Please Check Out Our New Site

December 28, 2006

We’ve switched over to SplashCastMedia.com. Future updates and news will all be posted there. Thanks for stopping by!


Nature Channel

December 28, 2006

You too can do this… (www.splashcastmedia.com)

[splashcast WMAO8895UR]


No Big Surprise: Piracy Trumps Legal Video Downloads

December 27, 2006

A few takeaways from an Ars Technica story on NPD report that claims that peer-to-peer (P2P) video downloads are out pacing purchases from legitimate video download services by a rate of five to one.

  • 8 percent of Internet-using households downloaded video content from P2P services, whereas 2 percent paid to download video content from legitimate providers.
  • The study also indicates that nearly 60 percent of video files downloaded from P2P sites were adult-film content, while 20 percent was TV show content and 5 percent was mainstream movie content.

Some of the highlights from the solid analysis by Ars Technica:

  • The big one has to be the ease of using a P2P network. Download a video from a P2P network, play it on your computer or burn a DVD. Simple. Why? No DRM on P2P networks.
  • It’s hard to compete with free. Why would you pay for a DRM laden video with poor bit quality for $11.99 from an online service when you can get an HD quality, DRM free video from a P2P network?
  • Selection is the pits with online video stores. But go to the P2P services and you can get pretty much anything you want. And, once again, it’s free.
  • Set top box to the rescue? Video downloads may get their light of day in the mainstream when “on demand” goes to the next level. From Ars Technica:

Right now, the current leader in the video download market is Apple, which boasts nine out of every ten digital movies sold in the NPD study. I’m inclined to believe that the market for commercial video downloads will be pushed into the mainstream by set-top devices that provide integrated downloading services that go beyond current “on demand” services by carrying more selection and offering “download-to-own” videos. Such products insulate users from some of the frustrations of DRM while solving the problem of getting the content to a television screen. Apple’s upcoming iTV product is a good example of set-top box (STB) hardware with an integrated video download service. Microsoft’s increasingly popular Xbox Live Video service is also a great example. I’d like to see NPD perform a similar study in a year or two comparing adoption of set-top-based video downloads with computer-based video downloads so we can see how products like the Xbox 360 and the iTV impact the market.


The Trouble with TailRank and Megite Video, So Far

December 27, 2006

From Digg to Technorati to StumbleUpon, social discovery sites around the web are seeking a way to suss out the hottest videos on the web at any given moment. Today two memetrackers, TailRank and Megite, added video to their offerings. Both sites track what the hottest videos online are, as measured by the number of bloggers who are linking to those videos.

Neither of these companies are SplashCast competitors, in fact I really want them to function better so I can use them in my work here at SplashCast.

Both sites do a good job of tracking text based memes in the blogosphere, but both exhibit some early shortcomings in their entry into video. I’ll be making a longer post comparing the features and capabilities of a long list of video aggregation sites, both human and automated, when we switch over to our new SplashCast blog this week. For now though, these two sites are in the news and deserve some commentary in and of themselves.

As Liz Gannes at NewTeeVee wrote this morning, online video discovery can be a challenge. There may be no shortage of videos available but the dominant methods of discovery today are probably the most watched and discussed pages on YouTube and the various sites’ featured videos. Those hardly seem sufficient; sheer numbers for example are easily gamed. SplashCast is working on a network of topic editors who will highlight the best media (video, photos, audio and text) in their areas of expertise. Even people in that kind of position, though, could be well served by some automated aggregation of hot videos.

In the spirit of cheering for everyone working to bring a solid offering to market that will fill these needs, here are my top concerns about the products launched today by TailRank and Megite.

Top 8 Problems So Far

No categorization.
Both services currently offer only the top videos in bulk, not split up by category at all. That’s a challenge in and of itself, but would be a great differentiator. StumbleUpon probably does the best job of this so far, though it’s largely a black box for end users. There are enough videos coming online already that I want to be able to view only the most popular ones about certain topics. In the near term future there will be enough video online that general “most popular” will be irrelevant to many people. In fact, that’s probably the case right now.

The RSS feeds are non-functional.
The TailRank RSS feed so far says it’s for the video page but delivers the front page of TailRank proper. The Megite Video RSS feed delivers nothing but headline links, no metadata or screen cap – much less a playable version of the popular videos. These sorts of sites are likely to prove most useful in syndication for many users, not as a destination site. People in viral video related industries, for example, would be best served by a high functioning RSS feed from video memetracking services.

