or taking an equity stake in it.

    The deal suggests that the Hollywood community continues to think innovatively about how top tier talent can get involved with broadband video. In this case, Morris has a roster of big-name clients and relationships that could be married to the Google Content Network for widespread distribution. No doubt further deals will follow as the model gets further baked. More on this deal and its implications coming soon.)

     
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  • Reviewing My 6 Predictions for 2008

    Back on December 16, 2007, I offered up 6 predictions for 2008. As the year winds down, it's fair to review them and see how my crystal ball performed. But before I do, a quick editorial note: each day next week I'm going to offer one of five predictions for the broadband video market in 2009. (You may detect the predictions getting increasingly bolder...that's by design to keep you coming back!)

    Now a review of my '08 predictions:

    1. Advertising business model gains further momentum

    I saw '08 as a year in which the broadband ad model continued growing in importance as the paid model remained in the back seat, at least for now. I think that's pretty much been borne out. We've seen countless new video-oriented sites launch in '08. To be sure many of them are now scrambling to stay afloat in the current ad-crunched environment, and there will no doubt be a shakeout among these sites in '09. However, the basic premise, that users mainly expect free video, and that this is the way to grow adoption, is mostly conventional wisdom now.

    The exception on the paid front continues to be iTunes, which announced in October that it has sold 200 million TV episode downloads to date. At $1.99 apiece, that would imply iTunes TV program downloads exceed all ad-supported video sites to date. The problem of course is once you get past iTunes things fall off quickly. Other entrants like Xbox Live, Amazon and Netflix are all making progress with paid approaches, but still the market is held back by at least 3 challenges: lack of mass broadband-to-the-TV connectivity, a robust incumbent DVD model, and limited online delivery rights. That means advertising is likely to dominate again in '09.

    2. Brand marketers jump on broadband bandwagon

    I expected that '08 would see more brands pursue direct-to-consumer broadband-centric campaigns. Sure enough, the year brought a variety of initiatives from a diverse range of companies like Shell, Nike, Ritz-Carlton, Lifestyles Condoms, Hellman's and many others.

    What I didn't foresee was the more important emphasis that many brands would place on user-generated video contests. In '08 there were such contests from Baby Ruth, Dove, McDonald's, Klondike and many others. Coming up in early '09 is Doritos' splashy $1 million UGV Super Bowl contest, certain to put even more emphasis on these contests. I see no letup in '09.

    3. Beijing Summer Olympics are a broadband blowout

    I was very bullish on the opportunity for the '08 Summer Games to redefine how broadband coverage can add value to live sporting events. Anyone who experienced any of the Olympics online can certainly attest to the convenience broadband enabled (especially given the huge time zone difference to the U.S.), but without sacrificing any video quality. The staggering numbers certainly attested to their popularity.

    Still, some analysts were chagrined by how little revenue the Olympics likely brought in for NBC. While I'm always in favor of optimizing revenues, I tried to take the longer view as I wrote here and here. The Olympics were a breakthrough technical and operational accomplishment which exposed millions of users to broadband's benefits. For now, that's sufficient reward.

    4. 2008 is the "Year of the broadband presidential election"

    With the '08 election already in full swing last December (remember the heated primaries?), broadband was already making its presence known. It only continued as the year and the election drama wore on. As I recently summarized, broadband was felt in many ways in this election cycle. President-elect Obama seems committed to continuing broadband's role with his weekly YouTube updates and behind-the-scenes clips. Still, as important as video was in the election, more important was the Internet's social media capabilities being harnessed for organizing and fundraising. Obama has set a high bar for future candidates to meet.

    5. WGA Strike fuels broadband video proliferation

    Here's one I overstated. Last December, I thought the WGA strike would accelerate interest in broadband as an alternative to traditional outlets. While it's fair to include initiatives like Joss Wheedon's Dr. Horrible and Strike.TV as directly resulting from the strike, the reality is that I believe there was very little embrace of broadband that can be traced directly to the strike (if I'm missing something here, please correct me). To be sure, lots of talent is dipping its toes into the broadband waters, but I think that's more attributable to the larger climate of interest, not the WGA strike specifically.

