Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Google shares ad wealth with videographers | CNET News.com

Google makes an interesting play in the user gen realm:

Okay... ANOTHER interesting play. But this one won't cost them 1.6 billion.

"Google has begun sharing advertising revenue with the makers of a popular video clip in a groundbreaking deal that could drive up the costs of competing in the fledgling video-sharing sector.

The search company has agreed to turn over most advertising revenue generated by the latest video from Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz, creators of 'The Diet Coke & Mentos Experiment,' according to Peter Chane, a senior product manager for Google Video."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Pro-sumer model

Most of the talk in video conent is either about consumer video (user gen) or professional video - the big studios cranking out original content online.

Today's post is about pro-sumer video.

I'm talking about the content aquisition business model employed by, among others, Current TV and TurnHere.com. I find this model fascinating and forward thinking.

These companies take what's best about user generated video - interesting and authentic content from a wide variety of perspectives and channels it into a package that is easy to consume, monetize and distribute.

Turn Here, for example, solicits short travel videos from pro-sumer producers. The freelancers create fun short videos about a neighborhood to specs provided y Turn Here. If Turn Here likes the videos, they aquire them, brand them, and distribute through the distribution infrastruture they've built. And they also foster a community for their participating producers, ensuring a stong stable of filmmakers to keep turning out content that fits the Turn Here brand.

The prosumer model meets a need that many businesses find near impossible - to provide content that is consistent, entertaining and of good quality at an affordable price. I think web people are finally coming to the understanding that video content costs. A lot. This model addresses that need.

AND... it addresses that need using an untapped resource.

The history of the prosumer filmmaker is really a story about technology. Sony's VX1000 was the first DV camera on the market in 1996, and really, it was the first time you could buy a camera for under $10,000k that could shoot video anywhere near broadcast quality. Before that it was Beta SP or 3/4 inch analog tape.

By the I finished film school in 1998, DV cameras were just coming into their own - Canon released the XL1, a dv camera for filmmakers, and Sony came out with the PD-150: the VX1000 upgraded with enough professional features that news organizations and documentary filmmakers started using the $3,500 camera.

Shortly thereafter, Apple bought Final Cut Pro and released Final Cut Pro 1.2. For $1,000 you could buy a software package that rivaled, and in some ways trounced, the $30,000 Avid for video (you could get it for $500 if you used your mom's educational discount). Creative people did what they always do when they're given access to resources.. they created. And poof - the prosumer revolution was born.

Since then the prosumers have, in many ways, taken over the documentary community, they've fueled the ever growing production of reality tv, and they've led the way in putting video online - populating sites like ifilm and atomfilms and now, with the emergence of YouTube and mySpace, posting their films there.

But while these producers and filmmakers have, in some cases, forced their way into the mainstream media, they have been mostly ignored. I think that any business model that harnesses the skill and enthusiasm of the pro-sumer community is a smart bet.

Climbing the charts...

I was thrilled to see that Wallstrip is now the #5 rated business podcast on iTunes, ahead of both of Jim Cramer's shows. BOUYAHHHHH!

Just two weeks in... and ready to start building momentum.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A day late and a dollar short

whew. Just finished week two of Wallstrip, and I'm exhausted.

More importantly, my blog's been neglected. Time to correct that... Here's my favorite Wallstrip so far:

It's been tremendous fun to launch this project - to watch viewers get introduced to the show, and then to watch them get used to it.

The first few days, the comments and feedback we got was like criticism of a movie. Every episode was treated like it's own "thing" and evaluated that way.

Around day three or four (Chipotle burrito making contest or Adobe Flasher) the show began to develop an identity. "Lindsay's starting to get more comfortable" "You guys are finding a rhythm" - (this, of course, in addition to "this sucks" "you guys suck" etc, etc).

While shows 3 and 4 were stronger than shows 1 and 2, they were shot simultaneously. Lindsay was no more comfortable in the studio doing Thursday's show than she was doing Monday's show, because we shot all the studio stuff for the first week on the same day.