Only some sites are being tracked. YouTube may be the logical dominant source of video, but many video bloggers in particular host their videos elsewhere. Irina Slutsky’s scandalous SNL send-up “Boobs in a Box” for example, has more links today (including from BoingBoing), than many of the videos in the video meme trackers. It’s hosted by Blip.tv.

Linking to videos, as opposed to embedding them, ought to be counted as well. That may be why Slutsky’s video isn’t included in the charts.

The number of indexed blogs are still low in both TailRank and Megite. If you look at Technorati videos or ViralVideoCharts, you’ll see that some of the same videos appear there but with far more links included in the results. This calls into question these new video aggregators’ connection to the parts of the blogosphere where videos are most discussed. That’s a whole new challenge they’ll need to take on.

Presentation will be a real challenge for single file players. Obvious intersection of interests in this comment, as SplashCast will be a solution for this problem when we launch our multi-file player next month – but it is a very real issue. TailRank does a nice job of resizing the players for each video so you can scan more information on a single page but Megite puts full sized players in its aggregation pages. I believe both solutions are awkward, though I like what TailRank is doing about it.

Errors are present
in both sites at launch. Neither is a deal breaker, but here’s two technical problems I found right away. Megite finds that The Original iPod Ad is a hot video today but titles it “Mariah Carey: Hungry Hungry Hippo.” TailRank has the same video, with the same URL even, appear twice in its list of hot videos. I’m sure these are the sorts of things that both sites are working to prevent in the future.

Finally, what does it mean that many of the automated memetrackers, these two included, have very little overlap in their hot lists? TechCrunch reports that Megite places different weight on different blogs and TailRank may be as well. That algorithm could use some transparency so I can decide which I prefer. I’m also not sure that the major players in video selection are at all clear yet. Even in the text blogosphere, meme trackers that give more weight to some blogs than to others have come under heavy criticism for reinforcing existing power dynamics and being less than supportive of new voices. A good memetracker will account for this, but I can’t help but wonder how it’s being done in the video space.

All in all, these are two new services worth watching.
Both are designed by committed developers well practiced in tracking memes. I hope that they will improve dramatically. I’d love to have some solid, categorized options for video meme tracking available by RSS.


2 Out of 3 Revver Founders Leave the Company

December 20, 2006

Changes afoot at video company Revver; AdAge (via PaidContent) reports that co-founders Ian Clarke and Oliver Luckett are departing from the company. Remaining co-founder and CEO Steven Starr will be joined by executives Kevin Wells, David Armitage and Angela Gyetvan are joining the company.

Some observers believe it’s a VC initiated changing of the guard. The company issued a statement saying that the changes were “intended to advance the company’s infrastructure and bolster its marketing and advertising efforts in 2007.”

Revver sells its own still frame post roll ads. Selling video ads at all is difficult, making a company profitable with still frame post rolls seems like a strategy unlikely to prove sustainable. I think we can expect to see major changes not just to the roster of Revver advertisers over the next year, but probably to the fundamental revenue model as well.

Though the company has landed some high profile talent, including Ze Frank, Lonelygirl15, EepyBird and AskANinja – a number of other talented content producers have questioned the prospects for anyone but the biggest stars to be well compensated through the current system. I like the Revver vision and click on ads every time I get to the end of a Revver video, but I will be interested to see what the Revver experience is like 3 or 6 months from now.


Googled Most in 2006: Social Networking, Video

December 18, 2006

Google has quietly released its 2006 Zeitgeist for the most frequently used search terms in the world over the last year. Top of the list? Social networking site Bebo, followed by industry leader MySpace. It’s an interesting list, Israel based video sharing site Metacafe is number 4 on the list and the term “video” is 7th on the list.

Bebo is based in San Francisco but is said by third party stats companies to be the leading social networking site in both the UK and New Zealand. Got that? The most Googled word in the world this year was Bebo. That’s almost too wild to believe.

The BBC appears to have covered the list first today, followed by a number of UK bloggers, but there is some confusion as to whether the list is global or UK based. The fact that the BBC didn’t link to the Google page, didn’t make it explicit and perhaps most important the amazing fact that Bebo, most popular in the UK was on the top of the list made me assume it was a list for the UK. The text of the page indicates otherwise, though.

It looks social networking and online video really are the top things that searchers all over the world are looking for.