    6. Broadband consumption remains on computers, but HD delivery proliferates

    I suggested that "99.9% of users who start the year watching broadband video on their computers will end the year no closer to watching broadband video on their TVs." My guess is that's turned out to be right. If you totaled up all the Rokus, AppleTVs, Vudus, Xbox's accessing video and other broadband-to-the-TV devices, that would equal less than .1% of the 147 million U.S. Internet users who comScore says watched video online in October.

    However, there are some positive signs of progress for '09. I've been particularly bullish on Netflix's recent moves (particularly with Xbox) and expect some other good efforts coming as well. It's unlikely that '09 will end with even 5% of the addressable broadband universe watching on their TVs, but even that would be a good start.

    Meanwhile, HD had a banner year. Everyone from iTunes to Hulu to Xbox to many others embraced online HD delivery. As I mentioned here, there are times when I really do catch myself saying, "it's hard to believe this level of video quality is now available online." For sure HD will be more widely embraced in '09 and quality will get even better.

    OK, that's it for '08. On Monday the focus turns to what to expect in '09.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
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  • Closing out the Broadband Election of 2008

    Back in December, 2007, in my 6 predictions for 2008, I wrote that "2008 is the year of the broadband presidential election." As I re-read those thoughts last night, and reflected on the long campaign that finally comes to a close today, I found myself stunned at just how influential broadband video turned out to be this year.

    Consider all of the following: the Obama speech on race now viewed 5 million+ times on his YouTube channel, the breaking of the Jeremiah Wright rants online which were then replayed countless times, the numerous campaign ads aired online first and then migrated to TV, the YouTube debates with user-submitted video questions, the Hillary Clinton crying episode in NH which helped to resuscitate her campaign, the Saturday Night Live Palin sketches that became a viral phenomena, and so on.

    In so many ways, broadband video is tailor made for presidential campaigning; in 2008 that became evident. It allows direct, high-impact communications with a huge, dispersed audience, circumventing expensive TV advertising. It augments fund-raising, the lifeblood of all campaigns, by allowing potential donors to get an unprecedented "feel" for the candidate. It allows the candidate to amplify messages in totally unstructured ways. And, along with other web 2.0 tools, it gives the candidate an always-on channel to stay close to supporters, thereby sustaining their interest and enthusiasm.

    But it also upends many of the traditional notions about how to manage and control campaigns. With video capture so pervasive, any false move or off-script moment can become the next big game-changer. The news cycle, once so carefully orchestrated by campaigns to carry their messages into voters' living rooms at prescribed hours is now a thing of the past. In fact, in this election mainstream media outlets took to trolling YouTube and other web sites, scrounging for the latest hot video or tidbit of news. All of these things break a campaign's normal rhythms.

    There has been a lot said about "change" in this election. What actually comes of those assertions will become better understood beginning tomorrow. What is for certain however, is that if you're a politician or a campaign manager, the 2008 broadband presidential race has permanently changed the way you'll pursue your craft in the future. For voters that's incredibly empowering and for democracy it's enormously invigorating.

    Make sure to vote.

     
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  • October '08 VideoNuze Recap - 3 Key Themes

    Welcome to November. October was a particularly crazy month with the unfolding financial crisis. Here are 3 key themes.

    1. Financial crisis hurts all industries; broadband is no exception

    In October the financial crisis was omnipresent. During the month I addressed its probable effects on the broadband industry here and here so I'm not going to spend much more time on it today. Suffice to say, for the foreseeable future, the key industry metrics are financing, staffing and customer spending. Conserving cash and getting to breakeven are paramount for all.

    In particular, in "Thinking in Terms of a 'GOTI' Objective" I tried to provide some food for thought about why focus is so important right now. Industry CEOs' jobs have gotten a whole lot harder in the wake of the meltdown; those with the best strategic and financial skills will come through the storm, others will encounter significant challenges.

    2. Broadband video is still in very early stages of development

    I'm constantly trying to gauge just how developed the broadband video industry actually is. All kinds of indicators continue to suggest to me that we're still in the very early days. For example, in one post this month comparing iTunes and Hulu, it was evident that iTunes is currently far outpacing Hulu in TV episode-related revenues. Remember that Hulu is the undisputed premium ad-supported aggregator. And that the ad-supported business model itself is predicted by most to eventually be far larger than the paid model. That iTunes is so far ahead for now shows how young Hulu really is (in fact, just celebrating its first anniversary) and how much more development the ad-supported model still has ahead of it.

