ExpoTV Raises $6m for Product Review Videos

December 19, 2006

In video funding news, ExpoTV.com 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, Buy.com (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.

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Taking Risks At LeWeb3

December 19, 2006
gapingvoid.jpg

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.


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.