Video curator Magnify.net drew 18.7 million unique visitors for the 30-day period ending February 12, 2014, up from 6.1 million uniques in the same period of 2013, a 209% increase (see chart below). Magnify.net's CEO Steve Rosenbaum shared the results with me and explained that the significant rise was due primarily to the launch of new publishing partners such as AARP, New York magazine, Grind Media and others, plus the broader adoption of video viewing on desktops and mobile video and one video in particular going viral.
YouTube has gained a huge amount of publicity for its original channels initiative, which was expanded internationally earlier this week. Now, according to an article by Magnify.net's CEO Steve Rosenbaum in Forbes yesterday, another critical and emerging YouTube strategy is "curation."
YouTube is the 800 pound gorilla for video uploads - with 72 hours added every minute - and the idea behind curation is to get users to cull through that massive video library to either add to their own channels and/or to build new ones, using others' videos.
With the world awash in video, opportunities continue to emerge for publications to intelligently curate the best from around the web in order to add value to their audiences. The latest example is The Clinical Advisor, a 125,000-subscriber publication targeted to nurse practitioners and physician assistants, owned by the British giant, Haymarket Media.
At its site ClinicalAdvisor.com, a new video section, curated with Magnify.net's tools, presents both its own videos, as well as specialized videos from YouTube and elsewhere. Videos are grouped by category such as Dermatology, Geriatrics, Men's Health, etc. Within each category are news videos, expert interviews and recently posted videos. In addition, there's also a pitch to users to submit their own videos for inclusion in an "Editor's Picks" area.
The partnership between Magnify.net and American Business Media announced last week is further evidence that online video is gaining ground in b-to-b media, and that video shouldn't be looked upon as solely consumer-centric.
For those not familiar with ABM, it's a professional association for 300 business information companies, comprising 6,000 print and online titles, plus trade shows and databases that reach over 100 million professionals. Late last week Magnify's Steve Rosenbaum gave me more details about the deal.
Magnify has focused consistently on helping vertical publishers create engaging video offerings. It does so with tools to curate and aggregate all video relevant to the publisher's audience, rather than requiring the publisher to create all of the video itself. I originally wrote about Magnify's approach a year ago and how it was powering Taste of Home magazine's video initiative.
For editors, the challenge - and opportunity - is to evolve from the mindset of controlling all editorial, and instead think of the web as a rich trove of content that can be sorted through so that the best nuggets can be offered to their audiences. With the cost of creating high-quality original video still relatively high, the economy suffering, and product companies and users getting better at creating worthwhile video, this approach makes a lot of sense.
In the ABM deal, Magnify will initially power ABM's own web site, but the more important part of the deal is that it gives Magnify a stamp of approval to seek out ABM members to power their video offerings. Many of these companies, which focus on niche markets, have long offered their IP in multiple forms - print, online, email, databases, conferences, etc. Video is the newest media opportunity for them, and Magnify's goal is not only to support original video they create, but also educate them about how to harness video that's available from 3rd party sources.
In general, video is becoming more central to b-to-b media. For example, just last week, the WSJ, long an online video leader among business media, launched the News Hub, a twice-per-day show featuring its reporters and guests. As a side note, the show feels a lot like cable with its split screens, fast cuts and guests talking over each other. The News Hub joins sibling FoxBusiness.com which offers a robust video section. Moving a little more into the consumer space, CNNMoney.com continues building on its leadership. There are scores of other video suppliers as well.
Increasingly b-to-b media seem to be recognizing that with their audiences spending more and more time on sites like YouTube and Hulu, it is essential to reach them with video as well. I see no let up in this trend.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Jambo Media has moved video syndication another step forward with the official release of "Jambocast," an all-in-one video syndication platform. Jambocast, which is available for white-label licensing, essentially allows vertically-focused web sites to build out their own private video syndication networks. For web site that either don't have their own video, or want to augment what they do have, syndicating video into their sites is a great option. Jambo's CEO Rob Manoff recently explained to me how Jambocast works.
Jambocast follows on the company's success with its own video syndication network, Jambo Video Network (JVN). According to comScore, JVN ranked #18 in March '09, with 9M unique visitors and 37M video streams (U.S. only). As Rob noted, JVN has taught the company a ton about what's required to build and run a syndication network, lessons it has incorporated into the development of Jambocast.
