Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 44th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for December 18, 2009. This will be the last podcast for 2009, and we'd both like to say a huge thanks to everyone who's been listening in this year.
This week I start things off by providing further detail on my experience so far with Comcast's TV Everywhere initiative, Fancast Xfinity TV (or "FXTV" as I call it for short), which was released in beta to 14 million subscribers this week at no additional charge. On the whole I think it's a respectable effort, and in the big picture, is exactly what the company should be doing with online distribution. The main challenge for improving it is getting lots more content from ad-supported and premium cable networks, so that users are more likely to find what they're looking for. For all kinds of reasons, this won't be easy, but if any company can make it happen, it's surely Comcast.
Then Daisy reviews her '09 predictions and shares her "New Media Minute Awards for Excellence." She recognizes Kaltura, 5Min, boxee, Quantcast, and number 1 pick, MyDamnChannel. All have excelled this year, attracting new venture financing, signing new deals and growing their business. Daisy is particularly proud of MyDamnChannel because it also achieved profitability this year. Listen in to find out more.
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Last week brought two announcements suggesting that the health-related video vertical market is poised for growth: first, that HealthiNation will be distributing its videos on AT&T U-Verse and HealthGrades, and the second, that HealthCentral is partnering with 5Min to syndicate its videos across 5Min's distribution network.
I've been following HealthiNation for a while and last week CEO and co-founder Raj Amin told me that the AT&T deal brings to about 28 million the number of American homes where HealthiNation's content is available on video-on-demand (VOD). Raj's enthusiasm for VOD distribution helps validate points I made last May in "Made-for-Broadband Video and VOD are Looking Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate," in which I suggested that rather than broadband video and VOD being competitive with each other, they can actually complement each other well.
In HealthiNation's case, Raj indicated that VOD distribution is particularly important for its sponsors, as they value views in the living room in addition to those on the computer, where most broadband video occurs today. The multiple ways that VOD is promoted by incumbent video providers given HealthiNation's content lots of visibility. The downside Raj noted is that VOD lacks the same interactivity/engagement opportunities as viewing online provides, and that inserting ads is not nearly as easy. The latter means that HealthiNation must manually attach ads to each of its VOD streams. This would be extremely laborious for content providers with hundreds or thousands of titles, but for HealthiNation, which offers dozens of VOD titles at a time, it is manageable. Raj emphasizes that VOD's ability to help surround the consumer with content and sponsor messages is a key differentiator for HealthiNation, and a key reason it has pushed hard into VOD.
HealthiNation's strategy is primarily to syndicate its content rather than be a destination site, and it has over 50 partners in its network now, with potential reach of about 40 million unique visitors/month. HealthiNation insists that its video be played in its player, and that it controls the ad inventory. This is primarily because of its commitments to its sponsors (mainly pharma) to deliver only highly targeted viewers, provide detailed performance metrics and use mostly display ads, not pre-rolls. All of these contribute to HealthiNation offering a differentiated value proposition relative to typical TV ads.
Separate, HealthiNation also announced a partnership last week with HealthGrades, which is the leading provider of ratings information on doctors, hospitals and nursing homes. Overall Raj said that at its peak, HealthiNation is now generating 3 million uniques/month. It has over 300 videos that are 2-3 minutes long (or longer for VOD) and growing. The company has raised $12.5 million in total, and Raj says it will be profitable in 2010.
Meanwhile last week also brought news that HealthCentral, a large online provider of health-related content and operator of a health-related online ad network, is partnering with 5Min, a video syndicator which I wrote about here. Under the deal HealthCentral's videos will be added to 5Min's existing health library, for syndication to over 350 different sites. HealthCentral will take on exclusive ad sales responsibilities for pharma and OTC clients for 5Min's video focused on health, specific conditions, parenting, pregnancy, fitness and nutrition.
The HealthCentral deal is similar to the recent deal 5Min did with Scripps Networks in the food and home & garden categories. In both, 5Min landed a large anchor content partner, to which it then gave exclusive ad sales responsibilities for part of the category. In this way 5Min gains both valuable content and also category-specific advertising expertise. I continue to like how 5Min is building out its model methodically across important content categories.
