Thursday, September 28, 2006

Video can be more than VHS tapes

I'm 29. But I've been producing, shooting and editing video for a long time.

17 years to be exact. Back then it was Super VHS, 3/4 inch or Beta. Editing was tape to tape (still is for most local daily news) - "linear" it's called. The only computer I used was a Video Toaster- a piece of crapiness put out by Amiga that really did nothing to change the mechanics of the process.

When I hear people speculating about whether online video will ever be what television is, I think about the tools I first used to make video. I remember taking apart a vcr with the tape inside it to watch how it worked.

I think about that time because that's exactly where we are with online video. Linear.

Think about your wmv, quicktime file or even your flash movie. The progress bar is a straight line. You can go forward, you can go back, but that's it. It's an unbreakable block of information that can only be decifered one way.

Digital video isn't linear, it's spacial, just like text or code.

If I read an article or a post, I can do anything I want to it. I can highlight any snippet I want and copy it to my own publishing space. I can aggregate headlines, or text or keywords into any form I want.

That's exactly how my NLE works (Non-linear editing system - I use Final Cut Pro). I load up my video onto hard drives, the video is tagged temporally with time code, and I can instantly grab any piece of any file I upload, copy it and republish it in whatever mutated form I want in a new linear form.

Part of what the internet does so well is break up what is very big into little flexible chunks so you can cater them to your specific needs. As the uses for those chunks become clear, you can automate the process so the aggregation and search tools begin to predict your needs before you experience them.

Video data can be that kind of content. The way we comprehend visual and auditory information and entertainment can fundamentally change from linear and fixed to dynamic and spacial.

Admittedly, there are some structural differences between the video I put in my NLE and the video you watch online that are barriers to what I'm describing (I won't bore you with them, but if you want to appear video savvy, you can refer to your online video as long GOP technology). But it won't be hard to overcome them.

I think it will happen soon enough. Motionbox is already taking a big step forward - their player allows you to easily highlight any segment of a video clip and forward just that segment on to others or embed it on your own site.

In my mind, wondering if internet video can ever be like TV is kind of like wondering if Google can ever be like the Phone Book.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

We're Havin' A Party

Join us this Friday night if you can...

Friday, September 22, 2006

What I'd like to see from MeeVee

Reel Pop has an interesting review of the online, interactive tv guide MeeVee.

I agree with Steve that, as a user, the overall value of the site is somewhat questionable.

But his review made me think - in the internet entertainment space I'd really like to see a product that aggregates RSS feeds from video content into a searchable, browsable, taggable and commentable guide like MeeVee.

Of course all the closed social networks have this, but I'd love to see one that crawls for xml files so you can discover new material.

All part of bringing the content to the user where they're already spending time on the net.

Anyone know of a product like that?

Friday afternoon break

Because I'm tired of seeing that old Mark Cuban post on my front page...

but I'm totally swamped with auditions for the new daily web show we're developing,

here's an exclusive photo of the stash Willie Nelson was busted with from Steve Bloom who blogs at Blooming Ideas.

Here's the story. Steve is editor-at-large at High Times magazine and writes a great blog. If you are a Mets fan, you MUST read him.

here are a couple of videos that were produced by actors who came in to audition for us. Not related to our show, but very funny stuff.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Mark Cuban reads my blog

Mark has an excellent post today about the vulnerability of YouTube. His argument is essentially that YouTube has a shut-off valve, which I posted in July.

Here's a taste:

The thing is the shock that until Universal Music Group apparently started to put the pressure on them, no one had sued them. Considering the RIAA will sue your grandma or a 12 year old at the drop of a hat, the fact that Youtube is building a traffic juggernaut around copyrighted audio and video without being sued is like.... well Napster at the beginning as the labels were trying to figure out what it meant to them. With the MGM vs Grokster ruling, its just a question of when Youtube will be hit with a charge of inducing millions of people to break copyright laws , not if...