First and foremost is the importance of offering a comprehensive solution. Rob explained that what he sees as unique about Jambocast is that it offers each piece part of what a syndicator would need - a "video syndication network-in-a-box." Customers get a customizable video player, ad management (which is also integrated with 3rd party ad networks), publisher/syndication management, content management and tracking/reporting. Jambocast's goal is to make it easy to get up and running and start making money. As Rob says, "we're a bunch of ad network guys building a video network with an ad network mentality."
Jambocast also responds to what content providers have been telling Jambo for a while: they want full control of where their content resides. Though embedding has become highly popular, Rob sees Jambocast as the "anti-embed alternative," for content providers who want hyper-distribution, but without risk of their brands ending up in undesirable places. Jambocast's syndication management features give web sites the tools to offer 3rd party content providers comfort.
Jambocast is getting quick traction - customers on board include Mondo Media (adult animation), KidsTube (video aggregator for kids), a large pet-related site (undisclosed for now) plus 6-8 others signed up, but also not yet disclosed.
Jambocast is a classic example of how syndication is continues to permeate the broadband video ecosystem. Though it's distinct, I'd put Magnify.net and KickApps in a somewhat similar orbit, with the former placing more emphasis on UGC and the latter more on social media features. Yet all are part of what I refer to as the Syndicated Video Economy, which continues to grow in influence. Having already made its own syndication network profitable, Jambo is now also going to help others do the same.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
(note: Jambo Media is a VideoNuze sponsor)
Categories: Syndicated Video Economy
New York magazine, the go-to-source for in-the-know New Yorkers, has relaunched the video section of its web site using the Magnify.net platform. What separates the magazine's effort from others is its plan to actively augment video it produces itself with other video sources, including users. By "curating" others' video, New York is looking to beef up the video section of its site by tapping into others' energy. Michael Silberman, the magazine's GM, Digital Media, explained more to me last week.
Michael said that as a print publication, New York was unlikely to ever have a large staff devoted to video production (it currently has just one dedicated person). However, the New York team has been watching broadband video's surging popularity and wanted to capitalize on this by making video an integral part of its web site. A key goal was to cost-effectively bulk up the volume of video it offered. That led the team to focus on how to aggregate and intelligently curate video from other sources so that the magazine's sensibility would be maintained. And all of this needed to be done in a "Hulu-like" user experience with accurately tagged videos presented in a logical flow.
In a prior post about Taste of Home magazine, I wrote about curation and how it can be a powerful editorial lever for print publishers' sites that have lean video budgets. The reality is that there is a lot of really interesting video being created that would be quite valuable to mainstream publications. In the Internet era, timeliness and omnipresence are important calling cards. Tapping into video-enabled readers, who often find themselves at the right place at the right time with their cellphones, digital cameras and Flips on hand, can produce real value if incorporated the right way.
New York plans to bring on a producer who will, among other things, run the curation process. No doubt there will be plenty of trial-and-error in the hunts for and includes appropriate 3rd party video, including users' submissions. But as I explained in the Taste of Home post, curation's potential suggests the emergence of a new editorial model for video that is particularly relevant in these penny-pinching economic times. It's the kind of break-from-tradition that may be jolting to editorial purists, but which reflects pragmatic - and strategic - thinking about how print publications can evolve and succeed in the broadband video era.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Pixsy, a white label video search provider made an interesting announcement yesterday about the launch of its new "Premium Feed" service, which I think is another example of the Syndicated Video Economy that I've been talking about for a while now. I talked to Pixsy CEO Chase Norlin about Premium Feed to learn more.
For those of you not familiar with Pixsy, it has been quietly building one of the largest video indexes since its founding in 2005. To date it has mainly focused on licensing the index to partner sites which wanted to offer easy video discovery to their users. As more content providers have offered embedding, Pixsy also enabled found videos to be played right on its partners' sites. Even though activity has grown well, Chase is pretty candid about monetization to date being difficult.
Premium Feed takes embedding to the next level by creating a subset of Pixsy's video index that is both higher-than-average quality and has accompanying pre-roll and overlay ads. Then Pixsy is developing an economic relationship between the content provider and its publisher network by signing redistribution and revenue-sharing deals with both. Chase says that to date the publisher network has 45 million unique visitors/mo and that 1-2 million videos are in the Premium Feed.
One of those publishers is EgoTV, and I chatted with founder/president Jimmy Hutcheson to find out how they're implementing Premium Feed. If you look in the lower right corner of their home page you'll see 3 new "channels," Ego Cars, Ego Comedy and Ego Travel. Each of these are constructed solely of Pixsy Premium Feed videos that are curated by an EgoTV editor. In another example at Ego People, the 300x250 ad in the right column is now populated with the Premium Feed. This is a simple "highest-and-best-use" real estate decision: Jimmy explained that Premium Feed is yielding 2-4x as much net revenue for EgoTV as it would receive if it sold rich media ads in this position.