Even as Washington slogs through health care reform legislation, the health-related online video space is rapidly evolving. More than ever, individuals recognize the need to educate themselves. Video provides a breakthrough way to simply and completely explain complex ideas. As a result I see lots of growth ahead in this vertical.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
5Min, the video syndication platform company focused on the instructional and lifestyle categories and Scripps Networks, owner of HGTV, Food Network, DIY, Fine Living and Great American Country, are announcing this morning a content and advertising partnership. 5Min, which I described in December, '08 and again in July when it raised $7.5M, is a classic "Syndicated Video Economy" company. Its VideoSeed syndication tool drives relevant video from its content partners to specific pages within its distribution network's web sites. I talked to 5Min CEO/co-founder Ran Harnevo late last week to learn more about the new Scripps deal.
Scripps will be contributing thousands of clips to 5Min for syndication across 5Min's network, which now generates 22 million unique viewers/mo. This is significant because Scripps owns the premier brands in the food and home & garden categories and so for 5Min the content is an important enhancement to its library. For Scripps, choosing to partner with 5Min is a strong endorsement of the syndication model as a driving force for online video.
I've been saying for a while that to succeed in online video, established media companies need to evolve from being "destination-centric" to being "audience-centric." In other words, instead of solely focusing on attracting users to a specific channel or a web site (the traditional approach), it's becoming as important to proliferate content to the Internet's nooks and crannies, to ensure content is available wherever audiences live (niche sites, social media outlets, portals, etc.).
However, I think a key to content providers' succeeding with this model is retaining control over ad inventory that the syndicator creates, to fully leverage their ad sales capabilities. This is another element of the 5Min-Scripps deal. As Ran explained, Scripps will sell ads against its clips that run in the 5Min network and also against all clips in 5Min's food and home & gardening categories. 5Min will collect a revenue share in exchange. Even though 5Min's own ad sales efforts have been strong, Ran reasoned that with Scripps' reach and relationships, this was a better approach to optimizing the value of the ad inventory.
This model underscores how important the concept of scale is in online video advertising. Ad sales professionals understand that it is not just targeted audiences that appeal to prospective advertisers, it's being able to offer sufficient scale to make them matter. Sub-scale media businesses have a hard time attracting major brand advertisers because their audience sizes are not large enough to meaningfully move the brand's numbers. In other words, no matter how targeted the audience, and how effective the ad campaign, the campaign's results likely will not be sizable enough to register a difference. Scale is not just a problem with niche vertical sites. Larger horizontal sites can have the same problem in certain of their content categories. In fact, whenever you visit a site (or a section of a site) and only see Google AdSense ads, that's likely an example of sub-scale.
The scale issue is particularly relevant in online video and the Internet in general because there's so much audience fragmentation. Barriers to entry for starting a web site are incredibly low, and many sites can obtain some initial traffic flow. But generating ads is another story. Brands and their agencies are not set up to deal with a lot of the Internet's minnows. Their media planning focus is on the whales that have at least reasonable targeting and significant reach. In fact, ad networks often rep smaller sites that don't have their own sales teams (as well as some that do), but even they require some minimal size to ensure they can deliver results.
All of this leads to why smart, automated video syndication is so important for the syndicated video economy to work. High-quality video is still expensive to produce so to really succeed online it needs to drive monetizable views wherever it can, not just at a single destination site. Scripps clearly understands this, and I think others are beginning to as well. Syndication platforms like 5Min's, which allow both content providers and would-be distribution points to be easily and effectively matched, are important glue in this process, which I see only becoming more critical going forward.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
5Min, a video syndication company specializing in "how-to" content, is announcing this morning that it has raised a $7.5 million series B round, led by new investor Globespan Capital Partners with participation from prior investor Spark Capital. The new round comes on top of the $5 million first round the company raised in January '08. I spoke with CEO Ran Harnevo yesterday to learn more about the company's progress.
5Min, which I last wrote about in Dec. '08, is a textbook Syndicated Video Economy company. As Ran explained, its key value proposition is an automated, comprehensive solution for sites seeking to incorporate high-quality relevant video that also offers content providers viewership reach and awareness beyond their own destination sites. There is no cost to either distributors or content providers to participate and resulting ad revenues are split among the parties.
