How Native Advertising is Tricking You

Native Advertising is evil, and John Oliver grills it in this comedy routine

Native advertising is crap
Native advertising is crap

I started my career as a journalist. Warren Rogers, my editor and a well-known Washington D.C reporter, created a literal wall between the Georgetown Courier’s editorial department and the advertising team… it was wooden and about 4 feet tall. He taught me the importance of not having editorial pander to the needs of advertising. No lofty reviews of restaurants that took full-page ads out in our newspaper.

Sure the newspaper folded in about 6 months. And sure I now work in advertising. I still have a pet peeve about “native advertising,” which is basically advertisements that masquerade as content. You’ve seen them:

  • An apparent news story on a website that’s actually an ad for some diet product
  • A section of a magazine that, on closer inspection, is actually “advertorial” content (sponsored)
  • A tweet or Facebook post that’s paid content even though it’s designed to look like a post from a friend

We need to know when a commercial interest is impacting our news or entertainment. And it’s not often obvious. I don’t like search-engine results that are ads pretending to be organic. I don’t like product placement without credit/transparency. And I don’t like hitting a news website expecting to read an article, but it’s a poorly veiled attempt to pitch some crap.

Ads can do their job even when we know they’re ads. But news and entertainment cannot do their jobs when we have to worry about whether they’re ads or not.

So I took some pleasure in John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) absolutely ripping “native advertising” a second asshole. Enjoy…

Netflix: Is Video Content Fungible?

Can streaming-video service Netflix survive recent losses by substituting new content? According to the Associated Press, major movie studios are refusing to license Netflix the rights to most of their latest movies. They studios also are withholding their most popular series, including “Game of Thrones” and “Dexter.”

Associated Press writer Michael Liedtke said Netflix may lose subscribers as a result of the termination of Starz contract beginning in March 2012. Starz library included recent movies from Walt Disney Co. Netflix has been paying an estimated $30 million annually, and Starz is believed to have demanded as much as $300 million a year to renew.

Competitors have larger libraries, and Walmart is charging customers $2 to access their DVDs via permanent online-viewing.

Netflix

Streaming subscribers watch an average of 30 hours of online-video monthly, which is about 27 cents per hour. Netflix has already agreed to pay about $4 billion in licensing fees during the next few years, however after recent price-hike backlash, it may be reluctant to increase its $8 monthly subscription for its approximately 25 million members.

Netflix is downplaying the loss of Starz, but Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter believes there is only so much that Netflix will be able to do to conceal the weaknesses in its Internet library.

“I think Netflix has underestimated the intelligence of consumers,” Pachter says. “They seem to think all content is fungible, but I don’t think consumers will see it that way.”

8 Ways to Turn your TV Into a Web-Video Player (for under $99)

AppleTV is slick and all. But Roku's packed with content, and darnit I like that little purple clothing tab
Online-video on your TV is not this difficult anymore.

Sure most BlueRay disc players have the ability to stream YouTube and other content. But it’s 2011.

Walk away from anything that requires physical media and, gasp, has moving parts.

Here are 8 plus ways to stream videos from the Interweb to that big-ass monitor your mama calls an HDTV. CNet reviews the collection, and generally comes down with the Roku 2 as the winner above the AppleTV. I have both, and was an AppleTV raving fan who purchased horrific amounts of content I was too lazy to seek out for free. Then the AppleTV started giving me password and synching problems, and the new $99 TV-rental model felt unfair. So both have been paperweights for a few months, but the Roku is still an easy way to stream my all-you-can-eat Netflix movies.

  1. Roku 2 XS 1080 for $99 is a pretty sweet deal (Amazon affiliate links). Easy startup, and there’s plenty of default content in addition to YouTube and Netflix. Seriously that little fabric tag is almost as cute as a Chumby octopus.