The concept of bundling content with ads (or vice versa?) and distributing them to sites seeking video and extra monetization is of course at the heart of the syndicated video economy. Much of what Pixsy is doing with Premium Feed is conceptually familiar to Google Content Network, Adconion TV, Voxant (now Grab Networks), Syndicaster, Jambo, Magnify.net, 1Cast and others.
Yet each of these initiatives has its own somewhat differentiated value proposition and underlying technology approach. As syndication grows in importance, sites with strong traffic and an interest in incorporating video will have many choices. As to how they'll decide, Chase makes a good point: simplicity and one-stop shopping are always valued by resource-constrained sites. Providers that can address as many of these sites' potential needs will be in a strong position.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Amidst all the gloomy economic news, there are actually still some earlier stage companies that are raising new money. To learn more about their how they're doing it, I emailed the CEOs of seven broadband/mobile video companies which have collectively raised nearly $80M in the last 3 months. I asked 3 basic questions:
While there were some common themes in their answers (many of which echoed the usual fundraising maxims), there was plenty of variety and a few outliers. Space constraints don't allow for me to share all of their specific answers, so I've tried my best to summarize the common themes and highlight key nuggets of wisdom below. If you have any questions, drop me an email.
The seven CEOs who graciously took time out of their busy days to contribute their thoughts (along with the recent rounds they've raised) are:
1. What are the key success factors for raising money given the difficult economic climate?
The answers that dominated were all around revenue, profitability and cash flow. All the CEOs mentioned, in one way or another, that being able to demonstrate real revenue growth and momentum is essential. Some noted that in the past traffic or usage may have been sufficient, but now the "premium is on paying customers," and how get to profitability and cash flow breakeven using reasonable assumptions. Several mentioned that investors are as risk averse as ever, which of course comes as no surprise. They want to see concrete, well thought-out plans.
Investors have also become more sophisticated about the whole broadband video sector and expect entrepreneurs to be able to explain where they fit into the ecosystem and what their points of differentiation are. Importantly, they are looking for proven models (unfortunately an oxymoron for a pure startup), or at least some minimal history of success that goes "beyond PPT slideware."
A couple of CEOs noted that investors have shifted from asking "how fast can you scale?" to "how will you get through this crisis?" They no longer expect a quick exit. They are looking for a real plan which includes contingency tactics if for example, competitors do something desperate like cut their prices in half.
2. What are the biggest challenges?
The prevailing theme here was uncertainty, starting with investors' own business models. They're focused on how much of their funds to hold in reserve to shore up existing portfolio companies. They're trying to gauge their own limited partners' appetite for venture investing given the credit squeeze. Then of course they're trying to understand the impact of broadband market drivers like ad spending and user adoption. One CEO lamented the difficulty of persuading people to put new money to work on the very day the stock market's dropping by 500 points. Still another noted that all of this can lead to a "self-fulfilling prophecy" where everything freezes and missed opportunities abound.
With respect to the broadband market specifically, one CEO said the key challenge is showing how "you monetize video for your clients." Absent that, "it will not only be hard to raise money, but harder still for your client to spend money with you."
Another said that the level of scrutiny has gotten so high that it's not even worth talking to any investor which doesn't have its own track record of investing in the broadband video sector. It's just too hard to educated people in this environment. Another CEO added that your model needs to be "brilliant and bulletproof, with an A-level management team already in place." Boy, there's a steep hurdle to clear.
3. Is there any specific advice you'd offer to those trying to raise money these days?
Many of the answers to this question reflected fundraising basics: understand your business thoroughly, put a balanced team in place, seek out investors you know first, have a solid plan, and bootstrap as much as possible first.
With respect to the raising money in the current lousy market, there was a broad range of sentiment. One CEO said "Don't...the terms are going to suck..." while another said to be "incredibly realistic about how much to raise, your burn rate and valuation." On the more optimistic end of the spectrum, one said "The market's poor performance means that investors are looking for new opportunities. Ignore all the negative energy and naysayers." And another remarked that "Even during the tech disaster of 2001-2003, angel investors, VCs and tech behemoths were still putting money to work in promising sectors." Another heavily emphasized the value of loyal and supportive existing investors (if there are any) in helping making the case to new investors.