Update: Two days later the Washington Post wrote a long, interesting article on this list.


Chad Vader Exclusive on MySpace Tonight

December 18, 2006

The crew behind the short video series Chad Vader – Day Manager sent out a press release today announcing that the show’s next episode is going to debut on the front page of MySpace tonight and show there exclusively for 24 hours. Madison, Wisconsin based producers Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda (Blame Society Productions) have told other writers that Tom himself will send out a MySpace bulletin with a link to the video.

Sending out press released about your show on MySpace Video or YouTube appears to be a growing trend and in most cases strikes me as ridiculous. The Chad Vader crew has been posting behind the scenes updates on YouTube leading up to this new episode for several months. Previous episodes have been viewed millions of times. Perhaps it’s because Chad Vader is so much better than several of the terrible video shows on YouTube that have issued press releases lately, but putting out a press release on the MySpace exclusive feature makes sense to me.

Appearing below is the first episode of the show, my favorite so far. Here are the other three shows. All are under 7 minutes in length and episode 4 leaves off at a place where the series could have ended. Episode 5 will be allowed to go viral after 24 hours on the front page of MySpace – an arrangement less profitable but otherwise far more desirable than the recent Google Video deal with EepyBird, for example.

Chad Vader – Day Manager is a short form show about “Chad Vader, the younger, less charismatic brother of Darth Vader, who is the day shift manager of a grocery store.” It’s very funny. The show has received media attention from Good Morning America, New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and several others – but the front page of MySpace could be the biggest coup yet. Mainstream media attention may be good for building prestige, but if you want large numbers of viewers I can’t think of any place better than the front page of MySpace. I expect too that the well known icon of a Darth Vader costume, out of context in a grocery store, will make for an unusually eye catching screen shot on the front page.

Where will they go next? This space is so new that trails are still being blazed. Will DVD sales be sufficient to support the Blame Society? Will they be signed by a bloated old media conglomerate and play up sex appeal at the expense of interesting content? Can their star status be sustained, economically and comedically? Will emerging artists like this just be used by big media old and new to drive ad revenue and then be left out in the cold? The game has just begun and no answers to these questions are clear yet.


Oaxaca’s Conflict in Online Media

December 18, 2006

If new online media is lowering the barriers to participation in journalism, one of the most interesting forms this can take is in international investigative journalism. New York video journalist Brad Will recently traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico to cover what began as a teachers’ strike and has since become a general protest against alleged electoral fraud, corruption and government repression in the area. Critics of the protests argue that the demonstrators’ tactics, including the building of barricades across city streets, are doing more harm than good to the city. On October 27th, in the course of producing media about the events in Oaxaca, Brad Will was shot and killed by a group of unknown gunmen.

The following is a collection of online media about the conflict in Oaxaca. It’s an example of how contextually related media items can be well served by being displayed together. As you can see below, I’ve grouped together a number of photographs, a video and some text links in the body of this post. The media player we are building will enable items like this to be played together in one skinless, resizable player that can have updates in the form of new bundles of content pushed out to all sites embedding that player. I believe that many people watching the situation in Oaxaca, for example, would be interested in placing a player on their websites and receiving updated media when it becomes available from the channel publisher.

The events depicted in the following media may be quieting down for now, see the last link in the text section below, but they are obviously of long term consequence. Below you’ll find a series of photographs from Oaxaca, followed by a 16 minute video made by Brad Will that contains interviews with local residents and footage from conflicts with the armed men who in the end of the video shoot the videographer. Below the video are a list of related links to related sites on the web and a series of photographs of people who have allegedly been “disappeared” by security forces in the conflict. The final item in the media below are credits for production of the items above. Credits will be generated automatically when the media player is available.

I chose the media below because it’s some of the most impactful work I’ve seen online in some time. Beyond demonstrating the potential that user generated content has, it’s media that deserves to be seen widely in its own right. Note: The video below concludes with the death of the videographer shooting it, so be forewarned.


More on the Topic

AliveInMexico, a video blog from the makers of Alive in Iraq.

English Wikipedia on the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO – the leading organization of Oaxacan demonstrators)

Mexican federal police leave Oaxaca City center in sign conflict is ending
International Herald Tribune, Dec 16th

Friends of Brad Will
Memorial and support site from support group.