...And its not just copyright lawsuits that will end up severely impacting Youtube's business, its that their business is too easy for the people who own the copyrights to copy.

Well, it's stating the obvious to say that a lot more people read Mark than read me. And it's good that this argument is getting some real play.

I wish he had given me some link love, and he probably would have... if he actually read my blog.

Update: Techcrunch is reporting that Warner Music has reached a deal with YouTube that will allow user generated vids to use music owned by Warner. There are plenty of restrictions and caveats, but this is a big deal. And it suggests that Cuban's assertion may be a little premature. YouTube has plenty left in the tank - nobody was making deals like this with Napster.

On the other hand, doesn't it bolster Universal's impending suit against YouTube, that the video sharing company is entering into this type of agreement with Warner? I dunno. One thing I do know, though, is that the Warner deal says they can pull the rights at any time. And that means that YouTube still has a shut-off valve.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Apple's New Killer App

Ok, so the general feeling around the blogosphere following the Apple announcement could be described as... depression, anxiety, disappointment, confusion and unease.

It's almost as if we're all saying, "you're the one who got us here, Steve. You salvaged the legal music download business, you busted out the video iPod without changing the price. You proved to us that people would watch a little screen. Now we're standing here holding our iPods and we're not sure where to go next. Show us the way, Steve, just like Bill used to do."

And then he comes out with... a new version of iTunes?? $9.99 for a drm'ed movie download? And the set top box so, what, I can watch my favorite shows on my TV at $1.99 an episode? I can watch them for free on my TV now.

But for those worried about Apple, don't be. I've been hearing concerns about flattening iPod sales for months now. It seems like everyone's forgotten that, for Apple, it's not about the iPod anymore. Apple already introduced their next killer app - and they did it almost a year ago.

Bootcamp. You can run Windows on a Mac now. PC users don't have to sacrifice their operating system to buy the prettiest, slickest hottest computers on the market. And if they like OSX, they can ease into it.

Apple's new product is their original product. Hardware. Now you can argue that an Apple's more affordable than a Dell. Last year at this time, that debate would be pointless - Apples and Oranges (or Windows, as the case may be).

In the third quarter, Apple reported a 12% increase year-to-year in Mac sales. PC users are moving to the Mac, while staying PC users. And that trend is only beginning. It seems like every month another blogger I read buys a Mac. Come to think of it, I don't know a person who's bought a computer in the past few months who hasn't at least considered a Mac.

Those guys over there a pretty smart. In the past year, they revolutionized the video download business and overnight they've become a major player in the PC hardware biz.

Don't look at their iPod sales, look at their hardware sales. I have a feeling it's a damned good time to own Apple's stock.

Me without my blanket

Ughh. Woke up this morning to find my blog was down (thanks to Minic over at The Blogging Times for pointing it out to me).

Odd, I haven't posted in a couple of days, but suddenly not being able to access my site (or let anyone else see it) left me in a state of panic.

So glad it's finally back up. I didn't realize that QB7 had become such a security blanket for me.

I started making a list of things to post about. On paper. Psychologically it was, "the internet's unreliable... must revert to paper..."

The reality, though, is that being a blogspot blog has gotten a little tiresome for me. It's a great service (even though it gets a lot of playa hate), but I'm moving to soon, and probably migrating to wordpress too.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mr. Angry's revenge (or why I still like my idea)

Mr. Angry had a good response to my YouTube monetization post, and I wrote a long comment response. So long, in fact, that I decided to delete my comment and turn it into a post.

Here's what the angry man wrote:

I think you're glossing over the viewer experience a little. Pre-roll ads would kill the popularity of YouTube (or any video service). I think YT might actually be close to a successful model - featured commercial videos.

Your idea generally could work well but I think the type of inserted advertising is critical. Maybe a return to the old "brought to you by" days is in order - companies could buy popular personalities to shill for them. I know I'd sell out for about a buck fifty.