More tactically, one CEO said that the more you "minimize uncertainty that surrounds your business specifically, the better off you'll be." Another said to make the transaction as simple as possible, and to "get the big items off the table first." Still another said to demonstrate "you're indispensable to customers, helping them weather the downturn." Finally one cautioned to be ready to take a lot more meetings than usual and expect a lot deeper follow up..."it may require you to go well beyond investors in your backyard to find the right fit."
Hopefully some of this is helpful to those of you trying to raise money right now, or thinking about doing so in the near future. Broadband video remains one of the hottest sectors out there; even still, if you're not getting a lot of love right now, you're not alone...
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Categories: Deals & Financings
Brand Performance, a large player in the market for licensed character products for kids, is announcing Thwoop.com today, using broadband to invert the traditional model for content and commerce. I got a briefing from Ty Simpson, the company's CEO.
First a little background. Whenever you walk into a store like Toys-R-Us, you'll see rows and rows of products from hit kids programs like Ben10, Cars, Hannah Montana, etc. Licensing the characters and images from these shows to product manufacturers is a key source of revenue for program creators. If you have young kids as I do, you can attest to their popularity.
As Ty explains it, the industry is traditionally very hit driven. That means there is only a relatively small amount of room on TV for all of the character-driven programs that are produced. Similarly, big-box retailers allocate their finite shelf space to only the hottest properties. Ty recognized this latter scarcity several years ago and set up Tystoybox.com to focus exclusively on providing distribution for a broad range of licensed character products, many of which cannot get physical distribution. The site and its sister, AllAboardToys.com, have become the two largest independent online stores for these products.
With Thwoop.com, Ty is capitalizing on the scarcity of on-air shelf space for the programs themselves. The site aims to create a new kids entertainment experience, offering full program episodes of various kids programs along with trailers and other video. The first partner is NCircle, producer of Animal Atlas, Hermie & Friends and other shows. Thwoop.com's goal is to be a destination site where video can be seen and purchased, social networking and interactivity is promoted and user-generated product reviews are uploaded.
What's really unique here is that the whole site is supported by commerce, not advertising. On-air these programs are all ad-driven and the licensed products are considered ancillary. But Thwoop.com inverts the model, with commerce supporting the video. Ty explained that he's become a strong believer in broadband's potential to dramatically open up video availability, and that product sales will naturally follow. Presenting a strong user experience was a top priority, and Thwoop has partnered with Magnify.net to power the entire site. Magnify's CEO Steve Rosenbaum said his company is unveiling its "theater-mode" and full-screen player as part of the launch.
As a parent Thwoop.com raises some interesting questions. For example, my son is a Ben 10 fanatic. I like the idea of a site where he can watch the old episodes and immerse himself in the characters, and maybe even interact with other kids (assuming the right safeguards were in place). On the other hand, I have to admit, it scares the bejeezus out of me that he would get even more exposure to the licensed products. As my wife likes to remind me, we hardly need any more Ben 10 paraphernalia in our house...
Regardless, Thwoop.com is exactly the kind of new, innovative experience that broadband enables. Clever entrepreneurs like Ty recognize that broadband resolves traditional distribution scarcities, opening up completely new business models. When I put my VideoNuze hat on, I'm excited to see it launch.
What do you think? Post a comment.
EveryZing, a company I wrote about last February, is announcing the launch of its MetaPlayer today and that DallasCowboys.com is the first customer to implement it. My initial take is that MetaPlayer should have strong appeal in the market, and could well shake things up for other broadband technology companies and for content providers. Last week I spoke to EveryZing's CEO Tom Wilde to learn more about the product.
MetaPlayer is interesting for at least three reasons: (1) it drives EveryZing's video search and SEO capabilities inside the videos themselves, (2) it provides deeper engagement opportunities than typically found in other video player environments and (3) it enables content providers to dramatically expand their video catalogs, while maintaining branding and editorial integrity.
To date EveryZing's customers have used its speech-to-text engine to create metadata for their sites' videos, which are then grouped into SEO-friendly "topical pages" that users are directed to when entering terms into the sites' search box. Speech-to-text and other automated metadata generating techniques from companies like Digitalsmiths are becoming increasingly popular as content providers continue to recognize the value of robust metadata.