The comments were evidence of something else - people started getting used to the idea of Wallstrip. The identity of the show began to emerge.

It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course. As viewers perceive the show, their perceptions shape the identity of Wallstrip in our minds as creators, and the show evolves to meet (or contradict) the expectations of our audience.

It's exciting to be a part of a project that is so fundamentally interactive. When Jeff and I upload a show, we have a preconceived notion of what the general reaction will be. By 7:30am, I can go to the web and see if we were right. And learn about the audience. And learn about my show.

When you say interactive, a lot of people think about direct involvement - the audience can comment on the show, submit topics, etc. Sure, that's an element of the project. But what really makes it interactive is the instantaneous nature of the web. It's the fact that I can go to technorati and see how many people link to us today based on the episode we offered up. I can see how our download rate changed, how many people on You Tube checked us out, how many people tagged the episode in del.icio.us.

Everyday we drop a pebble in the pond and we get to see all the ripples. That's pretty cool.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wallstrip for today

Monday, October 16, 2006

Why Wallstrip is different

We launched our daily video blog Wallstrip today. Jeff and I have been working pretty much non-stop for the past month to get it off the ground.

Howard Lindzon is the executive producer (with a guest appearance on the first show). Wallstrip is his brainchild, and he is a creative force who's not afraid to try something new.

Lindsay Campbell
is our beautiful, smart and talented host (she already has hundreds of stock brokers pining for her.

Every day, we take a company whose stock is at or near an alltime high, and we figure out why - not in the stock world, but in the real world. The show is 1-3 minute riff on that pop culture catalyst. No charts, no graphs, (ok, one chart, but it's real quick) just fun and unique takes on some of the most innovative companies in the world.

After the show, professional stock bloggers debate the merits of the company's stock from a financial perspective. They each bring their own investment strategies to the conversation and you get a robust and interactive discussio of the stock.

Wallstrip is different because we are pioneering a distribution strategy that I have been talking about on this blog since I started it. "Along the Way" distribution. The key to our strategy is the widget you see in the upper right hand corner of my site.

That is essentially a tv sitting on my blog, which allows my readers to watch the new wallstrip full size every day, without ever leaving queensboundseven. Our stock bloggers are each putting this widget up on their sites, and the code is available at wallstrip.com, so anyone who wants wallstrip can have it on their site or blog.

Right now, it's ancillary distribution, but I anticipate this will be the most effective way to distribute video content in the long run. Why wouldn't brokers who like our show want to watch it on their Yahoo Financial page, which they keep up on their screen all day long?

Why are we trying to grab attention, which is the only ingredient that is scarce on the web, by sticking a flag pole in the ground and telling people to come to us?

Instead we should be telling them to distribute us - and not just by sending an email. We should be exchanging our great content for access to their audience.

We're doing a lot of things on Wallstrip. We're trying to bring comedy to the stock market, to give the financial audience a real web 2.0 product, to take the great and successful model of videoblogs like Rocketboom and expand that genre.

It's a very important project for me personally, in terms of trying out the things I blog about every day (well, ok, not every day recently...).

But of all those things, the one I'm most excited and optimistic about is the little box you see in my sidebar.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What Revver can do better

This post is about a week late to the party. I've had my head buried in Wallstrip, and have neglected my much more important duty to blather on endlessly about gootube.

Here goes...

What the hell is Revver going to do? That question has been tossed around the blogosphere a lot, and I guess it makes sense. Youtube always had the traffic... Revver appeared to be going after the monetization.

Now that google has Youtube, they have the traffic and (presumably) the means to monetize it. So Revver's screwed, right?


If you really look at what Revver is doing, you'll see that while they may be the first video hosting site to get serious about making money, they're not really about the monetization model. They're about the content providers who are serious about making money.

It's not just their advertising strategy that appeals to the serious content provider, it's most everything about their service. They offer format flexibility (flash or quicktime), they have an open API, their player is larger than the standard web video, and (this one's REALLY important to us content producers) THE FLASH VIDEO LOOKS GOOD.

