Wednesday, February 7, 2007
The big story of the past week is the decision by Viacom to force YouTube to pull its copyrighted videos. We have (oh yeah) team coverage:

YouTube removes Viacom clips from its service (Steve)
YouTube has begun the unenviable task of removing every Viacom-copyrighted clip from its archives. That's an estimated 100,000 clips from the likes of Comedy Central, CBS, VH1, MTV, Paramount Pictures and more. It's the largest "delete order" YouTube has ever undertaken.

Much of the process is being handled by software. YouTube has a new program that can detect copyright-protected video and flag it. Still, the program is far from perfect and there is video getting the chop that shouldn't. One clip - home video of friends eating dinner at a restaurant - was removed and the poster was sent a very serious email for his "violation."

Viacom's strategy has left plenty of people wondering. Writes Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine: "Of course, this is a negotiating tactic. But it is also bad business. It pisses off your own audience, who is recommending your shows. It cuts off that free promotion. It increases marketing costs." Jarvis's point - that the clips should be seen as the best marketing money can't buy - is shared by many. John C. Dvorak writes "...these clips are actually free publicity and promotion. One of these days Viacom may have to pay to have such free promotion put online like this."

NBC Universal's newly minted chief executive, Jeff Zucker, lashed out at YouTube on the first day on his new job. From the Financial Times:

"(Zucker) came out swinging at YouTube, accusing the online video site of failing to deploy its technology to protect the copyrighted materials of traditional media companies.

"YouTube needs to prove that it will implement its filtering technology across its online platform. It's proven it can do it when it wants to," Mr Zucker said, referring to the site's controls to block pornography and hate speech. He added: "They have the capability. The question is whether they have the will."

Viacom is, of course, well within its rights to insist upon the move. Nobody is debating Viacom's legal grounds. What is the bigger picture here is of Viacom's wisdom in stopping the use and sharing of its own best advertising.

Analysis: YouTube is not the enemy (Terry)
The chest-beating from Viacom and now NBC Universal are the inevitable tactics of an industry that's fighting for its life as wave after wave of disruptive technologies and innovations threaten to crush the ship that has kept us afloat for so many years. As content creators, these entertainment companies have the right to do whatever they wish regarding "their" content. The problem is that once it has aired, people think of it as theirs.

This is not a new twist to human nature. We've been able to tape programs for decades and share them with our friends. What's new is this digital thing; it's just so much easier now. And the graph below from Alexa shows the problem for Viacom. I've compared YouTube's traffic (the red line) with comedycentral.com (the blue line). The comedycentral.com line is jammed to the bottom by YouTube -- so much so that you can't even see it.

There has been no appreciable growth in the comedycentral.com site since Viacom yanked its videos, so what's the point? Clearly, Viacom isn't betting that people will flock to its site, because they won't. NBC learned this lesson in the winter of 2005-2006, when it demanded YouTube pull the Lazy Sunday clip from Saturday Night Live. Their argument at the time was that people would come to the nbc.com site to watch the clips. They didn't.

The tough truth in all this ought to be easy to understand, but it's not. YouTube is — in some very tangible ways — the new "spectrum" for video.

Broadcasters are licensed by the FCC to play in over-the-air bandwidth spectrum capable of sustaining a television signal. This space is "managed" by the government. It's plenty scarce, and that's what gives it such value. All of our instincts and intuition as broadcasters flow from operating in a world of scarcity.

Online, however, abundance is the theme and scarcity is determined by access to an audience that is self-selecting in its moods and choices. Hence, YouTube functions in a way very similar to spectrum. You want a "license" to do business there? Simply open a channel. You have to play with everybody else in the world of abundance, but you can use it to your advantage, if you're smart.

And here's the thing. These copyrighted videos and the controversy over them hide the real value of YouTube. According to a new report by Deloitte and Touche, "at any one time, three to five of the top 100 most frequently watched videos will be ads." The report adds, "Some of the more effective advertisements on YouTube are both entertaining and so subtle that it's hard to even tell if they were meant to be advertisements."

We need to pay attention to what's really taking place at YouTube and not get caught up in all the positioning that's taking place in the high stakes game of chicken that Viacom (and potentially NBC Universal) is playing with Google.

We ought to be experimenting in this space. After all, it doesn't cost a dime to do it.   Permalink

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Bud.TV: Flat but not skunked: Learning from a broadband video channel (Steve)
On Sunday night, following promotion during the Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch launched its own broadband video channel - Bud.TV. The idea is solid: traditional advertisers are starting to go around television channels entirely now by producing their own entertainment content and distributing it online. Bud.TV is exactly what it sounds like - a broadband video channel targeted at the "Bud demo." Conceptually, it works. There is a good, easy to use video player and the makings of plenty of content.

However, the content is pretty bad and the site's registration process is worse.