MetaPlayer takes metadata usage a step further by creating virtual clips based on specified terms, which are exposed to the user. A user's search produces an index of these virtual clips, which can be navigated through time-stamped cue points, transcript review, and thumbnail scenes (see below for example). The virtual clip approach is comparable in some ways to what Gotuit has been doing and is pretty powerful stuff, as it lets the user jump to desired points, thus avoiding wasted viewing time (e.g. just showing the moments when "Tony Romo" is spoken)
Next, MetaPlayer enables deeper engagement with available video. Yesterday, in "Broadband Video Needs to Become More Engaging," I talked about how the importance of engagement to both consumers and content providers. MetaPlayer is a move in this direction as it allows intuitive clipping, sharing and commenting of a specific video clip within MetaPlayer. Example: you can easily send friends just the clips of Romo's touchdown passes along with your comments on each.
Last, and possibly most interesting from a syndication perspective, MetaPlayer allows content providers to dramatically expand their video offerings through the use of what's known as "chromeless" video players. I was first introduced to the chromeless approach by Metacafe's Eyal Hertzog last summer. It basically allows the content provider to maintain elements of the underlying video player, such as its ability to enforce a video's business policies (ad tags, syndication rules, etc.), while allowing new features to be overlayed (customized look-and-feel, consistent player controls, etc.).
MetaPlayer takes advantage of chromeless APIs available now from companies like Brightcove, and also importantly YouTube. For example, the Cowboys could harvest select Cowboys-related YouTube videos and incorporate them into their site (this is similar to what Magnify.net also enables). With the chromeless approach, the Cowboys's user experience and their video player's branding is maintained while YouTube's rules, such as no pre-roll ads are also enforced.
To the extent that chromeless APIs become more widely available, it means that syndication can really flourish. The underlying content provider's model is protected while simultaneously enabling widespread distribution. All of this obviously leads to more monetization opportunities through highly targeted ads.
Bottom line: EveryZing's new MetaPlayer addresses at least three real hot buttons of the broadband video landscape: improved navigation, enhanced engagement and expanding content selection/monetization. All of this should give MetaPlayer strong appeal in the market.
What do you think? Post a comment now!
Notwithstanding the countless times I've received emails with links to video clips or visited social networking pages where video is embedded, I've often had the sense that true social engagement around premium quality video has been lacking.
"Engagement" is one of those nebulous Internet words that can mean many things to different people. To me, the most appropriate online engagement opportunities should be modeled on how we have traditionally engaged with offline media. Some relevant offline examples that come to mind include recommending a movie to a friend, clipping a newspaper article to send to a colleague, chatting informally with friends and family during a TV show or sharing opinions about favorite actors and actresses over drinks.
As consumers shift their viewing to broadband, the key to engagement is to enable users to effortlessly and intuitively emulate some or all of these behaviors. I concede that's easier said than done. Yet in addition to existing efforts, I see new signs that premium video sites are starting to understand how strategic it is for them to incent user engagement. New steps are being taken to make deeper, more consistent engagement a reality, not just a goal.
For example, just yesterday CBS announced its "Social Viewing Rooms" which allow users to view programs together while commenting, interacting and finding each other (note this is something that Paltalk and others have pursued for a while). It wasn't clear from the announcement, but I think a critical success factor for CBS will be allowing users to bring existing friends (from Facebook, MySpace, etc.) into the rooms, rather than requiring new relationships to be built.
I found another example in a presentation I recently attended by Ian Blaine, thePlatform's CEO. In it, he made clear that his company is planning a big push into engagement-oriented features ranging from recommendations to ratings to social networking via sister company Plaxo. Still another initiative is "MediaFriends" a clever application that's coming soon from Integra5 which converges text messaging and social networking with viewing across multiple screens. Finally, another is from Volo Media, which is today announcing a plug-in for iTunes that allows one-touch sharing, bookmarking and more, helping open up a window from iTunes into the larger web environment.
All of these activities are in addition to other social media capabilities being brought to premium video from companies like KickApps, PermissionTV, Brightcove, Gotuit and Magnify.net. Then of course there's the steady migration of premium video into YouTube, which is the granddaddy of video sharing and social engagement.
Broadband is much more than an exciting new distribution outlet for video providers, it's also a whole new platform for extending social behaviors that are deeply valued and highly ingrained in all of us into the virtual world. Embracing opportunities for deeper engagement with and around premium video means thinking of viewers more as participants and less as passive audiences. When done right the payoffs in engagement, loyalty, viewing time and monetization will be substantial.
What do you think? Post a comment now!
Categories: Video Sharing
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.
