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.
The trend toward widespread video syndication to small-to-medium sized web sites continues to gain momentum.
Two recent initiatives - plus others I expect are still to come - point to the increasing likelihood that broadband video's eventual distribution model will look far different from traditional, tightly-controlled approaches. I'm becoming more convinced that "syndicated video economy" concept I sketched out in March is where the market is heading.
The first initiative, covered in a recent NYTimes article, "Google and Creator of 'Family Guy' Strike a Deal" suggests that Google may finally be ready to point its powerful AdSense engine toward video distribution. AdSense, as many of you likely know, essentially created a "long tail of advertisers" by dispersing targeted pay-for-performance keyword-based ads to tens of thousands of small-to-medium sized web sites. Including Google Ads has become a no-brainer for many sites seeking to easily pick up a few extra bucks by allocating some on-site real estate to AdSense.
Now instead of distributing ads, Google is looking to take the AdSense model a step further by distributing video content (along with ads) to myriad web sites hungry for video, and cash. First up are comedic webisodes from Seth MacFarlane (creator of Fox's "Family Guy"). Google's proposition to small, and even larger sites, makes sense: we'll give you free high-quality video content, all supported by pay-for-performance ads. You get great content and can make money at it. What's not to like? Not much in my opinion. It seems like such a compelling model that one wonders why Google hasn't done this earlier. In fact, they did. Back in August 2006, Google announced a test with MTV to do exactly the same thing (the ensuing YouTube-Viacom litigation no doubt scotched the test). Hopefully this time around Google will have more luck.
Meanwhile, hyper video syndication is not just for the mighty like Google. Consider Jambo Media, a two year-old company with 12 employees which has built out a syndication network now generating over 2 million video views per day. Web sites like BestCelebGossip.com, Epigee.org and MensTech.com may not be household names, but, as Jambo's CEO and co-founder Rob Manoff explained to me, they are representative of virtually unlimited long tail web publishers eager for video, but unable or unwilling to create it themselves.
Rob and his team of ex-affiliate marketing and advertising veterans have created the Jambo Video Network by licensing video from sources such AP, iVillage, Ivanhoe Broadcast News, and then packaging them into "channels" for distribution in a Jambo video player. Of course ads come along with the video content (though Jambo has a separate ad-free "JamboCast" white label solution in the works too).
Affiliate sites can login to their Jambo account to select which channels to receive while customizing the look and feel of the video player. Over 100 sites have affiliated, which Rob believes will grow to several hundred by the end of '08, driving a projected 5 million views/day. Rob said that sites earn $2-4 effective CPM with revenue per day ranging from $10-30 on the low end all the way up to $1,000/day on the high end.
Jambo is pursuing a space that syndicators like Roo, Voxant, ClipSyndicate, Newsmarket and others have been in for a while. All of these players, along with now Google, are doing what Rob articulates well: creating video ad inventory where none previously existed. Such is the power of syndication in the frictionless Internet environment. And why smart content providers - from startups to established TV networks - are recognizing that increasingly, syndication is where the broadband market is heading.
Note: if you want to learn more about syndication and how one big content provider is succeeding with it, please join me for a webinar entitled, "Profiting from the Syndicated Video Economy." The webinar is sponsored by Akamai and will feature a presentation from Greg Clayman, Executive VP, Digital Distribution and Business Development, MTV Networks and me. Registration is free.
Magnify.net, which I have previously written about here and here, has just launched its Magnify Publisher application, to facilitate bloggers' integration of video into their posts. Steve Rosenbaum, Magnify's CEO/founder gave me rundown the other day.
As a refresher, Magnify is the ultimate Long Tail of video enabler, allowing individuals to create branded personalized channels from video that is publicly available on the net. To date over 37,000 of these channels have been created on virtually every niche subject imaginable.
