Thursday, November 5, 2009, 9:43 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Surfing over to YouTube the other day, I was struck by how the site could well become the ultimate brand engagement platform. Below is a screen shot of what I found - nearly all the visible real estate showcased 2 different brand contests encouraging users to submit videos for a chance to win prizes.
The first contest, the "Kodak True Colors: Video Portrait Challenge," was just kicking off, and therefore had prominent positioning. The contest urges users to submit as many 10-second videos as they'd like in pursuit of a grand prize including 2 tickets to a taping of the "Conan O'Brien" show. The other contest, "The Best of Us Challenge," by the International Olympic Committee, shows athletes doing something outside their specialty (e.g. Michael Phelps doing speed putting, Lindsey Jacobellis doing the hula hoop) and asks user to emulate these or create their own challenge. The winner receives a trip for 2 to the 2010 Vancouver winter games. The contest was featured in YouTube's "Spotlight," a section on the home page populated by YouTube's editors based on user ratings.
These types of brand contest are not necessarily new, nor are their inclusion in YouTube. Over a year ago I suggested there was real opportunity in what I called "purpose-driven user-generated video" - the idea that with YouTube turning millions of people into amateur video producers, their enthusiasm and skills could be channeled to specific purposes. The success of campaigns like Doritos' $1 Million Super Bowl challenge has amply demonstrated that great creative and great buzz can be generated from a well-executed UGV campaign.
What YouTube's home page that day demonstrated to me is that as brands continue embracing online video and user participation, the go-to partner will be YouTube. There's simply no better way to reach a broad audience of likely contestants than by making a big splash on YouTube. While YouTube's monetization challenges have become one of the most-talked about industry topics this year, I'd argue there's been insufficient focus on the fact that since May '08, YouTube's share of overall video viewing has stayed right around 40%, at least according to comScore. In that time, YouTube's videos viewed per month have more than doubled, from 4.2 billion, to 10.4 billion in September '09.
Even as sites like Hulu and others have launched and promoted new and innovative sites, YouTube continues to retain its share of the fast-growing online video market. YouTube has also matured considerably, with its Content ID system largely sanitizing the site from pirated video and helping change its perception among copyright owners. (Note that on my recent visit to YouTube I searched in vain for a video of Johnny Damon's double steal in Game 4 and found nothing but "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by MLB Advanced Media." In the old days a video like that would have been available all over the site.)
While YouTube has made headway adding premium content partners, a significant part of its appeal remains users uploading and sharing videos. YouTube's combination of massive audience, ubiquitous brand, user interactivity and promotional flexibility make it an ideal partner for brands looking to engage their audiences through video.
Last summer I got plenty of flak for my post, "Does It Actually Matter How Much Money YouTube Loses?" in which I argued that YouTube's long-term strategic value (and Google's financial muscle to support the site's short-term losses) superseded the company's current losses. While I didn't mean to suggest in that post that a company can afford to lose money forever, I was trying to contend that YouTube, the dominant player in a fast-growing and highly disruptive market will eventually find its way to profitability and is well worth Google's continued investment.
YouTube is a rare example of a "winner take all" situation; there is no other video upload and sharing site even on the radar. As video becomes ever more strategic for all kinds of brands, they will increasingly recognize that YouTube is a must-have partner. If Google can't figure out how to make lemonade out of YouTube's lemons, then shame on them. I'm betting, however, that they will.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Friday, August 21, 2009, 10:01 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Following are 4 news items worth noting from the week of August 17th:
CBS's Smith says authentication is a 5 year rollout - I had a number of people forward me the link to PaidContent's in-depth coverage of CBS Interactive CEO Quincy Smith's comments at the B&C/Multichannel News panel in which he asserted that TV Everywhere/authentication won't gain critical mass until 2014.
I was asked what I thought of that timeline, and my response is that I think Smith is probably in the right ballpark. However, these rollouts will happen on a company by company basis so timing will vary widely. Assuming Comcast's authentication trial works as planned, I think it's likely to expect that Comcast will have its "On Demand Online" version of TV Everywhere rolled out to its full sub base within 12 months or so. Time Warner Cable is likely to be the 2nd most aggressive in pursuing TV Everywhere. For other cable operators, telcos and satellite operators, it will almost certainly be a multi-year exercise.
NFL makes its own broadband moves - While MLB has been getting a lot of press for its recent broadband and mobile initiatives, I was intrigued by 2 NFL-related announcements this week that show the league deepening its interest in broadband distribution. First, as USA Today reported, DirecTV will offer broadband users standalone access to its popular "Sunday Ticket" NFL package. The caveat is that you have to live in an area where satellite coverage is unattainable. The offer, which is being positioned as a trial, runs $349 for the season. With convergence devices like Roku hooking up with MLB.TV, it has to be just a matter of time before the a la carte version of Sunday Ticket comes to TVs via broadband as well.
Following that, yesterday the NFL and NBC announced that for the 2nd season in a row, the full 17 game Sunday night schedule will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and NFL.com. Both will use an HD-quality video player and Microsoft's Silverlight. They will also use Microsoft's Smooth Streaming adaptive bit rate (ABR) technology. All of this should combine to deliver a very high-quality streaming experience. But with all these games available for free online, I have to wonder, are NBC and the NFL leaving money on the table here? It sure seems like there must have been some kind of premium they could have charged, but maybe I'm missing something.
Metacafe grows to 12 million unique viewers in July - More evidence that independent video aggregators are hanging in there, as Metacafe announced uniques were up 67% year-over-year and 10% over June (according to comScore). I've been a Metacafe fan for a while, and their recent redesign around premium "entertainment hubs" has made the site cleaner and far easier to use. Metacafe's news follows last week's announcement by Babelgum that it grew to almost 1.7 million uniques in July since its April launch. Combined, these results show that while the big whales like YouTube and Hulu continue to capture a lot of the headlines, the minnows are still making swimming ahead.
Kodak introduces contest to (re)name its new Zi8 video camera - It's not every day (or any day for that matter) that I get to write how a story in a struggling metro newspaper had the mojo to influence a sexy new consumer electronic product being brought to market by an industrial-era goliath, so I couldn't resist seizing this opportunity.
It turns out that a review Boston Globe columnist Hiawatha Bray wrote, praising Kodak's new Zi8 pocket video camera, but panning its dreadful name, prompted Kodak Chief Marketing Officer Jeffrey Hayzlett to launch an online contest for consumers to submit ideas for a new name for the device, which it intends to be a Flip killer. Good for Hayzlett for his willingness to change course at the last minute, and also try to build some grass roots pre-launch enthusiasm for the product. And good for the Globe for showing it's still relevant. Of course, a new name will not guarantee Kodak success, but it's certainly a good start.
Enjoy your weekend!
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