More Tips on YouTube Marathon

What’s it take to sustain as a YouTube weblebrity? Going viral is a sprint, but staying vibrant is a marathon.

  1. In part one we heard from BrittaniLouiseTaylor about passion, RhettandLink about the power of two, and CharlesTrippy about community.
  2. In part two we heard from Michael Buckley, VenetianPrincess, MysteryGuitarman and Happyslip.
Hank Green, with his brother John, are the Vlogbrothers and more.

As VidCon2011 approaches, it’s time for some thoughts from Hank Green, one of the event’s founders… inspired by something beyond the fame and money, the Green brothers have sustained long beyond their 15 minutes.

Says Hank: “I actually just wrote an article on motivation and success. I think everyone is motivated by different things, but the trick is actually believing in it, either because you think a little more money, a little more fame, a little more recognition really will make you a happier / more satisfied / more important person.

I’ve had different motivations throughout the process, from getting views to getting subscribers, to being recognized by other youtubers, to being recognized by YouTube, to feeling obligated to our community, to feeling like we actually have an opportunity to do good things, to feeling like we have an opportunity to do big things, to actually believing in what we do as a force for cultural change.

All of those things motivate in different ways and they all overlap. I we didn’t have all of them, I don’t know if we could do it.

Only because we have all of those different bits of motivation, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to spend eight hours a day developing ideas for videos, interacting with our community, or whatever else we’re up to at the moment. I pour pretty much all of my creative juices into our videos now (or on projects that relate to our videos.) And that’s only OK because I actually believe in it. If I didn’t have all of those various sources of motivation, I’d go get a real job.”

Hank, my friend… you do have a real job.

Dog Goes Viral… Eating My Book

This is the most amazing reaction I’ve had to “Beyond Viral” (a book I published via David M. Scott and Wiley last fall). Here’s Moomay’s dog Jack devouring the content.

Jack loved every delicious page of Beyond Viral, and I'm sending Moomay a free replacement because this is awesome.

Online-Video: The Gap Between “Stars” and Others Widens

Put on your thinking caps, kids. Lots of wisdom in here. Most of it is additive to Beyond Viral, but go buy that damned book if you haven’t. And if you have read Beyond Viral, please provide a gratuitous complement below even if it’s fake. Hey I’m not expecting to outsell Hunger Games, but my goal is to at least keep pace with Garfield’s “Get Seen.” Is that too much for a girl to ask?

It’s been apparent that the online-video “star” pyramid is growing sharper, despite the continued myth that “YouTube can create a celebrity from scratch” (as reinforced by Miley Cyrus alleged snub of Jessica’s “Friday” hit). The truth?

  • One-hit wonders like "David After Dentist" don't generally spawn a popular channel

    While it’s true that YouTube does spawn occasional “overnight sensations,” it’s about the same odds as getting struck by lightening while scratching a winning lotto ticket. Furthermore, only a tiny portion of those “viral” hits take their creators beyond the one-hit wonders. About 85% of Booba1234’s views come from one video: “David After the Dentist.” In fact I’m guessing the username “Booba1234” would have a .02% aided awareness even with the ubiquity of that one clip… a meme.

  • Even the “rockstars” of new media.. almost never break into traditional media (name an exception?). Most of YouTube’s most-subscribed are virtually unknown beyond YouTube (you won’t find them on Yahoo Video, AOL Video, MSN and certainly not Hulu.
  • And, most interestingly, the only the fiercely committed and adaptive webstars even endure even on YouTube. Their life cycles are getting shorter, and today’s hotties are tomorrow’s castaways (even though YouTube has kindly built floors on their monthly views so they won’t starve).

Put in better terms (and I’ll credit this to a wise YouTube insider): the online-video weblebrity survival is like a marathon race. The gap widens between the front-runners and the bloated masses. (In that analogy, I’m the sweaty red-faced guy panting at mile marker 4).