Magnify Publisher is another example of a tool to advance video syndication. Publisher inverts Magnify's usual approach though, offering bloggers the chance to start building video channels inside their blogs, but without really knowing it. The blogger begins by downloading the Publisher app (today WordPress and Movable Type are supported) and can instantly start searching for relevant videos for specific posts and embed them. The over time, as they've grabbed more and more videos, a channel starts to organically take shape, which itself can then be exposed at some point to users.
All of this is predicated on Magnify's belief that blogging is increasingly going to be multimedia, but only if access to video is easy and well-integrated. My quick reaction was that Magnify Publisher feels close to syndication sites like Voxant, ClipSyndicate and others. Steve suggests that Publisher's differentiators are that a personalized channel can be built rather than just a collection of clips, and that Publisher offers access to content beyond news, which tends to be the others' focus. In fact ClipSyndicate's videos are available to bloggers through Publisher, and Steve sees others being integrated down the road.
I am ever mindful of the old adage about "missing the forest for the trees" as I try daily to understand the often minor feature differences between competing vendors or the nuances of startups' market positioning. As we all know, when you get too close to something, it's quite easy to lose the larger perspective. So periodically I think it's essential to take a huge step back to try to identify the larger patterns or trends that crystallize from the daily frenzy of deals and announcements.
As a result, I've come to believe that recent industry activity points to an emerging and significant trend: the early formation of what I would term the "syndicated video economy." By this I mean to suggest that I'm seeing more and more industry participants' strategies - in both media and technology - start from the proposition that the broadband video industry will only succeed if video assets are widely dispersed and revenue creatively apportioned.
For content providers the notion of widespread video syndication big change in their business approach. In the past year I think we've observed content providers of all stripes transition from "aggregating eyeballs", to "accessing eyeballs," wherever they may live now or in the future: portals, social networks, portable devices, game consoles, etc. Underlying this shift is the realization that advertising-based revenues are going to fuel the broadband video industry for the foreseeable future. The ad model requires scale and syndication is the best way to deliver it.
This shift by content providers has been accompanied by a loosening of traditional tightly-controlled, scarcity-driven distribution strategies, an acknowledgement that fighting newly-empowered consumers is a futile exercise. The evidence of this shift abounds. Consider the broadcasters like CBS, NBC and Fox, which through their affiliates (Hulu, CBS Audience Network) are syndicating programming to many portals/aggregators (e.g. Yahoo, MSN, AOL, YouTube), social networks (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, Bebo) and others. And Disney's Stage 9 digital studio, which premiered with YouTube and explicitly plans to tap into broadband video hubs. And cable networks like MTV Networks, which is pursuing a plethora of distribution deals. And traditional news-gatherers like local TV stations, newspapers and news services (e.g. Reuters, AP) which have stepped up their activity to scatter their video clips to the Internet's nooks and crannies. And the list goes on and on.
Taking their cue from the media companies' strategy shift, technology entrepreneurs and investors have ramped up their focus on this market opportunity. The prospect of the syndicated video economy blossoming drives news/information distributors such as Voxant, ClipSyndicate, Mochilla, TheNewsMarket and RedLasso, an ad manager such as FreeWheel, and a content accelerator such as Signiant, plus many others. Then there are more established companies guiding areas of their product development process by the prospect of the syndicated video economy's growth: Google, WorldNow, Akamai, thePlatform, Anystream, Maven Networks, Brightcove, PermissionTV and plenty of others (apologies to those I've left out!)
All of this suggests that the eventual "value chain" of the broadband video industry will look quite different than the traditional one (for more on this, I've posted some my slides from late '07 here.) As with all economies, in the nascent syndicated video economy there is vast interdependence among the various players, not to mention shifting market positions and degrees of pricing power and negotiating leverage. It is far too early to gauge who will emerge as the syndicated video economy's winners and losers. But make no mistake, lots of energy and investment will be expended trying to nurture its growth and exploit its opportunities.
Do you see the syndicated video economy forming as well? Post a comment and let us all know!