    I think another relevant indicator of progress is how well the broadband medium is distinguishing itself from alternatives by capitalizing on its key strengths. In "Broadband Video Needs to Become More Engaging," I noted that while there have recently been positive signs of progress, overall, much of broadband's engagement potential is still untapped. That's why I'm always encouraged by compelling UGV contests like the one Fox and Metacafe unveiled this month or by technology like EveryZing's new MetaPlayer that drives more granular interactivity. To truly succeed, broadband must become more than just an online video-on-demand medium.

    3. Cable operators are central to broadband video's development

    As ISPs, cable operators account for the lion's share of broadband Internet access. Further, their ongoing efforts to increase bandwidth widens the universe of addressable homes for high-quality content delivery. Still, their multichannel subscription-based business model is increasingly threatened by broadband's on-demand, a la carte nature. As delivery quality escalates and consumer spending remains pinched, the notion of dropping cable in favor of online-only access become more alluring.

    Yet in "Cutting the Cord on Cable: For Most of Us It's Not Happening Any Time Soon," I explained why restricted access to popular cable network programs and an inability to easily view broadband video on the TV will keep cable operators in a healthy position for some time to come. Still, it's a confusing landscape; this month I noticed Time Warner Cable itself helped foster cable bypass, when in the midst of its retransmission standoff with LIN TV, it offered an instructive video for how to watch most broadcast network programming online. Comcast also got into the act, unveiling "Premiere Week" on its Fancast portal. These kinds of initiatives remind consumers there's a lot of good stuff available for free online; all you need is a broadband connection.

    Lots more to come in November, stay tuned.

     
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  • Fox, Metacafe Have a Winner with New "Australia" Contest

    This morning Twentieth Century Fox and Metacafe are announcing "The Thirty Second Film Contest," which challenges contestants to put together a winning thirty second spot for the epic film "Australia," opening on November 26th. Though not yet fully live, I like the direction of this initiative a lot, and believe it provides an innovative example of how to blend traditional film marketing techniques with broadband-enabled audience participation.

    Contestants visit the promotional site hosted at Metacafe, a large aggregator of short-form entertainment, to obtain film-related assets provided by Fox. These can be augmented with the contestant's own music, voiceovers, sound effects and artwork to create a highly original entry. Entries are submitted through Metacafe and will be judged by the folks at Fox and Bazmark (Australia director Baz Luhrman's company).

    The contest is actually meant to be quite serious and semi-professional; Luhrmann has also created a whole library of videos about film-making, which a student of the art can use to help shape his/her entry, or just watch to learn. The grand prize is enticing: a trip for two to Australia, another to NY for a private screening/meeting with Luhrmann and inclusion of the winning entry on the film's eventual DVD.

    The Australia contest builds on a similar one that Metacafe and Universal offered for "The Bourne Ultimatum" last year, which I reviewed enthusiastically here. The concept also follows on previous posts I've done about the value of what I call "purpose-driven user generated video" or "YouTube 2.0" opportunities for users to create videos that have actual business value. I continue to believe that user-submitted videos which go beyond goofball entertainment are a huge area of broadband industry opportunity.

    The Australia contest is a winner on multiple levels as it; creates pre-release buzz for the film, allows fans and aspiring artists to get involved and showcase their work, taps into a large base of original (and free!) ideas to help promote the movie, and introduces a fresh, updated approach to film marketing that is sorely needed for differentiation.

    This week I've been talking a lot about engagement and why it's so critical in the broadband era. While media and entertainment companies must always focus on driving ratings points or a big opening day box office, the ways to do so are changing. The key change I see is that films, TV programs and other entertainment must become part of a larger experience - complete with multifaceted engagement opportunities - rather than just a one-off moment of audience consumption. Broadband enables this shift in a big way. More marketers need to take advantage of the possibilities.

    What do you think? Post a comment now!

     
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  • September '08 VideoNuze Recap - 3 Key Themes

    Welcome to October. Recapping another busy month, here are 3 key themes from September:

    1. When established video providers use broadband, it must be to create new value

    Broadband simultaneously threatens incumbent video businesses, while also opening up new opportunities. It's crucial that incumbents moving into broadband do so carefully and in ways that create distinct new value. However, in September I wrote several posts highlighting instances where broadband may either be hurting existing video franchises, or adding little new value.

