Much of the buzz on the Internet today in news, research, blogs and elsewhere is about digital video. While streaming media and digital video has been around for well over a decade now, generally starting with folks like Rob Glaser and others back in the early ’90s, YouTube will get much of the credit for the boom in video on the Internet in the history books. Comscore recently reported that YouTube gets approximately 2/3s of the user generated content and social media traffic on the Internet these days–a stat that has fallen only nominally during the past 14 plus months.
I saw a series of interesting articles today about entertainment consumption on the web including this piece in Advertising Age. While I have little doubt that more people are using the web now for entertainment purposes, particularly in the college aged demo, I do question the merits of this type of data when linked to digital video.
But, then, I also saw this piece today from Reuters and it made me think harder about this kind of data and information. According to some research I recently unearthed on this website, people generally recall 10% of what they read but over 30% of what they see and 50% of what they see and hear. That kind of stat clearly helps make the case for news and educational oriented media online and also helps explain why redesigns of main news websites such as CNN are so media centric.
The other aspect of digital video I started contemplating more today was the notion of the Video Two-Step. (I really like this term BTW and am thinking about trademarking it since I might have coined it. :-)) What I mean by this expression is something that a university administrator told me a few years ago: that is, there is a very different user experience involved in the lean forward vs. lean back viewing environment for meda. The Internet is inherently a lean forward user experience and consumption of media content online, thus far, has been about quick-hitting, fast-paced, ADD-like, low attention span activity. YouTube has worked because the content is short. The CNN website will likely work because it is providing succint video news coverage which keeps your attention, for the most part, and addresses the recall point made above. A friend of mine wanted to post a piece on YouTube the other day but was concerned that the length of the piece would limit the number of views it would receive. And, this was a professionally produced piece approximately only seven minutes in length–he felt it needed to be no more than four to five to successfully achieve any meaningful distribution on YouTube. He’s probably right.
On the other hand, there is the lean back user experience, which I’m summarily linking to passive television viewing experiences–or the “legacy” device as anothe friend of mine refers to the good ol’ tele. As archaic as the device may feel to some, I personally believe that the failure, thus far, of services like Movielink to successfully connect to the television platform have largely contributed to the struggles in achieving greater adoption for premium, entertainment content sites. Today alone, it was confirmed that Movielink was sold for less than $10 million to Blockbuster and Google Video was rendered extinct. Movielink, reportedly, raised over $100 million during the last five years of its existence and Google Video’s strategy quickly shifted from premium content licensing and distribution to throwing all its resources at the Youtube acquisition approximately ten months after its hyped announcement at CES in 2006.
The Video Two-Step makes me somewhat skeptical when I hear about the appearance of new folks trying the dance such as Joost. I don’t want to continue harping on this subject, as I did a couple weeks ago, particularly in the face of a management team and group of investors who really seem to know how to make businessses fly, but why will Joost be successful on the lean forward PC platform, with a mainstream content licensing product model, when it really hasn’t worked well for anyone else yet? The product may end up being effectively interactive and the content quality may continue to improve but, thus far, only iTunes appears to have nailed the right elements for such a play. And, in that case, digital video still doesn’t appear to have the traction of music and it still doesn’t appear to be about the sale of media–it’s about the sale of the devices that support the media. I’ve had plenty of incentive and time but little desire to use Joost since my preliminary experience with it a few weeks ago–which wasn’t a bad experience.
Business models around digital video may continue to become more innovative and the content providers may become increasingly open to experimenting with release windows, pricing models, etc but, at the end of the day, none of it will likely matter for most web properties if the Video Two Step isn’t acknowledged and addressed as part of technology and product planning.
I know that I’m personally going to go take a break now to watch some video content now before going to sleep…and, I’ll be doing it from the passive confines of my couch and with my legacy TV platform in front of me.