The model is enabled by 5Min's VideoSeed syndication platform, which matches video from 5Min's 100,000+ title catalog to pages that its distribution network's sites specify. The matching is based on the video's metadata which 5Min has assigned and a semantic understanding of the pages themselves. 5Min's video player is embedded on these pages, providing content and ads. The network now consists of hundreds of horizontal (e.g. Answers.com, Wikia, etc.) and vertical sites that reach over 200 million unique visitors/mp generating 14 million unique viewers/mo. This is in addition to the 3.5 million unique visitors to its 5Min.com site. Ran wouldn't specify how many actual video views the network is driving, but said it's in the "tens of millions per month."
5Min focuses on key categories in lifestyle, knowledge and instructional and has built critical mass important for advertisers seeking to contextually target these viewers. 5Min has its own sales team and also uses 3rd party ad networks. Primary units are pre-rolls and overlays. Ran says the company has sold out 100% of its inventory, but would only say CPMs are on the "high end of the market."
5Min continues to aggressively grow its content library, but without producing any of its own content. Ran believes strongly that there's plenty of great content out there already, the challenge producers have is getting it more widely distributed, viewed and monetized (all the things 5Min focuses on).
Historically the company has sourced mainly from DVDs, small-to-medium sized video producers and semi-professionals (all with agreements). 5Min is also starting to offer branded content from partners like UGO Entertainment, Motor Trend, Ford Models, Kiplinger's and others. Ran also alluded to upcoming deals with tier 1 video brands. The how-to category itself is chock full of competitors like Demand Media, Howcast and VideoJug that are producing their own video, but at this point the only how-to specific provider 5Min has a deal with is MonkeySee.com.
I'm not surprised by 5Min's success. It is playing to many of the most important trends in the online video space I've written about repeatedly: fragmentation of audiences, the importance of search and SEO for discovery, higher CPMs through targeted advertising, technology to drive distribution scale and the superior value to consumers in certain categories (especially how-to) of video-based content over traditional text-based alternatives. As more and more sites recognize they need video to stay competitive, but that producing it themselves is an expensive and uneconomic proposition, syndicators like 5Min will enjoy ongoing success.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
5Min, one of the many well-funded entrants in the video-based how-to/knowledge space which I wrote about last Feb, has recently introduced VideoSeed, a clever syndication tool that has already helped drive its video to dozens of partner sites aggregating 110 million unique visitors per month. VideoSeed is another indicator that the Syndicated Video Economy is helping shape product development priorities throughout the broadband industry. I spoke to Ran Harnevo, 5Min's CEO/co-founder yesterday to learn more.
VideoSeed's goal is to give 5Min's partners relevant and complimentary video that can be easily inserted into text-oriented pages with little-to-no editorial oversight. As Ran explained it, a partner signs up, specifies which pages it wants video inserted into, selects parameters of 5Min video it wants to allow and templates for how the video should appear. 5Min editors rank all of its videos 1-5 according to an internal quality scale while rigorously assigning metadata to each.
VideoSeed semantically scans all of the partner-submitted pages and matches and inserts relevant 5Min video. (Examples can be seen at Answers.com and wikiHow) As new, relevant videos are added to 5Min, they automatically rotate into the partners' pages. Videos can be viewed on the site or through 5Min's "SmartPlayer" which has features like super slow motion, zooming, etc.)
5Min currently has a library of about 40K videos, of which Ran thinks 80% are sufficiently high quality to be of interest to partners. 5Min commissions some videos and aggregates others. Ran eschews terms like "premium" and "UGC" as they've found some of the best videos come from pure amateurs.
5Min sells ads across the syndication network, using its own team and third-party ad networks. It's using overlays and pre-rolls to date. Revenue is shared with the content providers and publishing partners. Advertisers benefit by reaching a targeted, engaged audience across dozens of sites while only having to make one buy decision.
Text-oriented how-to/knowledge-based sites and subject-driven specialty sites lend themselves perfectly to accepting complimentary syndicated video. But as Ran points out, shooting video, hosting/serving it and selling ads against it is a lot of effort for most text-oriented sites. This is especially true in a down economy when resources are tight. These factors have helped contribute to 5Min expanding its partner audience rapidly to 110 million uniques, with 2-3 new partners coming on board daily.
