Advertisers Courted With Professional Online-Video Shows

It appears the “webstars” are on their 14th minute. The major online-video properties are now putting dramatic emphasis on professional content with big celebrity names.

Every year at this time, the television networks showcase their new shows to advertisers in what’s called “up fronts.”  This week the major online-video properties (YouTube, Hulu, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL) mimicked this ceremony in what’s called the “Digital Content NewFronts.” For some nice coverage of the NewFronts, see iMedia.

The LA Times is calling it the first-ever event, but I participated in a version of it in 2009 with Tom Green and Paula Deen (hosted by Digitas, a digital agency). This year, however, it’s unmistakably grown. Explains the LA Times:

“The tech companies are taking a page from the Big Four TV networks, which every spring woo advertisers with lavish million-dollar presentations and parties to showcase their fall prime-time schedules.”

This “lavish” activity makes sense, of course. Online video advertising is expected to increase 55% this year, exceeding $3 billion (researcher eMarketer).  It’s on track to reach $9.3 billion by 2016.

“With tens of billions of dollars in advertising spending represented in the room, it is a small price to pay to capture the Holy Grail of TV ad spending,” said Yahoo Executive Vice President Ross Levinsohn.

What’s interesting is how the video destinations/distributors are almost excessively touting professional-grade content with celebrity appearances.

  • Yahoo showed off Katie Couric’s show called “Katie’s Take.” Clearly Couric’s new-media prowess is a result of my tutoring (see “Save Old Media“).
  • Google last night presented its YouTube Originals to more than 2,000 people. Top celebrities have been passing through YouTube’s NYC offices all week (see Amy Poehler with “Key of Awesome” folks Mark Douglas and Todd Womack). Of course I was there yesterday and conveniently missed them all.
  • AOL Video shows included such personalities as supermodel Heidi Klum, “Project Runway” judge Nina Garcia and former Bravo TV “Top Chef” semifinalist Sam Talbot.

This activity reinforces the increasing convergence of traditional media properties and online-video distributors… especially as TV dollars flow online. A good example is Discovery Channel’s acquisition of Revision3, which is hot off the press.

By 2015 will there be a NewFront? I’d imagine the Upfronts and Newfronts will merge. You?

AOL Announces YouTube Rival: AOL On

Aol video

AOL is launching an online-video hub that will feature 14 content channels and centralize AOL video in one place, according to The Chicago Tribune.

“We believe that in years ahead people will want to watch television on their PCs and Blackberrys,” said AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. “Wer’e unrivaled in this new category of web-based moving pictures.”

Armstrong was not immediaetly familiar with YouTube, an online-video website acquired by his former employer, Google. Nor did he seem deterred that YouTube has more channels created hourly than the 14 he’s merging into “one place on the AOL portal.” One AOL channel is entirely devoted to Mark Day comedy routines.Mark day

Ran Hernveo, SVP for Video at AOL, said in a statement that AOL On “goes beyond the traditional online video experience by delivering video that’s different from other online videos.” 

Hernveo and Armstrong agreed they were especially excited about coming years, as AOL plans to stream videos far faster than the 56K modem limitations of today.

Hulu’s New Owner: Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo?

Lots of speculation in the news about Hulu’s new owner. The Hulu peeps (Disney, NBC) opted against an IPO (initial public offering), and have an investment banker looking for a buyer.

Are we surprised that Hulu is for sale? Nope. In 2006 (give years ago) we posted that “Networks Pretend They Can Rival YouTube.” These types of things, I said, typically fail without “a STRONG intermediary is taking the lead and the individual players give authority and accountability to that player. Otherwise the interests of specific participants will almost always trump to collective goal.”

The news was dense with suggestions that Google might acquire Hulu. But despite suggestions Google and Hulu are in preliminary discussions, I’m finding that unlikely. Hulu is rumored to be trying to fetch $2 billion, which seems awfully high to me. I would suspect MSN or Yahoo would find far more interest than Google. The search giant paid less than $2 billion for YouTube ($1.65 billion), and I’m sure there is at least one tech company that would pay $2 billion simply to keep it out of Google’s hands.

What do you think?

Huffington Post Spotlights YouTube’s Best Videos

The Huffington Post shows off the best viral videos by weekly running a YouTube Trends report and turning it into journalism…

Now we just need a YouTube amateur vlogger channel that summarizes the week’s most popular Huffington Post articles. And *boom* the Aol Video strategy is born.

P.S. Post your worst videos below. It’s time for a blog post on the worst videos of 2011. Not memes- just clips that make you cringe.

P.P.S. You’re really not supposed to use postscripts when you don’t sign your name. €£¥^%#~>•


Future of Video-Marketing (Ad:Tech): On Fly, Bright Light, Everywhere

Video ad serving is changing dramatically, as video ad units become better targeted, more “real time,” and less “black box” to those executing and measuring a campaign (read: more accountable). Today’s AdTech:NYC “Marketing Masters: Video Everywhere” session at 3:15 at the Javits Center (hosted by Nalts) is exploring these themes. It’s a continuation of the Marketing Masters series: “Video Everywhere—Brand Lift and Awareness with Online Video” and “Deep Brand Integration in Online Video.”