YouTube is more like a marathon at mile 20... the gap widens

Example: In 2007 we all shared tips freely, but now in 2010 and 2011 when one of us “cracks the code” (begging viewers to comment can jolt a video’s popularity and “spotlight” treatment) the insight is less likely to be shared among fellow creators. Understandable given the increasing competition and financial stakes. That’s part of the benefit of formal or informal coalitions (Next New Networks, The Station). People in these tend to more willingly share learnings. This week NNN is running a series of prank videos that will all “point” to each other, thus raising the collective views. With luck, these videos might even be “clustered” by YouTube’s algorithm in the same way that many videos are, which is of paramount importance to their enduring views over time. For example, search for any of these categories: cute kids, laughing kids, funny animals, pranks, fails. You’ll find that YouTube accurately predicts what you’re after, and serves you up relevant videos in that genre. And you’ll find the same videos whenever you do this, and whether you’re logged in or not. Being a “YouTube Partner” caught in those “swirls” of popular categories means, quite frankly, an annuity of advertising income.

"Laughing baby" search on YouTube reveals what I call a "content swirl." The same videos are clustered, and predictably show you related videos.

My thought was that the total number of online viewers would always grow, such that more competition (especially from commercial content) would not erode the amateur fan base. However New York Times’ Alex Mindlin points out something interesting and important from the last comScore report: the sheer numbers of online-video viewers has not grown much at all in the past years. The growth has largely been due to more consumption by a fairly static number of viewers. This will change as web-connected television becomes a reality, but the laggards will not binge on as many YouTube amateur shorts, I think. They’ll gravitate toward well-produced 30 minute shows and 2 hours films.

So the reality is that the “new amateur rich” are getting richer (many far surpassing $100K annual incomes), but the barriers to entry are increasing and I wonder about the endurance of this medium… just like Indie performers at the dawn of the Internet, are they a “fad”? Sure we’ll always still see rising new stars, and that makes it look easy. But beyond the select “most-viewed” webstars, the mid-tier content (even those with 200-700K subscribers) is seeing a significant drop in views on recent videos. Part of this can be explained by YouTube’s algorithm generously rewarding vintage clips… most of my 4-6 million views a month comes from about 5 of my 1000 videos.

And here’s the interesting and somewhat confusing factor. While I am thrilled about the stability that algorithm provides to me as a creator (keeping my recurring daily/monthly views fairly consistent), it is understandable but interesting that “vintage trumps new” videos. Why? The shelf life for social media and amateur content, with a handfull of exceptions, is organically short. As Daisy Whitney reports (crediting Steve Rubel), social media content decays quickly. If a video, tweet or Facebook post is going to get a lot of views and engagement, it’s usually within the first couple days, and we’ve seen that in numerous studies like this dated but important Tubemogul report.

My most-viewed videos (like Scary Maze, i are Cute Kitten, Farting in Public, and America’s Funniest Bloopers represent about 30% of my total 200 million views. My recent videos, by contrast, are more in the 10-30,000 view range despite having 240,000 subscribers. While I can’t control how YouTube serves up videos, these facts remind me that I need to post more regularly since subscriptions drives views less than habit. Let me say that again because it’s very, very important: habit makes someone “current,” and if content isn’t refreshed predictably then the audience wanders away.

Interestingly, my sponsored videos sometimes continue to get views too. My Fox television show promotions for Fringe, Lie to Me and Glee have continued surpass millions and millions combined, alone topping the Hitviews original campaign goals (which also involved dozens of other creators). These videos, presumably, are either showing up in searches — or more likely via YouTube’s “related videos” spotlights. I just realized this by chance, and it speaks to an important value proposition of webstar videos: they go beyond a campaign period, despite the obsession we have with “fresh” content.

You'd watch a bad new release before a good classic you haven't seen. Guaranteed.

Our Fresh-Baked Obsession: It’s true that almost all of the “viral” videos on Unruly’s “Viral Video Chart” are “fresh baked” (posted within the past week) and that makes perfect sense. When’s the last time you started your visit to Netflix, “On Demand,” or (for you old folks) Blockbuster by browsing the classics? I don’t need to convince you that there are classics you’ve never seen that are going to be far, far better than what’s on the “new releases” shelf. You know that. But you’re drawn to “new” as if it subconsciously means “better.” That’s a human reaction that has two sources: first it’s based on the “prehistoric” brain (as opposed to our newer “executive brain” where “fresh” equals safer. Fresh meat, fresh grains, fresh vegetables. Second, I think it’s because absorbing “fresh” content keeps us “current” and “topical,” and provides a social glue. We can all bond in a collective groan about how much “Friday” sucked and how cute that new baby is when she rips up paper.

Screw it. I’m over thinking. I’m gonna go watch a baby giggle while ripping paper.