As I mentioned at the end of February, each month I plan to step back and recap a few key themes from recent VideoNuze posts. Here are three from March '08. (And remember you can see all of March's broadband news, aggregated from across the web, by clicking here)
The Syndicated Video Economy: An Introduction In March I introduced the concept of the "Syndicated Video Economy" ("SVE") to describe how the broadband video providers are increasingly coalescing on a strategy for widespread distribution of video through myriad outlets. In the SVE media companies shift their focus from "aggregating eyeballs" in a centralized destination to "accessing eyeballs" wherever (and whenever) they live. The SVE is a big departure from traditional tightly-controlled, scarcity-driven distribution approaches. Investors have responded by funding SVE-oriented content and technology startups. In March I provided several examples of SVE initiatives. CBS launched its Local Ad Network to distribute content to local bloggers and web sites. 60Frames, a new broadband studio, is explicitly focused on partnerships for distribution, and is not even building destination web sites for its programs. And FreeWheel is developing management tools so that content can be optimally monetized across a content provider's sprawling network of syndication partners. The SVE resonated strongly with VideoNuze readers; many are focused on it and vested in its further development. Expect to hear a lot more about the SVE from me in coming posts. I'll also have supporting slides I'm developing for upcoming webinars on the topic. Over-the-Top: Getting Broadband Video to the TV Bringing broadband video all the way to the TV by bypassing existing service providers (so-called "over-the-top") continues to be the big elusive prize for many. This past month YouTube and TiVo announced a partnership to let a subset of TiVo owners gain full YouTube access on their TVs, a welcome move. Following that, in "YouTube: Over-the-Top's Best Friend" I suggested the YouTube, with its dominant market position and brand loyalty could in fact be the linchpin to over-the-top devices gaining a foothold with consumers. Google-YouTube executives' vision for YouTube as a video platform, powering experiences wherever they are, lends support to my proposition. Lastly on over-the-top, new contributor Michael Greeson, founder of market researcher TDG, proposed that adapting low-cost devices like DVD player may well be the best way to bridge broadband and TV. Social media and video: 2 sides of the same coin This past month also continued an escalation of interest in the intersection of social media and broadband video. At the Media Summit there was intense focus on engagement, and how broadband can uniquely create new user experiences that deeply involve the user. These social experiences include sharing, personalization, commenting, rating and so on. In this vein, Maginfy.net introduced new social features to support its specialized user-created channels, a smart evolution of its product. And in a follow-up to "The Intersection of UGC and Brand Marketing?" I clarified the opportunities that brand marketers may or may not have to get involved with this hot space. For those interested in more on this subject, new VideoNuze sponsor KickApps provided an informative webinar which is still available here. So that's March's recap. There will be plenty more on all of these and other broadband video topics in April and beyond!
The Syndicated Video Economy: An Introduction
In March I introduced the concept of the "Syndicated Video Economy" ("SVE") to describe how the broadband video providers are increasingly coalescing on a strategy for widespread distribution of video through myriad outlets. In the SVE media companies shift their focus from "aggregating eyeballs" in a centralized destination to "accessing eyeballs" wherever (and whenever) they live. The SVE is a big departure from traditional tightly-controlled, scarcity-driven distribution approaches. Investors have responded by funding SVE-oriented content and technology startups.
In March I provided several examples of SVE initiatives. CBS launched its Local Ad Network to distribute content to local bloggers and web sites. 60Frames, a new broadband studio, is explicitly focused on partnerships for distribution, and is not even building destination web sites for its programs. And FreeWheel is developing management tools so that content can be optimally monetized across a content provider's sprawling network of syndication partners.
The SVE resonated strongly with VideoNuze readers; many are focused on it and vested in its further development. Expect to hear a lot more about the SVE from me in coming posts. I'll also have supporting slides I'm developing for upcoming webinars on the topic.
Over-the-Top: Getting Broadband Video to the TV
Bringing broadband video all the way to the TV by bypassing existing service providers (so-called "over-the-top") continues to be the big elusive prize for many. This past month YouTube and TiVo announced a partnership to let a subset of TiVo owners gain full YouTube access on their TVs, a welcome move.
Following that, in "YouTube: Over-the-Top's Best Friend" I suggested the YouTube, with its dominant market position and brand loyalty could in fact be the linchpin to over-the-top devices gaining a foothold with consumers. Google-YouTube executives' vision for YouTube as a video platform, powering experiences wherever they are, lends support to my proposition. Lastly on over-the-top, new contributor Michael Greeson, founder of market researcher TDG, proposed that adapting low-cost devices like DVD player may well be the best way to bridge broadband and TV.