Presenters include leaders from 3 leading firms: Affine Systems, AOL Time Warner, and Dynamic Video.
➢ Affine Systems is using computer-vision technology to “shine a bright light on the current black box of broadband video.”
➢ AOL is familiar to us all, but it’s made news this week for a redesigned homepage that focuses more on video than ever. Editor picks are featured on the homepage.
➢ Dynamic Video, like its name implies, focuses on dynamic creative marketing and rich media advertising, delivered “on the fly” to keep it fresh, targeted, measured, and optimized.

The peeps:

  • David Miller is Director of Product Management, Video at AOL Time Warner. Prior to that he directed’s video network and worked in the telecommunications industry.
  • Michael Sullivan is CEO of Affine Systems, founded in Boston and now in SanFran. He is an expert in natural language processing, machine learning, computer vision and applied cryptography. He has two degrees from Harvard in mathematics and science, and worked for the institute for defense analysis before founding Affine Systems.
  • Tal Evans is Vice President of Marketing & Business Development for Dynamic Video. Tal is an avid scuba diver, and that fuels his passion for navigating through the deep abyss of technology entrepreneurship.

More news to follow if we uncover something amazing and newsworthy. 🙂

AOL Homepage Gets Video Centric

AOL debuted a revamped homepage this week, with a greater emphasis on video. Says PCMag:

The new site is also very video-heavy. “AOL Daybreak” is a hosted morning news round-up, and “The Light Box” is an in-page video player featuring content from AOL and its partners. In the “Editor’s Picks” section, the site showcases the most buzz-worthy videos each day. The site will focus on a single important viral story in a two-minute video called “The One” that will include commentary from experts, celebrities, and comedians.

I’m presenting today at Ad:Tech with AOL’s Director of Product Management, Video. So more news as I get him, and rest assured he’ll be getting a Nalts pitch for those “editor picks.”

TechCrunchTV Debates Crowdsourcing Creative, Sucks

Peter LaMotte GeniusRocket
GeniusRocket CEO Peter LaMotte in a rare moment where he gets to speak on TechCrunchTV.

The Gap logo disaster brought attention to crowdsourced creative, and the issue is debated in this awkward cable-TV-like debate about the rights and wrongs of crowdsourced creative. Occasionally we get to hear from GeniusRocket’s CEO Peter LaMotte (who happens to be the guest of the segment), but mostly co-hosts Sarah Lacy and Paul “I like to say fuck” Carr try to out-clever each other with quotes like “crowds are stupid,” “there’s so fucking many designers,” “we touched on this before we started filming,” and “poor Paris Hilton.”

Still, it’s worth noting that GeniusRocket is playing in a similar market as, and bridging the gap between tight-budget companies and freelance creators (animation, “viral” videos, and graphics). LaMotte says he’s worked also with small brands and agencies, but estimates that crowdsourcing will overtake no more than 20 percent of advertising revenue. He also observes that brands can customize creative for specific demographics with smaller budgets ($40K vs hundreds of thousands) to maximize media spends.

The video ends with a sample crowd-sourced ad for Athena Hummus. It’s a bit better than my Hummus video.

If you can make it through the entire TechCrunchTV “interview,” you’ll be quite impressed by LaMotte’s intelligence…. If only by contrast by the hosts. Sorry, TechCrunchTV. But stick with the digital word, and leave these shows to the campus television networks. Or heck- crowd source the show.

Most horrendously awkward interview ever: so we get more resources, right Uncle Tim?

Wait TechCrunch is an AOL property now, so I suppose it doesn’t matter anymore. Watch Erick Schonfeld’s painfully awkward interview with AOL’s Tim Armstrong (formerly Google sales leader). It’s like watching Fast Company or Industry Standard die again. Wait- one of those is still alive, right?

10 Predictions for Online-Video in 2010

I’m a bit late on my online-video predictions for 2010 (unless you count this December post). The landscape continues to change, and it seems the world has been slow to catch up with my 2008 and 2009 predictions. Heck I even made a video in 2006 predicting 2007.

Here’s what I’m seeing in Online Video for Twenty Ten. Don’t forget to read the predictions from December from many WVFF guests who be smarter then my.