Credits

Oaxaca Mop by Alex Pears
oaxaca [Church Door] by Jami Dwyer
Lila Downs @ Oaxaca by Borya
Last Video of Brad Will


The Morning’s Web Media News

December 15, 2006

Some highlights from the morning’s news reading.

ftlogo.jpgHedge fund manager Cody Willard writes at the Financial Times, Buy Into the Internet Video Business While You Still Can. Take that, cynics who say the market is oversaturated! Willard writes, “YouTube is certainly a home run, but it is a home run on the fourth pitch in the first inning of internet video. YouTube is to internet video as the original three TV networks were to television.”

Speaking of YouTube, the AP published quite a solid article last night on the Top 10 YouTube Videos of 2006. It went beyond videos and really described memes that have flourished on the site. Or, if the top 10 was too chipper for you, there’s an AP story this morning on YouTube’s role in the world’s misery over the last year. I thought the role of YouTube in the Iraq war was one of the biggest omissions in last night’s Top 10. Anyone else thinking of things that were missed?

Bebo launches widgets

bebologo.jpgGiant social networking site Bebo began offering limited 3rd party media widgets for embedding in user profiles yesterday. Bebo, if you’re not familiar, is said to be one of MySpace’s biggest rivals internationally. Photobucket, RockYou and Slide are the three companies selected for the initial widget offering. It’s a slow start, but it’s moving in the opposite direction of MySpace, whose statements and actions have long pointed towards a deep hostility towards 3rd party widgets. Initial coverage at Mashable, where it’s reported that Bebo users created more than 100k new widgets in the first 12 hours they were available.

As Steve Bryant pointed out in a post yesterday titled In a Web Powered by Video, Pageviews Are Passe, web analytics and thus advertising are changing. While the navigation of MySpace piles up pageviews, the company’s in-house widget dominance will let them have their cake and eat it too by capturing media plays as well. I wonder whether sharing analytics, media plays and advertising was part of the agreement between these select new Bebo widget providers. That’s something that would be much harder to achieve with an API that was open to all widgets. Just for reference, the SplashCast player will be embeddable in social networking profiles and will roll up the functionality currently offered by many of these individual service providers.

Widget talk makes me look forward to the day when we simply no longer presume that the contents of a web page come from a single source.


VideoCage Opens For Premium Video Producers

VideoCage announced today that the pre-launch site is now accepting video uploads that producers will be able to charge viewers for access to beginning in the new year. Good coverage at E-Commerceblog. Producers can set any price to view videos, viewers pay with PayPal and VideoCage takes a %30 commission. The front end of the site doesn’t look too hot yet and it was even reported to have been hacked early this morning, but it’s an interesting concept. I’ll be curious to see how it looks and performs at launch next month.

Video Mashups Accelerating

John Musser of ProgrammableWeb, the premier site for tracking mashups, writes that video mashups are being added to the site’s database at more than twice the pace in the second half of this year as they were in the first half. The first half of 2006 of saw 21 video mashups added, so far there have been 51 new services added that incorporate video in the second half of the year. It’s great to see cross-site creativity ramping up in the video space.

That’s a morning wrap up, check back later today for more. Hopefully we’ll have some highlighted media items here today.


Beta Testing in the Web 2.0 World

November 15, 2006

beta test
n.

The final stage in the testing of new software before its commercial release, conducted by testers other than its developers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/betatest

I’ve been involved in the IT space for many years now, and the definition above was clearly supported in the traditional software development lifecycle. It seems like every product I run across now has a Beta disclaimer on their site. A Beta test obviously doesn’t have to be non-public anymore either. The entire world can now be considered Beta testers. And when is a product not considered Beta anymore? A product can be in Beta for several months, if not years. If we are now moving into the Web 2.0 world, should Web 1.0 be considered as one really long Beta test?

Why am I pondering this? The SplashCast crew is currently conducting internal QA testing and, as Alex mentioned yesterday, we will be ready for “Beta testing” soon. What does that mean to us? Well, the first few weeks will be very limited and available only to a small group of invited testers. This will allow us to get very personalized feedback and enable us to correct or change anything in the product that we missed or is not quite as intuitive as it should be. This fits my definition of a Beta test.

Then, we will open up our “Beta test” to a much larger group of “Beta testers” that have signed up via our web site. Given the nature of the SplashCast product, this essentially means the product is now public. Granted, it will be under continuous improvement based on user feedback. So when does it stop being a Beta product?

What does Beta mean to you? I believe a new lexicon is desperately needed. Any suggestions?


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