blinkx, which has been around as long as just about anyone in the video search space, is steadily building out its distribution network and advertising capabilities. I caught up with Suranga Chandratillake, CEO of blinkx, who's led the company since its spinoff from Autonomy, and successfully took the company public on London's AIM earlier this year.
Suranga said blinkx is now supporting 5 million searches/day and generating 50 million unique visitors/mo across its network. Network partners featuring a blinkx search box now include Ask.com, Real, Lycos, Infospace and scores of smaller sites that use blinkx's API. Suranga says blinkx can't distinguish between traffic coming from network partners vs. at blinkx.com itself. And the revenue splits in the business deals seem to vary widely, though typically they average out to 50-50. All deals are based on advertising, with the partner usually selling the inventory.
On the ad side, blinkx took a big step forward earlier this year, launching its "AdHoc" contextual ad program. Given the analysis blinkx is doing on video to drive search, it's a natural that the company now leverages this knowledge to improve targeting for ads. In fact, Suranga sees AdHoc as a sort of AdSense for video, dynamcially matching ads with relevant content.
With improved targeting of course comes improved CPMs. Suranga says they've seen CPMs as high as $66 through AdHoc. blinkx is relying on the scale of its 220+ content relationships and millions of impressions to make AdHoc work. Formats can vary but the one that has been most successful so far in a mid-roll banner with an invitation for user to click and engage. As I've written before, AdHoc plays in the same space as other contextual video ad companies such as ScanScout, Adap.tv, DigitalSmiths, AdBrite, YuMe and of course YouTube, plus others.
Both the contextual ad and video search spaces are growing increasingly crowded. Players recognize these are 3 interrelated Achilles heels of the current broadband video model: users finding desired content, content providers getting paid for their work and advertisers getting sufficient and well-targeted industry. blinkx seems well-positioned to address all three.
As the broadband video world continues to coalesce around advertising as its primary business model, there is a flurry of companies seeking to improve the monetization process. As I've written before, this is critical work, because at some point the bloom will be off the broadband video rose if participants can't earn an attractive ROI.
CEO/co-founder Amir Ashkenazi recently gave me a run-down on Adap.tv's approach and progress. Amir was the founder of Shopping.com, which was acquired by eBay and he has brought together many former colleagues for his experienced management team.
Like its competitors, the heart of Adap.tv's model is its ad targeting and relevance engine. Adap.tv uses a "multi-disciplinary approach": analysis of the video/audio (context, metadata, etc.), analysis of the ad (keyword submission, etc.) and analysis of the user (demographics, location, etc.). This data is then fed to a matching engine to pair ads with the most relevant video. Over time the system optimizes based on actual click behavior.
Adap.tv is highly focused on overlays (Amir believes this will be the "de-facto standard" soon), and provides a series of customizable templates for advertisers (see below Kayak overlay). It is also positioning itself as a cost-per-click model, so there's no fixed cost to advertisers. In fact, advertisers can power Adap.tv ads using the same keyword feeds they use for their keyword campaigns.
So far publishers have been responsive to the CPC model because they see overlays as opening up a lot of untapped inventory. Obviously implementing overlays needs to be done judiciously or the viewer experience will become cluttered and broken. Amir believes the whole broadband video ad model will move to CPC over time as advertisers become more sophisticated and focused on performance. This Google-like model would be very good news for advertisers, but would be a brave new world for traditional broadcast and cable networks long accustomed to CPM approaches in their traditional businesses.
While I think a more performance-based broadband ad environment would be welcome, I continue to believe a CPC/overlay approaches will ultimately co-exist with CPM/pre-rolls. There's a lot of interest in overlays, yet there are too many great 15 and 30 second TV spots not be re-used online and the CPMs are way too rich for big branded content providers to walk away from.
Other companies that are in the contextual analysis and/or overlay space include: ScanScout, Digitalsmiths (note: a VideoNuze sponsor), YuMe, blinkx, VideoEgg, YouTube, Brightcove, AdBrite, Viddler (which TechCrunch just wrote about yesterday) and others I'm sure I'm missing or are yet to surface.