Social media and video: 2 sides of the same coin
This past month also continued an escalation of interest in the intersection of social media and broadband video. At the Media Summit there was intense focus on engagement, and how broadband can uniquely create new user experiences that deeply involve the user. These social experiences include sharing, personalization, commenting, rating and so on. In this vein, Maginfy.net introduced new social features to support its specialized user-created channels, a smart evolution of its product.
And in a follow-up to "The Intersection of UGC and Brand Marketing?" I clarified the opportunities that brand marketers may or may not have to get involved with this hot space. For those interested in more on this subject, new VideoNuze sponsor KickApps provided an informative webinar which is still available here.
So that's March's recap. There will be plenty more on all of these and other broadband video topics in April and beyond!
Yesterday Magnify.net, a company I've previously written about, released its version 3.0, introducing new social features and also Pro and Enterprise versions. Magnify's CEO Steve Rosenbaum gave me an update.
Magnify is a platform that enables enthusiasts to assemble relevant video from sharing sites (YouTube, Metacafe, Dailymotion, others) into channels. One of the things I originally liked about the Magnify approach is that it is a powerful avenue for would-be curators to simplify the morass of video now available at disparate locations into one easy-to-access area for others with similar interests. The concept has clearly proven popular: since I wrote the original post in October '07 the number of Magnify channels has roughly doubled from 17,500 to 33,000+ and page views have spiked to 18 million this month.
The social features Magnify is introducing in its 3.0 version are aimed at creating deeper community interaction within the channels and are a natural evolution for the company. Quite frankly, they're something I would have expected earlier (chalk it up to finite resources?). The social features allow members to create and view profiles, "friend" each other and to track and subscribe to other members' activities. There's also integration with Twitter, Mogulus and Flickr.
Reactions to Magnify's move have been mixed and raise interesting questions about the interplay of social media and broadband video. For example, if I understand TechCrunch writer Erick Schonfeld's perspective correctly, he just doesn't buy into the idea that video is a solid foundation for community building and that the existing social networks can and do incorporate video just fine, thereby obviating the need for community within Magnify's channel context. While he rightly identifies a potential logistical issue of Magnify not offering cross-channel profiles, and simmering social networking saturation, overall I think he's underestimating the potential of video as a catalyst for social interaction.
Using well-organized and curated video as a foundation for community development actually makes a ton of sense. In our media-saturated society, video is a common and defining thread for starting and sustaining our interactions. As one example, Steve pointed me to the "Native American Tube" channel at Magnify. Have a look, there are 388 members and counting, and see how active the back-and-forth commenting is? People have strong and passionate affiliations with particular videos, programs and even networks - and want to share their thoughts.
Meanwhile, for all the growth of Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, social media is far from a mature space. At last week's Media Summit, the integration of social media and video was among the hottest topics. The reality is that existing media brands (especially in the niches) and aspiring ones like those Magnify is powering have a strong ability and economic incentive to create community and interaction opportunities for their audiences. I expect we'll see no let up in their enthusiasm, and Magnify's social tools, as they further evolve, will become a key part of the company's success.
(Note: if you want to know more about this topic, yesterday there was a webinar sponsored by KickApps and Akamai. KickApps helps companies set up their own social networks and is getting significant traction in the media space.)
At the end of each month I plan to step back and recap a few key themes from recent VideoNuze posts. Here are three from February '08:
Brand marketers embrace broadband video
One clear theme from the past 4 weeks has been brand marketers' accelerating moves into the broadband video space. This was on full display by select Super Bowl and Oscar advertisers. We are witnessing an unprecedented commitment by brands to create their own entertainment/information video content and also to induce consumers to create brand-related video through user-generated contests. As I detailed in yesterday's webinar, examples in the former category include Kraft/Tassimo, J&J, CIT Financial and GoDaddy.com, while examples in the latter category include TideToGo/MyTalkingStain.com, Heinz/Top This, Dove Cream Oil Body Wash and T-Mobile/Current TV.
Through VideoNuze I track all brands' broadband video initiatives, and it is clear that their involvement in this new medium is intensifying. Faced with splintering audiences, ad-skipping DVRs and changing media consumption habits - particularly by younger demos - brands have no choice but to get into broadband video. This results in an entirely different awareness/engagement paradigm than we're accustomed to from the world of interruptive TV advertising. Brands today increasingly recognize that a key way to create loyalty (and generate sales!) is by engaging the audience on its terms, using broadband and other technologies to accomplish this.
