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.