My thoughts on pre-roll ads... depends how they're done.

If there's a separate ad that streams through, and then you have to wait for the content to load, that's BS.

But with advertisers actually bidding on content, you could just embed the pre-roll in the video.

Also, as I mentioned in my post on the AP/AOL poll, I don't think the numbers right now support the general panic about viewer experience. When you're talking widespread adoption, people generally feel that advertising is a fair trade for good content.

And the bidding aspect of my plan also serves as natural selection - so you don't get ads on really bad or stupid content. If it has an ad, you know it's going to appeal to at least some people.

My personal favorite advertising method is embedded logos, which we're all used to seeing on TV. But exactly what kind of advertising should be sold is not the point of my post, nor is it what we should be thinking about.

The bottom line is that the advertising that works is the kind that's going to sell the most of whatever's being advertised. That factors in user experience, brand exposure, technology, everything.

So I'm not so focused on finding the right way to advertise - I'm focused on finding the right way to place advertising.

Monday, September 11, 2006

More on Youtube - My idea for monetizing it.

Since my last post, I've been thinking about what would work as an advertising model for YouTube.

Clearly it's not Paris Hilton saying "YouTube is the hottest place on the web, and that's where I want to be. It's Hot! (tm)"

I told you I liked Charlie's drop down menu brand embedding idea. The problem with that, however, is the same problem that mySpace has with ad networks. Companies simply are not willing to give away control of their brand like that.

I just hopped over to YouTube, and the first featured video is entitled "The Vomit Show." It's rudamentary animation of a guy with a chainsaw massacaring his friend, then asking him for forgiveness. My favorite quote, "you're the best friend a murderer could have."

Yes, I can just imagine those execs at Nike, Disney, Apple, etc. resting easy knowing that "The Vomit Show" is embedded with their logo.

Never going to happen.
A workable model for monetizing user generated content MUST give advertisers control over their brands.

The other stumbling block is the very same quality that makes user gen content so attractive to advertisers - the viral nature of the videos.

The reality is that most videos get about 1000 views, not a million views like the stars. And unlike other forms of entertainment, past stardom is not necessarily indicative of future success. Sure, LisaNova is going to get a ton of views on her next video, but that's the exception, not the rule.

Advertising on a viral video is a gamble. Once a video has reached 100,000 views, will it vault to a million? Will it peter out? Who wants to advertise on a video that's already reached a million views and has saturated the market in unbranded form? It's like the stock market.

My solution to both these problems is simple. Build an ad market into YouTube - half eBay and half Adsense.

When a user uploads a video, they can choose whether to make it available for advertising. They can offer embedding, pre-roll, or other advertising opportunities, and can set minimum prices, just like an auction. Then advertisers can bid for those rights (or even a buy now feature?).

Most advertisers will probably gamble, trying to find that breakout hit just before it skyrockets - a video reaches 100,000 views, then it gets really hot on the market. I imagine Lisa Nova announcing her new video and accepting bids before it premieres. And just like adsense, some advertisers with small budgets can appeal to a niche market by finding the right niche video that 1000 people will see.

I remember a few months ago, Howard found a great video of a golf performer he wanted to use as advertising for GolfNow, his company that sells last minute tee times. With the market in place, he could have bid on the rights to the video, gotten it branded golf now, and started using it - a five minute process.

I like this concept because it exploits what's really exciting about user generated content - the big hit, the undiscovered gem, without diluting the advertiser's brand.

You could also implement this idea as a third party vendor - users on popular video sharing sites could tag their videos signaling their interest, and the transactions could occur outside the community. The user would just replace the unbranded video with the branded one. This would be much less elegant, and maybe impractical, but it's possible.

That's my take - I'm still on the hunt for more good ideas...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The YouTube Pre-roll conversation

Fred started this conversation with his post on monetizing YouTube. The point of Fred's post was not to talk about pre-rolls, but to explore the value of YouTube and (more interesting to me) to put a dollar figure to being a content producer in the YouTube world.