Monetization is the #1 challenge
Another key theme of the past month was the ongoing quest for broadband video monetization. As I also mentioned in yesterday's webinar, this is the number 1 business challenge for all broadband video industry participants - both content and technology providers. Two companies I wrote about this month, EveryZing and Veveo, are focused on improving content discovery, which leads to more consumption and revenue-generating opportunities. I also wrote about Jake Sasseville, a young entertainer who is pioneering multi-platform initiatives to forge a new revenue model.
Innovation is key in this space. Next week I'll be writing about Freewheel, an innovative startup that's just surfaced, which is providing a new approach to managing broadband video advertising. And yesterday, Magnify.net, one of my favorite early-stage companies, which focuses on enabling video content distribution, announced that it has raised an additional $1 of financing.
In addition, the big dogs of the technology and media landscape are in hot pursuit of improved video monetization as well. This month alone brought news of Yahoo's acquisition of Maven Networks, an ad-centric video platform, Google's beta rollout of AdSense for video, and the hostile bid by Microsoft for Yahoo, a deal that has vast longer-term implications for online and broadband video advertising. In short, monetization is a key focus for all large and small industry participants - cracking this nut is crucial to the long-term health of the industry.
Net neutrality re-surfaces
Lastly, this month also brought a lot of news on the regulatory front. Twice I wrote about "net neutrality," a regulatory concept its proponents believe will keep the Internet free from discrimination by broadband ISPs. While I don't agree with their viewpoint, what is clearly true is that net neutrality is being spurred by the massive adoption of broadband video, which places an unprecedented load on broadband ISPs' networks.
So that's it for this leap year month. Three themes you'll be hearing much more about going forward: brand marketers' broadband video initiatives, video monetization and net neutrality. See you on Monday for the start of a new month!
One of the things I really enjoy about being an analyst in the burgeoning broadband video industry is getting first-hand exposure to all the clever innovation that's going on. I find it endlessly fascinating to hear directly from entrepreneurs on the front lines where the kernel of their idea came from which led to their business plan. A user experience issue? A technology deficiency? A business model flaw? Over the years I've heard many stories. Some kernels have real weight, while some don't quite resonate for me.
Magnify.net falls into the former category. My read is that this is a company trying to solve a real problem with a very clever solution and the right "corporate attitude" to make it a likely winner.
Magnify is actually solving a number of real problems, many of which relate to the highly distributed or "Long Tail" nature of the Internet and broadband video. First is that while consumers love broadband video, finding what they want is problematic. Novelty quickly turns to frustration when rummaging through big video sharing sites to find something relevant. No matter how much users want choice, some level of editorial or "curation" is essential to optimize their experience.
Magnify enables existing enthusiast or vertical web sites (whether independent or major media) to obtain video from the best video sharing sites (YouTube, Metacafe, etc.) and coherently present a screened assortment to their users. The sites' use their editorial skills to sort the wheat from the chafe, with easy-to-use admin tools ensuring that no offending video slips through the cracks.
So the second problem Magnify solves is enabling thousands (17,500 and counting to be exact) of sites to provide quality video to their users without the hassle and expense of creating it themselves (the "matchmaker" role). These sites get 50% of the revenue from the ads Magnify sells around the video (or they can keep up to 50% of the inventory to sell themselves), leveraging their audience and subject matter expertise. Incorporating video into web sites is becoming online table stakes. I agree with Steve, in the years ahead, sites without video are going to look "charming".
The only real hole I can find in Magnify's model is that it doesn't currently compensate the content creators themselves (a la Revver for example). However I'd expect that to change as creators upload directly to Magnify and the company's network and traffic builds out over time.
Lastly, I like Steve's attitude. He views the market as an incredibly expanding pie, and not "winner take all." As a result, while there are others who touch on Magnify's space (Brightcove, ROO, VideoEgg, Ning, KickApps, etc.), he's less concerned about competition per se and matching feature-for-feature, but rather on responding to the needs and wants expressed directly by their own user base. Companies that do this ultimately win, regardless of competition.
The Magnify story plays into a number of areas I follow closely - the changing role and power of video distributors, the continued "nichification" of video, the challenge of video discovery and the reliance on ads, not subscription fees. To the extent that their approach succeeds it will further morph traditional video models. For a 10 person company that's only done an angel round, they've accomplished a lot in addressing genuine Long Tail issues in the broadband video industry. (Btw, TechCrunch has 2 great reviews, here and here).