    Despite my admiration for Hulu, in these 2 posts, here and here, I questioned its current advertising implementations and asserted that these policies are hurting parent company NBC's on-air ad business. Worse yet, In "CNN is Undermining Its Own Advertisers with New AC360 Live Webcasts" I found an example where a network is using broadband to directly draw eyeballs away from its own on-air advertising. Lastly in "Palin Interview: ABC News Misses Many Broadband Opportunities" I described how the premier interview of the political season produced little more than an online VOD episode for ABC, leaving lots of new potential value untapped.

    Meanwhile new entrants are innovating furiously, attempting to invade incumbents' turf. Earlier this week in "Presidential Debate Video on NYTimes.com is Classic Broadband Disruption," I explained how the Times's debate coverage positions it to steal prime audiences from the networks. And at the beginning of this month in "Taste of Home Forges New Model for Magazine Video," I outlined how a plucky UGC-oriented magazine is using new technology to elbow its way into space dominated by larger incumbents.

    New entrants are using broadband to target incumbents' audiences; these companies need to bring A-game thinking to their broadband initiatives.

    2. Purpose-driven user-generated video is YouTube 2.0

    In September I further advanced a concept I've been developing for some time: that "purpose-driven" user-generated video can generate real business value. I think of these as YouTube 2.0 businesses. Exhibit A was a company called Unigo that's trying to disrupt the college guidebook industry through student-submitted video, photos and comments. While still early, I envision more purpose-driven UGV startups cropping up in the near future.

    Meanwhile, brand marketers are also tapping the UGV phenomenon with ongoing contests. This trend marked a new milestone with Doritos new Super Bowl ad contest, which I explained in "Doritos Ups UGV Ante with $1 Million Price for Top-Rated 2009 Super Bowl Ad." There I also cataloged about 15 brand-sponsored UGV contests I've found in the last year. This is a growing trend and I expect much more to come.

    3. Syndication is all around us

    Just in case you weren't sick of hearing me talk about syndication, I'll make one more mention of it before September closes out. Syndication is the uber-trend of the broadband video market, and several announcements underscored its growing importance.

    For example, in "Google Content Network Has Lots of Potential, Implications" I described how well-positioned Google is in syndication, as it ties AdSense to YouTube with its new Seth MacFarlane "Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy" partnership. The month also marked the first syndication-driven merger, between Anystream and Voxant, a combination that threatens to upend the competitive dynamics in the broadband video platform space. Two other syndication milestones of note were AP's deal with thePlatform to power its 2,000+ private syndication network, and MTV's comprehensive deal with Visible Measure to track and analyze its 350+ sites' video efforts.

    I know I'm a broken record on this, but regardless of what part of the market you're playing in, if you're not developing a syndication plan, you're going to be out of step in the very near future.

    That's it for September, lots more planned in October. Stay tuned.

    What do you think? Post a comment!

     
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  • Doritos Up UGV Ante with $1 Million Prize for Top-Rated 2009 Super Bowl Ad

    The frenzy around user-generated video ads hit a new peak yesterday as Frito-Lay announced it is offering a $1 million prize to an amateur who creates a Doritos ad that scores the highest rank in USA Today's Super Bowl Ad Meter.

    I believe the new campaign, which comes on top of 2 previously successful Super Bowl user-generated video ("UGV") ad contests from Doritos, is a sure-fire winner for the brand. It reflects some very smart thinking by Doritos' executives and will further accelerate the very significant trend around brand-sponsored UGV contests (see chart below for examples of UGV contests that have run in the past year). I've been writing about the UGV ad craze for a while now on VideoNuze and I see it driving continued evolution in brand-agency relations.

     

    The new Doritos UGV campaign works for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the top prize, and the four finalist prizes of $25,000 and a trip to the Super Bowl, are all very enticing awards, certain to drive tons of submissions. Winning the top prize - which requires the #1 rank in the USA Today Ad Meter - is a big-time challenge, but it is seriously aided by all the pre-game publicity this contest will be receiving. Doritos is cleverly stoking things by positioning the ad as an opportunity to "take down the big guys" - an obvious reference to Anheuser-Busch which has won the #1 rank for the last 10 years. With "Yes We Can" and "Yes We Will" political slogans ascendant, "power to the people" pitches like the one Doritos is making have a nice tailwind on their side.