When You’re On MSNBC… Try Holding Your Book Right-Side-Up

I'm in this week's "Your Business" on MSNBC

I appeared on MSNBC’s “Your Business” yesterday, and again tomorrow morning. It was a special about using online video to promote your business. Here’s me holding my book, Beyond Viral, upside down. Classy touch, right? It, um, was… on purpose. Right.

kevin nalts nalty book beyond viral
Maybe the camera was just upside down?

Busted: “Hacking Times Square With iPhone” Is Deceptive Film Promotion

Take it from the author of “Beyond Viral,” dear reader. Viral video is like fire. It can create a toasty fire or get people burned. Today we learned out the Times Square billboard hack video was part of the campaign for the film, Limitless.

The deception was the brainchild of the viral-video maker “ThinkModo,” according to the New York Times, who “outed” the stunt.

“We’re pushing the engagement of an idea which leads you then to the product,” ThinkModo’s James Perceley told the New York Times in his defense. “It just is a whole new mind-set where you don’t have to wrap everything up in a bow and if you don’t, people are going to be a lot more interested in you and what you’re selling and what your message is.”

We think otherwise. Calling it “engagement pushing” is simply misdirection. It’s unethical marketing that is deceptively disguised. The lack of transparency (of the film’s financial support of what appears to be a user-generated video) is reminiscent of the 1950 subliminal advertising, which sends “buying signals” to our subconscious without our executive-brain’s consent. This despicable tactic shows the seedy, desperate nature of marketers who don’t mind duping journalists, technical blogs, audiences and potential ticket buyers… all in the name of “engaging” audiences in immoral promotion of a film.

Techcrunch’s Michael Arrington is calling the campaign “a sad, desperate state of sensational adverting,” and apologized Sunday to TechCrunch readers. Arrington reports:

“We believed the video’s creators had indeed hacked Times Square’s billboards, and that it was a newsworthy event that would interest technical enthusiasts. Had we known that we were being duped into free advertising by ‘covert agents’ of the film’s promoters, we would not have run the article so prominently. TechCrunch urges its readers to boycot Limitless, and promises to apply more rigor in our future journalism”

The campaign for the “Limitless” film, staring Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper, includes other a misleading and deceptive practices including a Web commercial for NZT, a drug featured in the film. Apparently the term “Limitless” refers to the film’s marketing practices, and the complete “lack of limits” in scruples of desperate marketers.

While I do many sponsored videos, I always disclaim the brand or company that supports my videos. Can’t we expect the same from others?

Still reading?… Is this blog post and its facts and opinions actually real? No. But suppose after feeling outraged by this post (either in support or defiance of my point) you later found out that this faux WillVideoForFood post was simply a paid promotion for a new book called “Business Ethics: Decision Making for Personal Integrity & Social Responsibility” by Laura Hartman and Joseph DeJardins. In this hypothetical experiment, I’m asking you to pretend you later learned that my faux written tirade was, in fact, a ruse that omitted transparency about my financial compensation from McGraw Hill. Suspend belief momentarily, and imagine I didn’t “come clean,” but was “outed” by another blogger who reported that my post was simply a compensated, masqueraded promo for the book. Would you trust my reporting if you learned this post was a promotional gimmick? (It’s not).

Would you feel duped, or would you say, “hey that Nalts is pushing the engagement idea to cool new limits.” I’m just curious.

Understanding Online-Video Using SEM Analogies

A media buyer recently approached me to see if YouTube “stars” could beat .05 on a cost-per-view basis. It was such an odd question, and one that made me realize we’re still comparing apples to oranges. As I answered the question (yes, but…) I found myself drawing analogies to a more familiar digital medium: search engine marketing (SEM).

Let’s draw from our collective understanding of both Google advertising and “search engine optimization” (SEM), where content providers try to have their websites rank on the first pages of search engines. Then let’s explore how that can help us understand online-video marketing. Finally, let’s pay special attention to “the second click,” which I use to refer to the prospect who chooses not to visit your own content but remains important.

This post is not really about search-engine optimizing video content (see ReelSEO for a wealth on that). It’s about thinking about online-video in the same way we think about an SEM approach. Apologies to traditional advertisers since this post does depend on some basic understandings of digital marketing and search-engine marketing, although I’ve tried to reduce the jargon and assume SEO/SEM is not your sweet spot.