But that's where the conversation has gone, so...

This post by Charlie is one of the best ideas I've heard for monetizing YouTube:

with the wiffleball videos, the user could be given a little editor that allows him to stick a logo and some text right on the corner of the screen... they select from a menu of choices... they might pick Nike or Adidas or Gatorade or something.

He also talks about having a brand solicit videos for their ads. This is being done now, and it's a good idea.

The reality is that 30 second ads, at least the good ones, are just creative short films. And when you look at most videos that go viral, they're also just creative short films... most have one "beat" and reference our culture in a way that is entertaining and allows the audience to immediately identify with the video.

So the format is the same - whether it's Budweiser Clydesdales bowing to the NY skyline after 9/11 or Musicians playing with treadmills on youtube. And a smart brand will be looking to use videos the way they use ads, not advertise on the ads. That's a bit redundant.

In all this, it's important to remember that the strong anti-ad sentiment in both the video blogging and online video communities is not a very good representation of how users in general feel. Most people would rather get good content and understand that advertising is a trade off.

What "works" as an eventual model is what turns viewers into customers the best. The best user experience is just not to have any sponsorship at all, so any ad model is going to have a negative impact on user experience.

The question for the folks with the dollars is, "which model gets my message across most effectively, and in a way that doesn't destroy user experience to the extent that people won't watch it."

Remember, the 23 minute half hour, the "hook", the sitcom, the procedural drama - these are not conventions built around the best way to tell a story. The first concern is always, "what's the best way to advertise". Our television conventions come from "what's the best way to tell a story given that we're advertising this way."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Short is soooo much better than long

That's the not very shocking conclusion of a new AOL/AP online video poll released yesterday.

Reading the results, here's what caught my eye:

79% of respondents who have downloaded or watched a video clip connect via broadband. No surprise, but it's important to remember that our audience is almost exclusively broadband. A lot of internet polling data is still heavily skewed by dial-up users. I usually ignore the overall numbers and focus only on the broadband results when I can.

Mean hours weekly spent on the internet was 11.1. Mean hours spent watching tv was 13.9. Those numbers are surprisingly close together for a poll in which all adult age groups are represented. Really surprising!

69% of those who watch video online find content contextually (stumble on them as they browse), 61% find them through sharing (sent by friends), and 58% through aggregation - a list of sites they regularly visit. To me, this is the most important finding in the study. It suggests that "pass along" distribution (sharing) and "along the way" distribution (syndication of video in places where your audience is already spending time on the internet), two things I blog about probably more than anything else, are the most popular ways people find content to consume. Wow, that's a great finding for me. I can feel my pagerank rising... oddly enough - while they like to get their video from friends, they don't like to share. Only 1% listed "ability to share" as a reason they like video online.

People don't watch stuff they have to pay for - 93% no, 7% yes. They don't care about commercials - not A SINGLE respondant selected "no commercials" as something they like about online video. Interesting from a business model perspective, and in line with what a lot of smart folks have been saying.

What is liked about online video? Convenience and Accessibility. Period. Only 8% went for entertainment value (of course that's probably because there's not much entertaining stuff online). Of course we all know why this is - people are watching repurposed stuff online - video from major television and movie content providers. They watch it because they missed it on TV, or it's more convenient. When this number shifts, then online video has become a medium.

What people don't like about online video is interesting too. Video quality, a/v issues, and download time. That's what bothered them - not screen size, watching alone, content appropriateness... even though these are things that are often regarded as major hurdles to widespread adoption. Funny that YouTube's quality is soooo crappy, but they still have so many views. My guess is that in a study skewed younger, quality would matter less.

A wonk I am not, but I think those findings are a lot more interesting than the headline.

My mail in a feed

ooooh, this is a good idea:

Social Mail

It's a service that turns an email address into a feed. Simple and smart.