  1. Continued web-to-television bridges. While we’re still far from a merge of cable, television and online-video, we’ve seen some interesting changes already. Roku, Netflix, AppleTV, and a few brave television manufacturers pre-embedding software and wireless access or Ethernet plugs. I’m going o once again bet on the lazy man’s alternative to setting up their own PC media player. I see a $199 device that allows us to access the Internet right from our televisions. It’s a small PC, a remote-controlled keyboard and mouse, and it plugs into any television via HDMI or even less progressive connections.
  2. More stars dive into online video. Ashton Kutcher, Felicia Day, Tom Green. These guys have embraced new media, and there’s a wild rush to Twitter. 2010 is the year that more stars put themselves on YouTube. Don’t believe me? Wired reports Kutcher IS the future of video. They won’t always “go viral” but their strong fan bases offline will propel them to the most-subscribed pages of YouTube, eclipsing many of the web purists.
  3. AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo Catch Up. Ironically, the laggards are web portals and search engines that had a media bent a decade ago. Google leapfrogged them with YouTube. They can’t stand on the sidelines forever. Watch for these players cutting deals with larger players (cable, telecommunications, etc.) to establish their dominance. Since it’s almost impossible to battle YouTube directly, they’ll focus on partnerships with tech companies and premium content providers. The result may not be as popular, but it will command the attention of advertisers that like pro content and “safe” plays.
  4. Programming Not Sporadic. When I was posting daily, I didn’t realize how important that was. It kept my audience active, and ensured my recent videos got 50-100,000 views. In past months, I’ve posted unpredictably and as little as 10 times a month. The result? I’ve plateaued. Meanwhile the regular posters (Sxephil, WhatTheBuckShow, CharlesTrippy and ShayCarl) are souring. The creator community is learning about the vital need to post predictably. ZeFrank used to post at 1:00 daily. TheOnion was always updated online on Wednesday. If you’re not predictable, you’re forgotten. Many amateurs are hosting live shows once a week, and the crowds flock to see their favorite “stars” unplugged. Audiences like routines.
  5. Division of Audience Focus in Conferences and Publishing. In the early days of the Internet, attendees included marketers, tech folks, and about every other business function that thought the web was going to be more than a fad. Online-video conferences and publications have taken the same approach. Watch in 2010 as conferences and publishing focus on more concrete audiences. AdTech for advertisers. StreamingMedia for technology people. And other conferences for marketers or web-studio playas. These conferences are too frequent and too broad to serve any audience well.
  6. Niftier Audience Participation. We’re still doing little more than putting VHS tapes online. The power of Web 2.0 (or 4.0 or whatever the hell you want to call it) is the interactivity and the engagement it facilitates in storytelling. Sure we saw 2009 videos that took advantage of “annotations” to create “choose your own adventure” series. But watch as advertisers and content creators merge to create more robust engagement experiences built on video, but with lots of tools that create a deeper, immersive experience. SevenEcho is one company to watch.
  7. White Dwarfs and Luminous SuperGiants. The lifecycle of the average weblebrity is compressing, despite a handful of amateurs that have maintained a vibrant presence. In 2010 we’ll see some new talent and more popular talent fading. There are not many people that have the persistence and creativity to sustain a continued audience. There are “Gary Larsons” that burn bright but short. There are Charles Shulz’s that don’t stop until they die (or their lines become jagged like someone drawing on a motor boat).
  8. Advertisers Forced In. Every year we predict advertisers will finally embrace online video (but the spend levels are not proportionate to the audience reach). That pretty much HAS to change dramatically in 2010. Not enough impact on television’s fragmenting and depleting audiences. So even the most traditional and laziest media buyer will be forced by marketers to spend more and spend more wisely. Watch for more obnoxious takeovers on YouTube and other sites, but also some clever alternatives that get brands “inside” the content.
  9. There is No 9th Preduction. That’s because I have to go wake up the kids, and don’t have time.
  10. News, News, News. We have watched as “consumer generated media” has made its way to many televised news stories. Now that cell phones with video cameras are fairly common, we’ll see more of this. And that prediction I made years ago… a live broadcast from some crisis directly from a person’s cell phone? That’s happening in 2010 or I’ll stop predicting it. I promise.

Mrs. South Carolina Meets Chris Crocker in AOL News Ad

A video creator I get hundreds of positive and negative comments per video. As a result, I tend to leave only positive, constructive feedback on other people’s videos.

So I have to save my criticism for online advertising like this AOL News spoof on Chris Crocker, Mrs. America and tasers.

Let’s start positive:

  • Shows AOL as progressive, because they’re spoofing something recent and viral.
  • Nice way to be relevant to a web savvy target, and provide a wink to those who understand these references.
  • Nice concept- combining three former viral video subjects in the “where are they now” theme.

Needs improving:

  • The execution is somewhat slow, despite the rapid edits. I suppose it’s because so little happens in the video… no real plot progression. This is a great reminder for me to keep my sponsored videos ultra short.
  • I’ve always had a pet peeve for political columnists that try too hard to connect two unrelated but recent events. The scenario bringing these three together was a bit forced. Having Mrs. Teen South Carolina walk into a convenience store asking if she’s in Iraq (and then Chris Crocker use his “leave Mrs. Teen South Carolina alone” bit was a little too easy.
  • This smells like a spot that cost a lot (high production value, paid actors, and dolly shots). Was the production quality a bit better than it needed to be? I would have loved to see the three characters in public (even if it meant having to use actors pretending to be pedestrians).