    This pre-game buzz means Super Bowl viewers are specifically going to be on the lookout for the Doritos UGV ad, helping its rank. Of course if you're an advertiser, especially in this ad-skipping era, viewer anticipation for your ad is close to nirvana as it gets. It builds brand awareness, engagement and presumably sales...3 big wins when you're spending an estimated $3 million for a 30 second Super Bowl ad. And of course, just think about all the free market research Doritos is collecting along the way, as loyal buyers showcase their thoughts and feelings about the product and brand.

    In fact, it's Doritos' decision to morph a conventional Super Bowl ad buy into a broadband-centric, user-oriented campaign that's truly noteworthy here. VideoNuze readers know that I've been ranting for 3 straight Super Bowls that broadband opens up all kinds of new creative avenues for brands to extract new value from their game-day spending and generate a far-better ROI on the insane prices they're required to pay for this once a year extravaganza.

    I have been appalled at how few Super Bowl advertisers have actually seized their broadband opportunities (note having ads playing in post-game online galleries is nice, but nowhere near what broadband is capable of). All of this has caused me to wonder whether agencies, and brands, were hopelessly oblivious to broadband's emerging role.

    Doritos clearly is not among those trapped in yesterday's advertising thinking. It seems to get what broadband can do for its brand and its Super Bowl ad strategy. With its new UGV campaign, the ROI that Doritos will get on its actual game-day spend will far surpass those of its competitors. With luck that should help spur others to focus more on broadband in their future Super Bowl ads.

    What do you think? Post a comment!

     
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  • Startup Unigo Harnesses "Purpose-Driven" User-Generated Video to Drive Disruption

    I was absolutely riveted by an article I read in this past Sunday's NY Times Magazine entitled "The Tell-All Campus Tour," about Unigo, a tiny startup which threatens major disruption to the college guidebook industry. In particular, the company's emphasis on user (i.e. college student) generated video caught my attention. It got me thinking again about the business value that "purpose-driven" UGV has when it is properly channeled.

    I've touched on this theme in the past, with respect to brand marketers' UGV contests that have unleashed all kinds of "amateur" creativity (see "Baby Ruth Hits a Home Run..." or "And the Oscar Goes To...Dove"). These contests have demonstrated that, with the proper incentives, users' passions and video know-how can lead to really compelling results. Now, upon reading about Unigo, I've become further convinced that there are bona fide startup opportunities in leveraging purpose-driven UGV.

    To put this in context, YouTube struck gold by enabling, for the first time, random, and largely unmonetizable, user generated video. Now a new generation of startups like Unigo can build on the YouTube phenomenon by focusing on purpose-driven UGV. To succeed, I think these companies will have 3 common elements: a reasonably large existing market that can be disrupted through the use of purpose-driven video (mixed with other web 2.0 features), a critical mass of amateur video creators who are self-motivated to produce high-quality, authentic video, and a group of advertisers eager to reach targeted audiences through new alternatives to traditional channels.

    That's a mouthful, so let me use Unigo to break this down a bit. For starters, the company was founded by a precocious 23 year-old whose can-do energy and deep understanding of the college market is equally matched by his lack of real-world experience and formal company financing. All of that illustrates lesson #1 for purpose-driven UGV entrepreneurs: the barriers to creating these kinds of startups is shockingly low.

    Somewhat buried in the 3,400+ word article is what resonated for me: Unigo bought a hundred Flip video cameras ($90 apiece at Amazon, fyi) and strategically distributed them to students at over 100 campuses nationwide, with no clear instructions on what to do next. The resulting student-created videos (which are continually submitted) span the gamut from slice-of-life to panoramic to comedic to everything in between. Unigo features text-based student submissions and photos, which, when combined with the videos, form an unvarnished - and unprecedented - user-generated multimedia guide to the America's campuses.

    Simply put, Unigo is a product created by the YouTube/Facebook generation for the YouTube/Facebook generation. It offers a simple, breakthrough value proposition that will no doubt attract a large audience. And that large audience will be extremely interesting to all manner of advertisers.

    Unigo's business value could make it a TripAdvisor-like, must have resource that initially augments, but could eventually squeeze traditional guidebooks and ratings services. While it is still way too early to call Unigo a success by any traditional standards, the work it has done to date offers a fascinating window into the emerging purpose-driven UGV-centric business model. That makes it well worth keeping an eye on.

    What do you think? Click here to post a comment.