I. Getting “Natural” Views: To get a brand.com or campaign website high search-engine ranking (thus “free” visitors) we have a variety of tools and tricks, but four basic guidelines:

  1. First, we optimize the content to use words that are commonly searched (use customer lingo not our brand speak). We frame our content to answer common natural-language queries like “what’s the cheapest life insurance insurance in Arizona” rather than “Bob’s Inexpensive Term Insurance!!… oh and I serve the globe, but happen to be in Arizona.”
  2. Second, we design the website to ensure that search-engine spiders can find it (treat the spiders as important as customers, which means more text not flasherbation). Video can help us here, but not in lieu of carefully prioritized words. Little things matter: the picture should be tagged “mom with headache” not “lady with green sweater,” something few potential targets are searching unless you’re selling sweaters).
  3. Most importantly, we try to “link bait” in appropriate ways (no “link farms” please), by earning the right to have credible well-trafficked websites link to our website. It gives us credibility, thus higher rank on engines. It can make the difference from being on the cemetery of page 3 to the wild night club of page 1.
  4. Finally, we want that visit to be positive for the “user” since a quick bounce and return to search can suggest failure to search engines. If you trick me, I’ll leave and re-search… and your ranking will slip.
What this means for video:
  • We need to think about video in this same measured approach. Sure we need to focus on SEO-optimization of our valuable video content on brand sites. Of course we want to avoid churning through various short-term video campaign micro-sites that don’t help in the long run. Absolutely we need to ensure our content is also placed on YouTube and well tagged. But there’s more to it than that.
  • Ultimately our video has to make a promise it can keep. If the headline and thumbnail is a dupe, it won’t last or travel. If the goal is to entertain and draw curiosity, then the brand must take a back seat. If the goal is to explain the product, then that’s fine… but that content isn’t likely to go viral unless you’re launching the next Apple toy.
  • A promotional video serves a purpose, but it’s unlikely to be the next Old Spice or Evian babies video. However a video can travel to prospects if it’s valuable to them (funny, informative), and most brands don’t need 4 million teenagers… they’d rather 100 solid prospects. If we want “organic” or free views (not using paid media) then we’ve got to focus on serving a need and not selling our product.
  • YouTube has loads of ways to promote video content on YouTube, and it’s always cheap… but it’s easier to get people to watch a video on YouTube than dragging them to another website. Off YouTube, we can partner with smaller properties to get “paid views” (the .05 per view reference above), but recognize that “a view isn’t a view.” Once it’s paid, it’s often forced or auto-play, and that can be a data junkee’s “fool’s gold.”
II. Paid Ad Campaigns: On search engines, a good digital marketer will vary creative and try an abundance of headlines, copy and even URLs. More importantly, they’ll create “custom landing pages,” so a search pays off. You’d be a fool to create a search advertisement promising content that doesn’t exist on the landing page. Most SEM veterans will vary campaigns (A-B testing) and do experiments to determine the optimal keywords to purchase, the right creative, and the appropriate content to serve.
What this means to video:
  • Video serves different purposes in various locations. In video display or pre-roll advertising, its goal might be to drive awareness/recall/attitude/intent for the brand or product. Alternatively it may be designed to produce an action/engagement. In general it’s hard for advertising to do both well in the same campaign.  Since most display ads accept the sad reality that click-thru rates are going to stink (low single digits), it may be better to jam the brand name and a simple message into the display ad or preroll… hey at least they’ll get “exposed” to the message. Otherwise the video preroll or display is aimed at a direct response goal (“see our cool education/entertainment,” “we have a sale,” or “check out our new product line.”).
  • While video can augment either awareness or direct response, I see “yellow flags” when I hear media buyers or PR executives using paid media to get videos or microsites traffic. The root cause? Marketers or agencies have sadly invested precious dollars to produce “viral video,” then become frustrated that the videos didn’t… go… viral. So they’re desperately looking for inexpensive ways to get the videos seen by using paid video ads.
  • Now we have a “dangling media tactic,” which is often inconsistent from a brand strategy. There’s a covert mission to get the content views to “save face” for the lonely isolated micro-site or unviral videos.
  • Back to the SEO/video analogy: It’s okay to create written content for search engines in hopes that it will gain high ranking and “free” (organic) views. But we are usually realistic about the timeframe and sheer numbers. However when marketers create video content, they bank on a groundswell of free traffic spawned by YouTube viral and mega-sharing on Facebook. That’s happening less and less.
  • Solution? The video or video-laced microsite (campaign site) should be serving a specific goal on the awareness-to-loyalty continuum and not an isolated tactic that depends on “going viral” organically. If you’re creating video for “top of the funnel” awareness creation, then a) don’t spend a lot of money since the odds are against you, b) keep the brand/ad message on the down-lo because it will tank the natural views.