Right now there are a handful of shorts on the site. They range from watchable down to cringe-worthy. Part of the problem, no doubt, is that the video is produced by Bud's advertising company. The videos play a little too much like ads. Not that they're overt sales pitches - but they have the same in-jokey feeling that many ads do. It wouldn't be out of place for one of the characters in the videos to come right out and say "Buy a Bud."

But content can improve, and TV has a glorious history of failed pilots. By itself, the content doesn't sink Bud.TV. But what nearly does is the onerous registration process. We're not anti-registration. It's actually a good deal for the site and the user. The site gets information about its users, and the users pay the small price of their information for access. Just keep the process simple. Bud.TV does not. The site asks for too much information, culminating with wanting your mobile phone number. That, my colleague Cory Bergman wrote at Lost Remote, "is over the top. I'll never watch, and neither will most people, which will doom this to failure."

So Bud.TV is at best, a lite beer in what will be a healthy brewery of online video. Local media outlets need to pay attention to this, however. Advertisers will launch more broadband video channels. A show on one of those channels will break through. And suddenly an advertiser is in the broadcasting business, without having to worry about going through the old advertising hoops. Or budgets.   Permalink

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News clips top the list of streamed video (Terry)
A new study from advertising.com lists news clips as the most popular type of content among those who use streaming video.

News Clips — 49%
Music Videos — 47%
Movie Trailers — 33%
TV Shows — 27%
User-generated videos — 21%

There's quite a disparity among age groups, however. Younger demos prefer TV shows, movie trailers, music videos, and user-generated videos, while viewers 35 and older favor news and sports clips.

The best news from the report, however, is the preference of short ads over paying for clips. 94% said they preferred viewing an ad with their online video to paying a fee. Over six in ten said they thought online video ads should be shorter than TV ads, 18% said they should be more targeted, and 15% said the ads should be created exclusively for online.

(Source: Online Media Daily)   Permalink

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Interacting with empowered humans, lessons from the retail world (Terry)
According to a new study by Allurent, Inc. and reported by the Center for Media Research, 41% of consumers in 2006 (compared to 28% in 2005) said a frustrating online experience would make them less likely to shop at that retailer's physical store. And 82% of consumers surveyed revealed that a frustrating shopping experience will make them less likely to return to a retailers' site. In addition, 59 % say this experience negatively impacts their overall opinion of the retailer/brand.

These chilling numbers reflect two extremely important trends in our culture. One, that the web is increasingly THE real world's connection with consumers and that, two, online consumers cannot be treated in the same cavalier manner with which they are treated offline (think telephone answering systems).

Moreover, I believe this research has direct relevance for media companies and media websites, and that this is only going to accelerate.

In 2004, Starcom's Rishad Tobaccowala wrote, "We have entered an empowered era in which humans are God, because technology allows them to be godlike." He asked at the time, "How will you engage God?"

This is exactly what this new study is saying, and we ought to tape the slogan to the mirrors in every local media company restroom, so that everybody in the building understands.   Permalink

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Lessons from the Boston bomb scare (Steve)
There is a lot to be learned from the "bomb scares" in Boston that turned out to be a marketing ploy for the Cartoon Network. We're not going to go into the blame game here -- strange things happen in news. Instead, let's take a moment to step back and take away some lessons.

- Use the web during breaking news. The "device" in question was a promotional sign for the TV show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." A search of the web turned up plenty of information about the sign and its placement in other cities. There were pictures on the photo-sharing site Flickr. The guys who put up the signs posted video of themselves in action at their own site. This was a mystery that was solved online. Make sure your reporters and assignment desk people are searching the web during breaking news. Relying on the wire copy and police calls will only get you so far. Even if the mystery can't be solved online, the web is a terrific newsgathering tool.

- Empower your web staff to contribute to the process. Nobody knows the web better than your web producers. In breaking news, they may be a better asset than your own reporters. Start having them search out every conceivable keyword related to the story. There will be a lot to pore through, but good web producers know how to scan information quickly.

- Get the audience involved. The Boston TV stations had pictures of the cartoon sign, but blurred out the image because the character was showing his middle finger. In the current climate of FCC fines, it's not hard to see why they made that choice. But the picture could have run, unblurred, on the station website without fear of fines. Again, if the online audience had seen the picture on a station's site, that station could have broken the news of what the "bombs" really were.

- Communicate. The police, the Boston officials and the media all could have communicated better. In a real-time crisis, everyone needs to communicate efficiently. To paraphrase the old EBS warning, "If this had been an actual emergency, we would have been in big trouble." Turner Broadcasting didn't inform the officials in a timely manner. The TV newsrooms weren't communicating well enough with the online audience.

A lot is made of the "Post 9/11 World," and if we are to take away anything from this story, it should be how we can improve communications during a crisis internally and externally.   Permalink