     
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  • Baby Ruth Hits a Home Run with UGV All-Star Game Contest

    Baby Ruth hit a home run at Tuesday night's All-Star Game with its "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" user generated video contest. The contest was heavily promoted during the All-Star Game and ran in association with Major League Baseball.

    In case you missed it, the challenge was to creatively sing the classic ballpark tune in 2 minutes or less. The contest received dozens of submissions, which were then narrowed to a list of finalists, judged by a committee of three. The judging criteria was weighted heavily toward originality, but also included creative use and/or incorporation of the Baby Ruth brand, ensuring that the candy maker got strong visibility in the videos. The winner got to perform during the 7th inning of the game. (I didn't see this part of the game, so I don't know if it happened. Note a peeve is that MLB/Baby Ruth should be offering video of the winner singing at Yankee Stadium, which would be an instant classic, but doesn't seem to be.)

     

    Still, I'm a big fan of UGV contests like this especially when the brand, contest and tie-in event all harmonize, as was the case with this Baby Ruth contest. Though these contests require significant upfront coordination, the payoff is that they are a unique branding opportunity that can inexpensively break through today's ad clutter. Not to mention these contests are a real crowd-pleaser, playing on the same voyeuristic viewer impulses that programs like American Idol have tapped into brilliantly.

    I've said repeatedly that the abundant volume of UGV available at YouTube and elsewhere provides evidence that there's a ton of amateur talent out there. Brands and others that figure out how to leverage it can generate excitement and deepen customer engagement. In addition - and with a little luck - these videos can also turn into viral sensations, driving a near infinite ROI for the underlying brand.

    Other recent examples that combine UGV with high profile events include Dove's "Supreme Cream Oil Body Wash Ad Contest" (in conjunction with the Academy Awards) and MySpace/NBC's "Decision '08 Convention Contest" (in conjunction with this summer's political conventions). I expect more to come. If you see examples, please let me know!

    What do you think? Post a comment now!

     
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  • CNN Gets UGC Foothold with "iReport" Feature

    Give CNN credit: their 4 month-old "iReport" feature seems to making steady progress, demonstrating how a traditional news organization can effectively incorporate user-generated content.

    If you haven't been following iReport, it is essentially a user generated content feature on CNN.com that incents CNN viewers to upload their own photos and videos to the site. Sometimes these uploads are in response to "assignments" CNN has created such as "Midwest flooding," "Celebrity look-alikes" or "Is Jesse Jackson relevant?" Other times it's just users uploading content they find compelling. As an extra inducement, CNN will periodically show these iReport segments on-air (as an "AC 360" viewer, I notice them several times per week).

    CNN benefits from the iReport content in several ways. First and most obvious, CNN is creating a virtual extension of its news gathering operation, providing it access to free content that is often as good or better in terms of its immediacy and relevance that what CNN itself could produce. In this era of belt-tightening by all news organizations, CNN is able to do more with less.

    Second, iReport generates a powerful "citizen journalist" engagement opportunity for both ardent newshounds and amateurs alike to help shape the news, not just passively watch it. This helps CNN position itself as more relevant and in-touch, giving it a competitive advantage vs. its peers.

    Last, iReport gives CNN an ongoing stream of promotional opportunities, keeping the brand fresh and in-touch with audiences. Last night, Campbell Brown (who was sitting in for Anderson Cooper as anchor on AC360) provided another great example: a new iReport Film Contest, which challenges users to produce short films from the campaign trail. So rather than the perpetual pundit talking heads, this contest will provide a fresh look at the current election. (I must note regrettably though, that currently clicking on the AC360 site's link to learn more about the contest's details yields a "Page Not Found" error. Ugh.)

    Broadband poses particular challenges for broadcast and cable news organizations, not only because it shifts consumption away from linear-scheduled newscasts to pure on-demand, but also because it enables news to be covered and made by amateurs outside the traditional boundaries of bureaus and assignment desks. Figuring out to responds to and shape these new forces is a key challenge for all news organizations. With the iReport feature, CNN seems to off to a good start.

    What do you think? Post a comment now!

     
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  • The Incredibly Growing YouTube

    Closing out the week, I missed this blurb from Information Week yesterday reporting YouTube's staggering dominance of broadband video traffic. New numbers out from Hitwise show that in May '08 YouTube garnered 75% of the 10 million visits to 63 video sites that Hitwise is tracking. That's 9 times the traffic of #2 MySpaceTV and more than 20 times that of the #3 site which is Google's other video property (remember it?)