III. That Second Click: It’s a mistake to obsess strictly about the search engine (we’re done! We’re on the first page organically and with an ad). Odds are that 80-90% of people will zoom right past them to the third-party choice (the credible blogger, the crowd-sourced rating website, or a publisher). That means we want to get our message and content on the highly trafficked websites our customers will visit after their search… the second click. That’s usually done via PR (desperate and failed pleas to bloggers for product mentions) or advertising (often ignored display advertising).
What this means to video:
  • Good news. Most video traffic is not to professional content or branded videos. Outside of music videos, the hidden “oil well” of reach includes mostly amateur webstars or “the new establishment” of web-video networks. These guys are surprisingly receptive to subtle brand messages, inexpensive sponsorships and (of course) adjacent ads that are their primary income.
  • While it’s unethical for a travel destination (hotel/resport) to spiff (pay off) a Conde Nast travel freelancer, it’s okay for them to invite Shaycarl (and Nalts) to visit and show the property to millions of their daily viewers. 🙂
  • It’s not okay to send a free tech product (like that new tablet or HD camer) to TechCrunch or Wired, but you’d be a fool not to deluge iJustine with your latest gadgets (and maybe toss her a check to show it love). It can be cost prohibitive for a marketer with a “recession” budget to hire Justin Bee-iber, but Rhett and Link reach millions and they’re taking a road trip this Friday that I’d sponsor it in a minute if I was a CPG brand (ensuring the comedy/singing duo received loads of free candy and beverages, as well as a decent check to ensure the products get some prominent placement). If I was selling guitars, I’d send a free one to Wheezywaiter and MikeLombardo in a second, and a $1-$10K to mention my website occasionally.
I’m finally beginning to accept why this last “no brainer” step (which I detail in my book, Beyond Viral) is not yet embraced by many brands. For a while I found it downright perplexing and unforgivable that Coke was handing out free product on the streets of NYC, but not sending swag to the top 500 most-viewed YouTube creators (which would provide Coke with more free impressions than it could ever imagine).
But there’s not an easy analog for this type of marketing. Sure Coke does product placement on American Idol, but it’s hard for marketers to translate that to some clown on YouTube even if he gets more views than American Idol. The TV folks are forced to understand product placement and integration because Fox is beating it into them. But it’s hard for a TV junkie to translate that to web video, and trust amateurs. Most importantly, the silo approach of most large brands makes it hard to determine who should run with this: is it PR? Advertising? A sponsorship/events group? Digital?
In truth this type of “second click” thinking applied to video requires people with an odd mix of understanding/experience of marketing, social media, consumer marketing and PR. But those folks are hard to find except in startups (who are less attractive to webstars than Big brands). When they do exist in larger companies, they often lack budget influence.
So this marketplace remains somewhat irrational (some “webstars” fetching obscenely high fees for non-targeted and awkward pitches). Conversely, many brands use PR teams to chase bloggers with smaller audiences and a fundamental reluctance to pitch (because “playing favorites” might erode their credibility as a mini-journalist). And those same brands are often missing some highly influential and valuable willing “spokespeople” with large fan bases and credibility… just because they have no idea that a medium-sized video webstar’s reach is often 100x that of the biggest category blogger.
As Arseneo Hall would say… things that make you go hmmmmm.

What Will Matter About Online Video in 2011: Top 10 List

The space called “online video” is as broad as its players: online-advertisers, mobile technology, content creators, media properties, networks, cable-television providers, startups and individual YouTube “weblebrities.” But let’s not miss the fact that while I’ve been writing about “online video” for 5 plus years, I don’t likely have 5 more to go. As I mentioned in Beyond Viral’s chapter 18 (The Future of Online Video), we’ll soon return to calling video simply “video,” whether it’s on our computer, HDTV, mobile device or whatever else comes along.

Presumably my blog will migrate too, just as it has in the past. First it was “Revverberation” focusing strictly on the only 2005 revenue-sharing video property (Revver) to a site for amateur video creators looking to make a buck. Now it’s a blog I hope is relevant to a wider audience, such as online-video networks, digital agencies, online-advertising buyers and fellow marketers.

