Another sign of how quickly broadband video companies are adapting themselves to market conditions: Eyespot, which started by providing video editing capabilities to users of big branded web sites has evolved its focus to a network model, specializing in mid-tail sized video providers. CEO/co-founder Jim Kaskade explained their shift to me and why it's paying off.
Eyespot's core capability remains providing video editing and sharing tools, but it is now also offering them in a self-serve model, enabling small-to-mid sized sites to quickly get up and running. Jim sees at least 2 clear differentiators for Eyespot:
First, for sites which want to offer a user-contributed video capability, Eyespot addresses all the complexities such as handling multiple file formats, offering strong moderation and monetization. ExpertVillage is a good example of a site benefiting from this approach. EP's myriad "experts" contribute their how-to videos to the site using Eyespot's tools. In this model, Eyespot is fundamental video infrastructure, powering all of the video publishing at the site.
Depending on the business model the provider chooses for the user-contributed capability, all of their video can be included for syndication to other sites by Eyespot to others in the network. This includes options for delivery to mobile devices. Eyespot monetizes the network, currently at $4-8 CPM. In addition to powering user contributions, this capability is also appealing for mid-tail providers who just intend to upload and manage their own video.
A second differentiator, for providers who don't necessarily want to allow user uploads, is Eyespot's core video studio. In this offering, content providers offer their own library of media assets for users to mix and publish. NBA.com is an example of this implementation. When you go to NBA.com, in the video tab, there's an option for "NBA Highlight Mixer," where the user will find media that NBA has offered for mixing. A gallery of users' mixes is displayed, along with tools to share and embed your mixes. In this example, Eyespot augments the NBA's other video initiatives powered by Akamai's StreamOS.
Jim explained that the payoff from offering video personalization is in driving more video views and hence more ad revenue. Jim explained that a typical site might get 10 video views per unique visitor per month, while Eyespot-powered sites get around 80.
I've been bullish for a while about the potential of user contributions and editing, yet it seemed like the market was slow to catch on. With Eyespot's new approach making access to its tools much easier, this will hopefully accelerate adoption.
The Internet's low entry barriers are again at work, this time in the video-based "how-to" category, which has recently attracted a rush of well-funded new competitors. It's no surprise: how many of us would rather watch a video of someone explaining how to do something vs. reading a lengthy and often poorly-written guide?
Like many things in the broadband video world, the players' strategies, content approaches and business models are all over the board. In the ad-supported category, the earliest entrants (and their funding) are ExpertVillage (now owned by Demand Media) and VideoJug ($30M from last May), with HowCast ($8M from Tudor/others), 5Min.com ($5M from Spark Capital) and WonderHowTo.com (undisclosed amount from General Catalyst) launching more recently. Of course there's also YouTube and DIYNetwork from Scripps, with its sister cable channel, and scores of other sites that offer free instructional video. Then in the paid download category there is Zipidee (angel round), which recently acquired TotalVid and iAmplify ($6M from Kodiak). plus countless other video download sites.
One of the lines of demarcation for the ad-supported sites is how they acquire content. Does the video come solely from "experts" or also from the community? For now, it appears that ExpertVillage and VideoJug rely on experts while the other ad-supported upstarts rely on the community as well. I spoke with Ran Harnevo, CEO of 5Min.com, who believes its highly community-oriented focus is a real differentiator. In fact, 5Min bills itself as a "Life Videopedia", a spin on the hugely popular Wikipedia, which demonstrates the power of user contributions.
The whole notion that a top-down editorially-driven approach will ever be sufficiently comprehensive seems unlikely, so my guess is that some UGC augment eventually will be required by all players. That means these sites will compete with each other for the best contributors, in the same way that video sharing sites like Metacafe, Veoh, Revver and others compete with each other in general video.
To succeed in this horse race, 5Min's focus is to offer the best overall platform, including a focus on technology. So 5Min provides strong branding opportunities, a revenue share, tools and features and of course, traffic. On the technology side, one differentiator is its "SmartPlayer", which allows zooming, super slow-motion, frame-by-frame and storyboard playback.
One of the main reasons there's so much activity on the ad-supported side is that how-to videos provide highly-targeted and engaged audiences that sponsors crave. At a minimum, marrying these how-to videos to Google AdSense provides a baseline revenue model. But the real opportunity is to aggregate enough traffic in a category to land sponsors who will be prominently featured. So for example, while 5Min already does an impressive 5M views/mo, it will likely need to be in that range per category to appeal to big-name sponsors. The company will begin running ads in Q2, and is focused on display ads and overlays, not pre-rolls, which Ran thinks are too disruptive. To build its traffic it will pursue widgetization, 3rd party distribution and SEO.
All of this how-to activity is clearly going to be a boon for users. Just as the Internet has provided an explosion of information, these video how-to sites will now make doing things a whole lot easier. How to break out of the growing pack will continue to be each how-to site's challenge for the foreseeable future.