    According to Hitwise YouTube's share rose 26% from a year ago compared with drops by all the others in the top 5 sites except Veoh, which rose by 32% from a year ago.

    It's just mind-boggling to think that one site could have such market share, particularly when a lot of the networks' programs cannot be found there. I think it speaks to how strong users' appetites are for UGC and viral content remain, how YouTube has become a de facto video platform for lots of smaller players in the industry (and consumers) and how the company is likely beginning to enjoy some early success with its partners' channels.

    A few months ago, in "YouTube: Over-the-Top's Best Friend" I wrote that YouTube is quickly becoming the perfect ally for all those makers of new broadband-to-the-TV devices. These companies desperately need content and credible brands to help pull through consumer demand. YouTube offers both. In this sense, YouTube has huge value yet to be tapped (of course demonstrating that it can monetize its massive audience wouldn't hurt its partnership value...)

    However, looked at another way, YouTube's success should be very encouraging to other players. To start with, YouTube is doing a marvelous job educating the world about the virtues of broadband video. And while YouTube is the market's 800 pound gorilla, it is still leaving key opportunities open for other players to differentiate themselves. Potential areas include high-quality delivery, ad-based and paid monetization and offering content that YouTube simply doesn't have (examples: Comedy Central programs like "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report")

    Volumes are yet to be written about YouTube. Whether it turns its market-leading traffic into a financially-explosive franchise or forever remains a red-ink spewing blip on Google's P&L is yet to be seen. Either way, when the history of broadband video is written, YouTube will be featured prominently.

     
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  • MySpace-NBC's Decision '08 Contest: Elevating User Generated Video

    Yesterday came a further positive sign that user-generated video may be elevated from the domain of karaoke-singing cats, faux-skateboarding accidents and exploding soda bottles.

    That positive sign was MySpace, NBC and MSNBC's announcement of a new citizen journalism initiative dubbed the "Decision '08 Convention Contest." In it, MySpace users are encouraged to submit short videos answering one of three questions, "Why do you vote?" "Why are you the best person for this job?" or "How will you stand out in the crowd and get the scoop no one else can?"

    The submissions will first be judged by a panel of experts from MySpace and NBC, with five finalists revealed for the MySpace community to vote on. Two winners will be selected, one to attend the Democratic convention this summer, and the other to attend the Republican convention.

    To learn more about the contest and the motivations behind it, yesterday I spoke to Liba Rubenstein, MySpace's Manager of Public Affairs, who is essentially the product manager for the IMPACT channel, MySpace's hub for civic and social engagement. Liba explained that MySpace has used this type of contest frequently, and to much success. MySpace community members love getting involved and expressing their creativity. The two level judging process is meant to balance the experts' high editorial standards with members' passion and enthusiasm. Liba added that in particular MySpace and NBC are gaining insights about how to fuse traditional media with web 2.0. (And in a classic "doing well by doing good" vein, maybe NBC will discover the next Tim Russert in the contest.)

     

    I like the Decision '08 contest for a variety of reasons. First and most importantly, it allows UGV to be directed to an important social use: increasing citizens' involvement in the democratic process. In this way it continues on what YouTube's YouChoose '08 pioneered by allowing its users to upload video questions in the recent primary debates. It may sound somewhat idealistic, but I really like the notion of broadband video doing its part to strengthen the functioning of America's democracy - even more so as we approach July 4th in this election year.

    Further, I think the convention contest provides an example for how others outside the political realm might consider harnessing the creativity and passion of their members to use UGV in a directed purpose. One example that comes right to mind is in the education field. For example, wouldn't it be cool if educators uploaded UGV of themselves in action, explaining and demonstrating their proven teaching methods? I got a glimpse of some of this happening already, while doing a project last summer for the George Lucas Educational Foundation. There's no shortage of other examples.

    There has been much hand-wringing about whether UGV can ever be monetized through advertising, a debate that will no doubt rage on. Alternatively, I for one would like to see more energy put into purpose-driven UGV projects like the MySpace-NBC convention contest. While I enjoy the cats, skateboarders and soda bottles as much as the next guy, I continue to believe the UGV medium can ultimately be so much more.

    What do you think? Post a comment now!

     
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