We “futurists” (dare I call myself one) typically fail by overestimating short-term changes but underestimating long-term ones. For instance most of my 2006 predictions came true… just not in 2007. I’ll crack out my annual crystal ball without reading Alex Rowland’s 2011 online-video predictions or any others. But when I’m done, I’ll add their links at the bottom and perhaps to substantiate or evolve my countdown of 2011 game changers.

So here’s not just what will happen in 2011, but what it means and why it matters.

1) Here Comes the Money. Until 2009, marketers were concerned about placing ads anywhere near “consumer generated content.” In 2010, online-video advertising was the fastest-growing portion of a marketer’s mix. Advertisers are still scrutinizing reach (scale), targeting, and impact. But online-video ad spending forecasts are very positive, and it remains a “buyer’s market” for those media buyers willing to divert ad budgets into online video units. YouTube commands a ridiculously small CPM (cost per thousand views) relative to most properties, and demo-accuracy aside, is driving ROI for most brand pioneers (as measured by attention scores, direct response or “CPC,” recall, intent-to-purchase lifts and ultimately sales, where accurately tracked). Advertisers took many years to migrate dollars from offline to online, but most analyst reports are bullish on ad spending moving to online video (at the expense of offline media and lower-performing banners). So content creators (and media sites) who hold constant on monthly views will receive bigger checks. As an example, when I reluctantly turned on “pre-rolls” to my Nalts videos I saw my income increase significantly with no change to total views (still 4-6 million per month).

2) Bold New Online-Video Advertising Models: InStream or InVideo formats (small overlays on the bottom 20% of the online-video screen) was certainly more effective than adjacent banners, and a smart compromise to avoid charging for content. But the market is artificially depressed for these ads, and pre-rolls have become dangerously pervasive alternatives. I hope and trust that creators, advertisers and (quite importantly) video platforms will provide new formats that a) respect the viewer, b) complement the content, and c) ensure that ad message gets sufficient attention to command a fair price. Most importantly, the most innovative approaches will weave ad messages into the creative, and target with greater precision for a better return on advertising investments.

3) Experimentation With Ad-Free, Microcharge Pay-Per-View: Given how little ad-revenue generates per active view, I would expect some online-video creators (if platforms cooperate) to experiment with a token fee-based subscription models. If it was easy, I’d pay a small fixed or variable fee to avoid cursed pre-rolls before viewing online-videos by YouTube Partners. As long as an annoying preroll generates a fraction of a penny to YouTube and the Partner, it wouldn’t cost a viewer much to purchase immunity from them (while still keep the platform and creator “whole” on income). Imagine if YouTube offered viewers the ability to effectively self fund the content he/she consumes for a modest monthly fee based on the quantity of videos consumed. I realize 70-90% of online-video viewers would resent whipping out their wallets because they feel entitled to free content. So I wouldn’t expect this to explode, nor would I propose an “either/or” scenario. That said, I trust I’m not alone in saying that I’d rather pay $5 a month to enjoy all of my YouTube videos without interruption, and that’s all it would take to offset the ad revenue YouTube and its partners might otherwise generate. This has been proven on certain websites and apps (free with ads, small fee for ad-free) and could work in this medium… but it does require a PayPal or Google Checkouts to make this incredibly easy. Mac cracked the code with me and others by simply making the purchase/rent option so incredibly easy that pirating content is no longer worth it.

4) The Video “Screen” Becomes Less Important: For years we’ve anticipated the great collision of “lean forward” (computer) and “lean back” (television). It was going to fundamentally change the ecosystem and democratize content creation. Finally in 2010 you didn’t need an MIT PhD to enjoy digital video content without an antenna or a cable-television subscription. Of course this convergence, despite dramatic improvements in the past year, is still being enjoyed by fewer than 10% of Americans. Now we have three discreet segments of video consumers:

  • Early adopters (we’re using home-rigged media centers, TiVo, GoogleTV, Roku, Boxee, AppleTV, and clumsy ethernet-enabled televisions.
  • The lagging but vibrant “cable snipping” generation, which had a sudden epiphany during the past solar orbit, and believes Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner are “The Walking Dead” because content will forever remain free.
  • The laggards who will enjoy subscribed, licensed, stolen or ala cart (on demand) video content via television, computer and mobile… only when their cable-TV provider makes it incredibly easy.

