Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Experience

After attending a user experience seminar today that was short on the experience and long on the waste of time, I came to the realization that "the experience" without the "experience," is just "the."

That's how much of a "the" this seminar was.

However, it did lead me to think a little bit about the user experience inherent in video content on the web. Maybe I'm just reading in the wrong places, but I find a lot of people in our industry wringing their hands about how to monetize video content, and how to create a web experience that includes video content, but very few people talking about what makes web video itself a good experience.

I'll be keeping my eye out for web video experiences that are good (and sustainable - this is just as important if you're ever going to get to the monetizing part). I'll get this started by talking about my favorite video podcast, Rocketboom. I posted a few days ago about their recent advertising success - I think that this team has found a formula that creates a really good viewing experience for their audience, both on the web and on portable devices.

Rocketboom is a three minute daily wrap up of techcentric news. Hosted by a young, attractive woman named Amanda Congdon, who brings a lot of campy personality to the show (opening Tuesday's episode with "Good Tuesday!", cueing story packages by sticking a cartidge into an old Texas Instruments computer, etc.), the content is a combination of new stuff on the web and in the podcasting community, viewer contributions and reports from correspondants.

So what do I like about the viewing experience? 1) It's reliable. The show is M-F every week. It's always three minutes, the feed is reliable, the picture and sound is reliable. Regular programming is something that's lacking on the web, and Rocketboom provides that, leveraging RSS while they're at it. 2) They have a distinct brand. The Rocketboom camp and quirk gives their audience the feeling of being an insider, and also provides an envelope, so that the experience I'm getting is distinctly Rocketboom, no matter where I receive their content. 3) Their length is perfect for a video podcast. My perfect length for an audio podcast is 7-17 minutes - perfect length to walk the dog or ride the subway. With a video podcast, there's no way I want it that long - 7 minutes is the max I'm going to watch something on the internet regularly, or on my iPod (unless it's an "event" viewing, like a television show I paid for, or something that's hysterically funny...). Rocketboom's three minutes go by quickly and enjoyably. And because there's a new one every day, each episode doesn't have to rock my world. If I like it, great, I'll watch it through. If not, I'll shut it off... but I'll tune in the next day. The lack of commitment frees me up to be a loyal viewer.

Rocketboom isn't forcing television content onto web viewers, they're creating something new - a good experience for web and mobile viewers. I'd like to see their format tweaked and adopted by content providers with other niches (there's not just one sitcom on tv, you know...)

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