Viacom Reportedly Pulls Out of Would-be YouTube Rival

December 19, 2006

Broadcasting and Cable is reporting that Viacom has pulled out of the widely discussed talks between a number of major media companies to create what’s being called a would-be YouTube killer. Viacom had been working with NBC Universal, News Corp. and CBS on creating one giant online video site, the future of which now falls into question.

Many people have contended that large mainstream media companies could never create the kind of vibrant community that grew up around YouTube in its early days. It’s hard to imagine what a site run jointly by all of those media companies would look like. Several of their many properties are in direct competition, for example. Collaboration on such a scale, interfacing with user generated content, sounds like an unbelievably complicated task – even if it were judged legally acceptable. It reminds me of the music world’s hydra in gestation, MusicForAmerica, a contest site run by Epic Records, Universal Music Group, EMI and ClearChannel.

Everyone wants a piece of the user generated action. It’s incredible what a force YouTube grew to be so quickly. The potential it and related services hold for the future is clearly an even bigger threat to old style media.

ExpoTV Raises $6m for Product Review Videos

December 19, 2006

In video funding news, is announcing today that it’s closed a Series A round of funding for $6 million. The round was led by Masthead Venture Partners and Prism VentureWorks.

ExpoTV is all about consumer recorded video product reviews. The company says that more than 20,000 reviews have been uploaded to date. Those reviews are then syndicated out to sites including AOL, Yahoo, Google, YouTube and in the best integration, (example). The company also delivers those reviews, along with expert opinions and video advertisements through video on demand partnerships with cable providers around the country.

Last month the company began paying video uploaders one penny for each time their reviews are viewed. When that announcement was made the company said it had more than 12,000 product reviews – so it looks like the site nearly doubled in one month by rewarding users financially.

Upon hearing the news, I immediately thought of ShopWiki, a company that pays users to submit video reviews of products listed in it’s wiki style shopping guide. ShopWiki is also well backed. I can’t help but wonder whether building a catalog of video reviews to send elsewhere is a better plan than building that catalog only as added value to your existing site.

One way or the other, it’s an obvious niche in the consumer generated video market. Like UnBoxing videos, consumer reviews (the positive ones at least) provide the kind of marketing fodder that companies have sought desperately to outsource to authentic consumers for some time.

David Beisel of Masthead General Partners posted this afternoon about the investment, saying he sees ExpoTV as a uniquely powerful example of social commerce.

Taking Risks At LeWeb3

December 19, 2006

It’s been a week since LeWeb. Here’s my take on what the past several days have been like:

  1. Firestorm!
  2. Fired?
  3. Acceptance and Wisdom

I have to give Loic LeMeur some credit. He took some chances. Yes, he sure pissed off a lot of people. But taking risks is inherently controversial. But it is never boring.

What were the upsides and downsides of Loic taking the risks that he did? Here are a few.

Risk upside: Having politicians talk to the attendees. Some bloggers complained that they felt used. Come on. How often do you get the chance to hear Shimon Peres talk about how bloggers represent the new intelligentsia? Was he pandering? Perhaps. But more so, his presence at LeWeb3 shows how far we have come as bloggers. He was there because bloggers are an important part of the public discourse. Seems more like reason to celebrate. Very cool.

Risk downside: Fitting in the politicians meant less time to hear from people I really wanted to see spend more time presenting. For instance, people like Hugh Macleod and Anina, who presented about love and fashion 2.0. They had a great sense of humor while providing all kinds of insights into the fashion world and how in the end, it all comes down to love. A love for what you do. That may sound a bit corny but Hugh sums it up well on his blog:

<blockquote>6. The best blogging campaigns are acts of love.

You cannot impose your own selfish values upon the blogosphere and still expect results.

What you can do, however, is give a damn. It’s a surprisingly effective strategy.

7. I will leave you with a thought from Six Apart’s Anil Dash, talking about the speech the Father of The Bride made at his wedding:

“What he told us is that, in the end, only love matters. Success and fame and wealth and even health all fade in time, and in the end all you have is love. And love is what matters. I hope everyone in the world gets the chance to discover that in the way that I have. I love you, Alaina.”

This market and communication transition we’re going through is not about technology, and it sure as hell isn’t about marketing. It’s about Love. Love enabled. Love re-asserting itself in the business between people.</blockquote>

Risk Upside: Organizing a start-up room in the final weeks before the conference. More than 50 companies presented. Many of the entrepreneurs presenting were from Europe, giving a glimpse of the innovation from a side of the world that we do not often see here in the US.

I have more to say about the start ups. But for now, I just want to congratulate Loic for coming through with a conference that had lots of risks and with it excitement for us all.

Survey Says: Ads in Videos Are Annoying

December 19, 2006

An interesting new survey of web users by Burst Media this month found that most people do not like advertisements placed in online video, few people pay particularly close attention to them and a significant portion of viewers leave a site all together when they see ads placed in videos. These aren’t surprising conclusions to come to. (via)

From the write up of the survey:

Among respondents, one out of two (52.7%) say they typically continue watching video content once they encounter an advertising unit; 40.4% say they typically stop watching.

Interestingly, one-quarter (27.9%) of respondents who stop watching video content once they encounter an advertisement also say they immediately leave the website…three quarters (77.5%) of respondents say advertisements in online video are intrusive..

What does this mean for video sharing companies and video content creators? It’s something that needs to be discussed widely.

It’s hard to say whether there will be an ongoing consumer backlash, almost all new media face struggles to become economically viable while early consumers yearn for content free of advertising. I don’t particularly like pre-roll ads myself, though I try to click on all the post-roll ads I see in videos I like just to support all the people involved.

Google AdSense is far and away the most profitable form of online advertising that’s emerged of late but that’s in large part because many people don’t recognize the text link ads as ads at all! Other media have found that the initial backlash fades when consumers begin to empathize with content creators and delivery services. At least that’s been the case where advertising has been kept low-key.

For now at least, advertisers are willing to pay far more for ads that run before videos than for those running after. If the practice of leaving a site all together upon seeing a video ad becomes common, though, pre-roll ads may not be the most valuable in the long term.

Post-roll ads are of questionable impact, though. Just yesterday, for example, Jay Dedman and Ryanne Hodson of FreeVlog and RyanIsHungry cited the unproved viability for all but the biggest stars of Revver’s post-roll ads with revenue sharing when they explained their decision to work with Podtech.

As we move towards launch here at SplashCast, we’re feeling a real need to explore revenue streams other than pre or post-roll video ads. Other than white-labeling software (a great approach), there are not a lot of alternatives that have been brought to market yet. We’ve got some interesting ideas we’re working on.

I think the questions brought up by this Burst Media survey are of general interest to anyone who uses the web. If pre-roll ads drive away viewers and post-roll ads are not worth very much – what models are likely to emerge with strength in the coming months?

From infrastructure providers to content creators, people need and deserve to be able to afford the time and energy it takes to make the thriving ecosystem of online media continue growing.