None of this matters terribly by itself. Sure our content via YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Cable “On Demand,” Amazon and other providers) is increasingly portable, and we’ll eventually carry our subscriptions on our primary mobile device (aka phone). Hooray! We’ll have the luxury of watching rented, purchased or “borrowed” Avatar film or Modern Family episodes continuously whether we’re on the couch, commuter train or our desktop (example: Xfinity or Dish Network’s “TV Everywhere“).

More importantly, we’ll prefer to consume different types of content via different screens, and that poses a challenge to content creators. For the most part, we’ll subscribe (free or paid) to most content that’s popular within our social networks (real or virtual). But we’ll search (usually in laptop-like mode) for “just in time” content, which may include quick “how to” videos or a clip we’ve heard is “going viral.” Demographics (age, region) and psychographics (behavioral) will dictate viewer preferences, so Paw Paw may watch Fox and CNN on her cable box, mom may surf her cable lineup, young urban adults may binge The Onion and College Humor on computers using HDTV as a monitor, and the teens and tweens can gorge semi-pro content like Barely Political and Annoying Orange from the privacy of their Smart Phones.

So what does this mean to the people who depend on audiences? Creators and advertisers will need to know their audiences better, and leverage different mediums and form factors (length of content and distribution strategy) to reach and satisfy them. We won’t see the end of niche creators with niche audiences whose needs can’t be met via more mainstream content (hot music, top comedy, the quirky clip that taps our collective consciousness). However these creators should take caution in mimicking the habits of the top talent, and instead focus on depth not breadth.

5) Transmedia Storytelling Grows Up: At September’s New York Television Festival (NYTVF) Digital Day, panelists discussed the challenge of “transmedia” storytelling. For these media executives, directors, creative types and writers, “online video” was one element of a storyline. Their challenge, unlike a web series like The Guild, is to leverage online-video to complement a story that is powered by a television show, but offers short-form web video as an optional “add on” to the experience. Previous television “webisodes” (like those of The Office, which were well promoted during the weekly television episodes) were largely isolated events. One could enjoy The Office without the webisodes, but hardcore viewers enjoyed the extra, independent plots. As more people are conveniently able to dive into a webisode from their television, it’s likely these previously “stand-alone” pieces of entertainment will serve a richer role in the narrative.

6) Independent Webisodes Get Second Chance. In the early days of online-video, there wasn’t a sufficient revenue model for well-produced webisodes that were fairly expensive to produce, but had trouble attracting audiences. Look for aggregators snatching some of the quality content at a low cost, and forging distribution deals to give them new life. Currently there are dozens of popular YouTube channels that meet the definition of “webisodes” (see a Mashable list of popular ones in 2010). But what about all the Streamy nominees featuring well-produced but sometimes starving comedic, drama or reality-show “webisodes”? Could the mercurial content from “Funny or Die” find a new and broader audience via well-promoted subscriptions via new devices? This provides new income to the show owners, unique content for audiences, and a powerful differentiator for the distribution platform. Roku, by example, provides easy access to Revision3 content, and that’s a free “value add” for Roku users that gives Revision3 shows (Film Riot, Scam School) a larger audience to attract advertisers.

7) The Amateur-Creator “Thinning of the Hurd.” The “amateur” talent pyramid has transformed from flat to tall, and almost no YouTube star has jolted into mainstream. Still, hundreds of lean amateurs have developed comfortable full-time jobs (six figures plus) as YouTube Partners in the past 18 months. The “weblebrity” lifecycle is shrinking (rapid rise and fall), with just a few dozen channels dominating the vast majority of views. This is no different from the maturing of any previous medium (radio, television, blogs, Indie music) because society can’t handle radical fragmentation of content. Shared media/entertainment is a social glue that forgets a common vocabulary, so it’s “survival of the fittest.” Even with occasional “overnight successes” (from Justin Bieber to the relatively small Shaycarls, iJustines and Wheezywaiters), we collective viewers struggle focusing on more than 20-50 different webstars or channels, and eventually the best 10% will own 90% of the views on YouTube — or emerging “democratic” mediums with relatively low barriers to entry. It happened with music, and it’s happening on YouTube, where the same 7-20 people are routinely dominating the daily “most popular” charts, and the “one-hit wonder” viral videos are celebrated and forgotten like a fad.