I could also see the VideoSeed technology being interesting in other categories (celebrity video comes immediately to mind), though for now Ran says 5Min's staying focused on knowledge, and also isn't looking to license VideoSeed externally. No doubt others will watch its progress and look to emulate it. But as Ran notes, to really succeed, they must first focus on assigning highly accurate metadata so the matching process works as intended and users truly get relevant, high quality video.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
One of the hottest corners of the broadband video market is the ad-supported "how-to" category. How-to lends itself well to video because, if a picture's worth a thousand words, a video is surely worth a million. Recognizing this, there's now a host of start-ups in this category which together have raised tens of millions of dollars. I wrote about some of this a couple months ago.
Several recent calls with industry participants got me to thinking the how-to category actually offers many valuable insights for all broadband industry participants. These fall into 3 key areas: content development, traffic acquisition and monetization.
1. Content: "Build Our Own" or "Offer a Superstore of Others' Videos"?
Players like Expert Village, 5Min, VideoJug and MonkeySee are pursuing the "build our own" video library approach, incenting individual "experts" to contribute to their sites. On the other hand, sites like WonderHowTo (WHT) and SuTree rely primarily on scouring user-generated video sites like YouTube, plus those above to aggregate the best videos available. With how-to being the ultimate "Long Tail" space, WHT's Stephen Chao told me in a recent briefing that trying to cover the infinite number of niches would be impossible. So to be comprehensive, relevant and high-quality, WHT curates what its crawlers return with a small in-house team and presents the cream of the crop to users, complete with a range of community-building features.
Here's one non-statistically significant example that illustrates the two approach's results: I did a search for "bbq steak video" on Expert Village, which bills itself as the "World's Largest How-to Video Site" and on WHT. EV returned 15 results, regrettably not one of which was relevant. WHT returned 357 results, and on the first page of 20 results alone, at least 12 looked relevant. These came from a wide variety of sources. Try doing a few searches and see what you find - my guess is your experience will be consistent with mine.
2. Traffic acquistion: Syndication or SEO?
All of these sites are ad-supported, so traffic is key. The sites with private libraries can syndicate to heavily-trafficked partners. Ordinarily, as a big syndication fan, I'd say that sounds like an advantageous traffic generating plan. But how-to may have a different traffic acquisition dynamic. It may well be that far more traffic will always come to these how-to video sites via searches at Google and other search sites, as compared with the sum of various syndication deals. That's because, absent a household brand-name in how-to, default consumer behavior may well be to simply type their how-to video query into Google.
If that's the case, then it will actually be those sites which have the most highly-optimized pages for all the niche videos that will gain greater traffic. Though I'm not an SEO expert, it seems to me that, taking my "bbq steak videos" example, WHT, with 357 related videos can optimize better than say EV with 15. And sure enough, when I ran the "bbq steak video" search on Google, right on the first page is a result from WHT, whereas nothing shows up for EV even after 5 pages. Bottom line: more relevant videos = more zero cost, Google-driven traffic.
3. Monetization: Video ads or Keyword-driven text/display ads?
Last but not least is monetization. How-to sites have lots of contextual ad potential. In my "bbq steak" example, any company that sells grills, steaks, sauces, etc, would love to advertise to me. It's tempting to believe that those with their own video libraries have more profit potential, because they can sell pre-roll or overlay ads, whereas a superstore site like WHT or SuTree cannot, because they're linking off to the source sites.
But consider this: how many of these potential advertisers will actually have video ads or the budget to create them? Unlike entertainment video, how-to, with its Long Tail character, seems to lend itself more to a low cost keyword ad approach which can be pursued by even the smallest advertiser. So say WHT or SuTree can build traffic in all those video niches and surround the video with keyword-driven text or display ads, all automated through a bidding system. Though yielding lower revenue per ad, my bet is that the total revenue for all ads with the keyword approach would be greater.
The how-to category is nascent and dynamic. I'm not suggesting for a second that it's a winner-take-all space or that all of the above are strictly "either/or." But I do believe the above analysis raises valuable points all industry participants should consider when developing their content, traffic and monetization strategies.
What do you think? Post a comment now!