I chose Revver as a platform for Wallstrip in large part because of the quality of the image. The monetization model was a nice bonus, but I made the decision because of quality and flexibility. Now of course, the image quality isn't close to having a quicktime or even .wmv video progressively download from your site, but when you look at comparable products, Revver is an excellent choice.

While image quality is a great part of revver now, it's not a sustainable competitive advantage - Google can improve Youtube's flash video quality overnight. So what is revver doing right that they can keep doing right regardless of what Youtube does?


Revver just launched their redesigned servicec (Revver One), and with it they are launching several key features to make them a platform not for social networking, but for broad distribution on the web - "along the way" distribution.

One is the widget that we modified for Wallstrip... I blogged about it on Monday. Basically this allows you to create your own channel and syndicate it around the web. We are using it for one program, but you could add a whole lineup to your widget, just like a television channel. Youtube was the first to this feature (revolutionary, I called it at that time) but now Revver does it better. Youtube's embeddable playlist is not a widget, it's a full size player. And it's very clunky. Revver's ui is extremely elegant.

The second thing I love is that they are solidly deferential when it comes to branding. You'll notice that the Revver video at Wallstrip.com is skinned with our logo, not Revver's. Within a couple of months, the default player will have no logo on it. They're also actively promoting their API as a tool for you to create your own sharing site using Revver's background technology. So if you wanted to create a site like, say, sillyfaces.com, you could build it essentially out of the box from Revver, without anyone knowing it was a Revver site. Their developers will even help you do it.

Pretty cool.

Revver appeals to me the same way that Final Cut Pro, or the first Mini DV cameras did. It empowers the creative producer to distribute high quality work with almost no resources. That's a disruptive technology in my book.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Confessions of a bandwidth junkie

My friend and partner Howard calls Adobe and Akamai the big winners in the Gootube deal.

He's smart. He's thinking about the oil companies when everyone else is thinking about the automakers. Adobe makes flash, which makes YouTube work. Akamai is the big cheese content management company - they serve up all that rich media we love to watch.

His post made me think... Enron had it right. Way back in the bubble days, they took their trading business and applied it to bandwidth. The concept is pretty simple - if you're not using your bandwidth, and I need it, I can use yours. Enron provides the forum for the deal and the vehicle for the exchange of bandwidth.

I wonder what that company is doing now? If it's still around, it's definitely not owned by the big E. Nothing is.

The concept makes sense - particularly because almost everything revolutionary coming out of the web space right now requires a lot of bandwidth.

A great idea in the midst of the Gootube debate

Like him or hate him, Mark Cuban thinks about the web 2.0 space, and he shares what he thinks with all of us.

There aren't many people as successful as the Blog Maverick who do that on a regular basis. And if you think he hasn't made an important contribution to the ongoing conversation, you're crazy.

I, for one, like him. But I don't always agree with him. On Gootube, I'm mixed - I disagree that it's doomed to failure. What makes youtube work is syndication, not copyrighted material. When it comes to the combination of free bandwidth and cutting edge syndication - they have been second to none. Also, of course, "it's the community, stupid."

Where I do agree with Cuban is that the copyright problems are real. The DCMA problems are real too, and scary for all of us.

And, in the midst of one of his coypright rants, he popped out this gem of an idea:

Forget Youtube, a site could come along EverythingTube.com. Make it primarily for sharing independent artists music videos and user generated video content, a 'bigger, better Youtube' if you will. Just offer an encoder that mixes mp3 audio with any video or any series of pictures Then create profiles like Beatleswhitealbum and upload the white album, etc, etc. If Youtube can do what its doing, why not EverythingTube?

This is not a copyright problem, it's a brilliant idea? Someone needs to create a sharing site not with an encoder that mixes mp3s and flash video, but a player that plays them simulateously. Then allow me to upload my video resources and create my own music videos and share them with friends.