I signed up and created a new address, then promptly routed all my email newsletters to that address. Now I get no newsletters in my inbox, but I have a feed to keep track of them.

I created another address just for entertainment/BrightRED bulletins (my CNET newstracker, my entertainment news updates, the google flags I have set up, etc) - now I get one feed where I can keep track of all my personalized business news. And I can share this feed with my partner, and my customized news becomes my company's customized news... you know, syndication!

If I have a group project, I can create an address for that project, and my team can send all project related emails to one address, and everyone on the team can read them. If someone joins the team half way through, I give them the feed and they have instant archive access to every email that's been sent to the group.

There. I just gave you three great reasons why I love this service. And, of course, more reasons why I love RSS in general.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

It's a good day

FSU beat the 'Canes last night 13-10, and

Season 4 just started on-demand.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Are you ready for some football???

When you attend a good little film school nestled in a mediocre BIG southern university, you sort of develop some habits. So, you'll have to indulge me...

Tonight... 8pm... BEAT THE 'CANES!!!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

How far we've come... or not

I was dining with a photographer friend on Friday, and he was reminiscing about shooting digital photos for Christie's Auction catologue back in 1996.

Now I used to work for a photo company, and we weren't able to go fully digital until 2003, so 1996 is pretty amazing, especially for fine photography.

They used a 4x5 camera made by Leaf with a three exposure process to create each image! The camera had a motorized filter wheel that rotated when you triggered the camera, allowing the chip to use all its pixels for first red, then green and blue. You could watch on the monitor as each layer of color was added to the photo (which probably would make a pretty cool video art project).

(this photo taken with the Leaf camera)

While the three exposure process is obviously not very practical (try taking three successive pictures of your mother-in-law without her moving a millimeter), it's actually superior to the way digital photos are taken now. Digital cameras use a single chip, dividing up the pixels on its surface so that some read the red, some green, and some blue. How many are allocated to each color is dependant on the manufacturer's "secret recipe", and some cameras extrapolate (fake) additional pixels for one color or another.

Color film combines three separate layers of photosensitive celluloid, and good quality video cameras use three CCD chips (that's why the tones are so much richer with a three chip camera than with a one chip camera).

So while we've come a long way from three different exposures, digital photography still has a way to go. Apparently, there is a chip out there (which has been around forever) that reads light like a piece of color film, with sensors at different depths that read different colors. Look for the first company to integrate that technology or a 3 CCD technology into their camera to start winning the high end digital battle.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Smart People

Man, I like agreeing with smart people.

Fred came up with a dead on post yesterday that sums up where I think the successful recipe for distribution of web video will be found:

People don't want to link to media like audio and video (and photos), they want to run it right there on their own pages. They want to be the TV station, the radio station, the newspaper.

"Along the way" distribution
that reaches the user where they already are on the web,

and "pass along" distribution that empowers your user to become the distributor.

YouTube's embeddable playlist player is a great example of this - it takes you a step beyond playing a video "right there" on your own page, and allows you to embed an episodic series on your page... like Hugh McLeod's postcards are embedded on my sidebar.

But that player has problems:

It's exclusively for YouTube and, like Fred says in his post, we need to be looking at solutions that work everywhere

It's too clunky - it's not elegant, it's very Youtube-ish, and it's not customizable...

's player is similar to YouTube's, except the video looks much better. But Brightcove's player costs money to use - their business model is antiquated before it even launches. And just like YouTube, you're required to do everything from inside their walled garden.

Personally, I want to see a widget player that is just a viewing window. You can play the most recent episode, or click a dropdown menu to select other episodes.

And I want it to use RSS as the underlying technology (the YouTube player does use RSS, but not in a way that helps me - you still have to encode and add the media through Youtube).

The folks over at Feedburner tell me they are coming out with a widget that can do this in short order. I'm psyched... Feedburner is a great company, and if anyone can do this right with RSS, they can.

Plus, Fred is an investor in Feedburner... and if no one else gets it, he gets it.