Now let’s look at some other online-video 2011 predictions to nail the final 3:

8) Social-Viewing and Curation. VidCompare invited some industry experts and platform owners to speculate on some coming trends. It’s a beefy list of predictions, but I’m summarizing two related predictions I found especially important (where italics are my own reactions to the assertions).

  • Dramatic increase in social viewership drives innovation in social sharing techniques and measurement (Jeff Whatcott – SVP Marketing, Brightcove). An absolute in my opinion. Look no further than how Daneboe has used Annoying Orange’s popular Facebook identity to increase views on his YouTube videos.
  • 2011 is the year we curate. The result of this massive explosion of content creation is that we are increasingly overwhelmed with choice. Too much content makes finding useful and relevant material increasingly difficult. In a world of unlimited choice, search fails. What we’ll see is a growing category of content curators – individuals, brands, and publishers. (Steve Rosenbaum – CEO, Magnify.net). Steve has always been ahead of the market, and curation is logical and desirable. I became introduced to the concept of video curation while writing my book, and see it as a natural and healthy progression of the medium.
  • See more technology-oriented predictions on VidCompare, as well as observations on what geographic markets will drive growth, what major players (Amazon, NBC) will dominate, and how ad networks will face a squeeze.

9) Cost Per Engagements: Speaking of ad networks, see what the leading providers are anticipating in 2011 (AdExchanger), including some interesting thoughts on CPE (cost per engagement) by Tremor Media’s CEO Bill Day. I like CPE better than CPM because I feel that impressions is a poor judge of online-video performance. What matters is how the viewer engaged, and what they did as a result of the video… even though that’s often missed by CPE.

10) Standard Wars, and Everyone’s a Media Company: Brightcove’s Jeremy Allaire wrote a nice TechCrunch article about standard wars, connected TVs and social recommendations.Well worth a read, as Allaire is standing in the middle of a separate part of this ecosystem that I don’t see first-hand.

Okay now your turn. What’d I miss? What did I call wrong? Let’s crowd-source our psychic powers and make the first 100% accurate technology predictions, shall we?

    Free Web Seminar: Online-Video Secrets from Steve Garfield

    Steve Garfield,  the “Paul Revere of video blogging,” will join Pixability CEO Bettina Hein in a free 1-hour webinar on December 1, featuring latest trends in online video and related media. Topics include:

    • The benefits of marketing with online video
    • How to shoot video like a pro (recording, editing, exporting, etc)
    • How to build presence with video on the social web
    • How to increase views for your video

    Garfield also is raffling off ten copies of “Get Seen: Online Video Secrets.” Space is limited, so register now for the free webinar, held December 1, 2010 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

    Garfield’s book is part of David M. Scott’s “New Rules of Social Media,” which also includes my book (Beyond Viral).

    YouTube Marketing: Not Just for Greedy Corporate Peeps

    Thanks to Think Media TV and Life in Student Ministry for reviewing my book, Beyond Viral, and how the tips can help non-profits, charities and ministries not just corporate promotions. It’s nice to hear how Sean and Tim (their YouTube accounts linked by name) are using my book for good not evil. 🙂

    Click below image to hear what parts of the books they found useful for non-profits and faith-based education. I’m really excited to think about the book helping such worthy causes as the spiritual development of kids.

    Thanks also to Buddha Charlie for documenting his purchase of the book!

    Ministries use youtube promotion to help charities and non-profits

    See You at Blogworld in Vegas

    As I mentioned in a recent video (“Advertising Doesn’t Have to Suck,” I’m off to Blogworld. It’s the “South by Southwest” of social media, and packed with bloggers, vloggers, and even stupid people. Steve Garfield (fellow video enthusiast) is leading a session, and we’re both doing book signings on Friday. On Friday, he signs “Get Seen” at 2:00 and I sign “Beyond Viral” at 2:30. I plan to stalk his fans holding a sign that says, “if you liked Get Seen, you might also like Beyond Viral.”

    Sadly Samsung’s Galaxy never came through, so I won’t be smashing my iPad. I tried. However I will be stalking Kent Nichols and Jim Louderback (cheesy photo below). You can bet on that.

    Jim Louderback Likes Geeky Computer Magazines

    Friends, don’t be anti-social media… come hang. (See “anti-social media” below):