Secure an ascap/bmi license and make the videos only viewable in the site, and through the site's syndication mechanisms (you can't OWN the video you create, but you can sure as hell SHARE and EMBED the video you create!) and you've got a great mash-up that allows people to be creative without eroding anyone's copyright.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Words to live by

Will Video For Food has a good post with an even better quote:

“Campaigns that Seek Out Consumers will Fail. Campaigns that Consumers Seek Out Will Succeed.”

Saturday, October 07, 2006


About a month before the recent round of speculation on YouTube's copyright problems, I posted that YouTube has a shut-off valve.

Anytime a big media conglomerate (like Universal, for example) is ready, they can kill YouTube off with a couple of burly lawsuits.

Well, that dynamic certainly changes if Google buys Youtube. If the video sharing site is sued by big media, that's David and Goliath. But if Google is sued by big media, that's Goliath vs. Goliath... and in a battle like that is not about ownership or content creation or opensource values, it's about money.

But Google's forced entry into this debate brings up another interesting question - Does Google have a shut-off valve?

The answer is no, of course. You can't just shut off what Google has. It's too big and powerful. But there's no doubt that they have copyright problems.

The kind of problems that turn a "don't-be-evil" information liberator into a backdoor censor.

"Your work is not valuable enough to be protected" is a rather evil position to take. But the legal standard for copyright forces Google to argue exactly that.

These problems are going to get worse as the information Google feeds you becomes a primary source. Right now they are beginning to duke it out with the book publishing industry over book search.

In contrast to Microsoft's strategy, Google is involuntarily crawling books for their booksearch and forcing publishers to opt out, basically telling the industry to F- off or get on board.

Their strategy could work, or it could not. But nobody could say there isn't some risk involved. So, no shut off valve, but maybe a degenerative disease?

What Google has in their back pocket, of course, is that they have totally changed the way we interact with the web. And that they've become a verb... without marketing themselves like a verb (Yahoooo!!!!). "Coke" became a synonym for "soda." When that company's namesake ingredient became illegal, I'm sure a lot of folks speculated that Coca-Cola was on its way out the door.

Just some food for thought. There's a lot of speculation in the air, and it seemed like an appropriate time to reflect a bit.

All reflection aside, though, the thought of the two biggest copyright disruptors merging must make the courts happy - so here's to judicial expedience.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The power of conflict

A culture of dissent is critical to making good group decisions.

That's the premise of an interesting take on the HP board debacle I read in the New Yorker this morning.

Lost in the hue and cry over the Chairwoman's unquestionably lame spy games, the author argued, is the fact that the leaks are terrible for HP because they encourage unaminity on the board... Which leads to bad decisions.

The article goes on to say that task conflict in a group setting is often misinterpreted as a difference in character, or relationship conflict.

Get a group together that has task conflict but no relationship conflict, and you get good decisions and a great work environment. Conflict in relationships and tasks means good decisions coming out of a room full of people who hate each other, and no conflict means mediocre decisionmaking.

I agree with this premise whole heartedly. The key ingredient in the task-only conflict recipe is trust. If you trust your colleagues, you are free to disagree, to say something stupid, to get batted down.

In my own business, my partner Jeff and I argue all the time about decisions, and keep a good relationship. I think it makes our choices better.

I have other working relationships where trust facilitates a culture of dissent (my marriage, for one), but I also have situations where dissent and hurt feelings are too intertwined.

My personality makes me naturally conflict averse and, as a result, I'm likely to sacrifice the task conflict to avoid the relationship conflict, and I know that decisionmaking suffers when I do that.

It's one of my biggest challenges as a manager and a person- to get better at this without changing who I am. I work on it a lot. But still I find that the working relationships that add the most value to my life are the ones where I can say what I think without worrying about them taking it personally.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Linear vs. Non-linear follow up

I've had a few private emails from people trying to figure out what exactly I mean by a non-linear web video experience.

Here's a nice example:

Korsakow is a software that allows you to make non-linear narrative films online. The finished product is interactive - you set boundaries for the content based on your interests and preferences as you watch, and the program builds on your feedback to generate a film tailored to you from a database of clips. If the film strays from your interest, you can correct it.

Pretty cool.