    Worship me. I am Chumby.
  2. AppleTV’s $97 model is decent, but a step backward not forward. Had Jobs stuck around, this might have gotten interesting.
  3. Logitech Revue (GoogleTV) got a luke warm Cnet review, but the keyboard makes it a favorite of many “lean forward lean backers.”
  4. Sony SMPU10 USB Media Player- it’s ass. Skip it.
  5. WD-TV Live Plus Western Digital thing. Doesn’t come with wifi built in, which is like sending it out without a friggin’ power cord. CNet liked it, but the readers didn’t.
  6. VeeBeam: Some reviews say it’s easy to install, but it simply provides a wireless delayed stream from your laptop to a TV. Seems like a cheap connector would make more sense. Am I missing something?
  7. Netgear offers some Push2TV device that works with an Intel wireless laptop (widi), so if you can figure that out… go for it.
  8. A Friggin’ HDMI Cable (from laptop to TV): Finally, if you’re going to tie up your damned laptop, how about connecting a stinkin’ $5 HDMI cable directly from it? I’m not seeing the appeal of choices 6 and 7, when a simple cable does most of the work without lag. Depending on your laptop, you may need an adapter to have it HDMI ready, but remember that HDMI is an HD cord that carries audio and video.
So that’s my modification of the CNet article, but keep in mind that there are other options, ranging from TiVo and your stupid cable-TV box to various videogame players that will achieve much of this (and may be sitting idle in your home).
TiVo logo
Suck it Chumby. I was around longer and can do more.

 

 

 

YouTube 5.0 Begins

Netflix is watching “GOOG” and its potential use YouTube to stream longer form content. See WSJ blog. And read about YouTube’s move to live streaming ala Ustream and Blogtv.

I’d say the concern is significant, and this marks the fifth phase of YouTube…

Phase 1: Pirate Sharing (2004-2006)
Phase 2: Amateurs & Community (2005-2009)
Phase 3: Video Search Platform (2009-2011)
Phase 4: Mainstream and Semipro Content Aggregator and producer (2010-2012)
Phase 5: Live Programming and Video Anywhere (2010-2013)

These phases aren’t precise in their beginning and end, and each builds on another. So technically there’s still plenty of pirated content, but far less and harder to find. And amateur hour isn’t quite over, but YouTube’s emphasis is on music, web series and professional content.

YouTube has not touched long-form content significantly (check the latest comScore data to see that Hulu and Netflix dominates when you rank websites and platforms based on view duration). Also find some important comparison graphics to see what’s at stake for the ustreams and others.

But since YouTube, like Google, is the “first stop” for most people searching for video content, it has a natural advantage to be the default 3-4 screen streaming media player.

This 5th stage, of course, takes GOOG and YouTube into unchartered territory that requires:
-Device dominance: plus for Android, but Apple still leads and Google TV is far from the new OS for televisions or web devices.
-Equity on search: can you be both a neutral video search engine and a content owner? Given difficulties licensing pro content, YouTube appears to be stepping up original content: example Next New Network purchase, and more recent news about investments in custom content).
-Better deals with production studios and networks (to overcome the barriers that cable and telcom are forging). But in the meanwhile it appears that YouTube’s focus is on broadening distribution as a platform and as a network for smaller producers.

What do you think? Is YouTube the MySpace of our time, or will it be the dominant platform and search engine for any/all video? Off the latter, what’s it need to do to maintain relevance?

YouTube News You Missed

Okay I forgot I had a blog again. The past two weeks have included trips to (in sequence) Virginia, Minneapolis, NYC, Washington, D.C. and NYC again.

Shitty clipart makes a blog visual

Enough about me. Let’s focus on YouTube today, since it’s turned 6 (that’s a near-death 94 years in TechCrunch years). If you missed the comment stream on my last post, you’ll want to catch up. It’s steamy, and Sukatra’s on a Charlie Sheen tear.

And after this humble attempt at “aggregation,” stay tuned for my patented “synthesis” below… what all this means to a changing ecosphere-marketplace-ecosystem-valuechain-universe.

    What Does All This Mean?

    • YouTube is going mainstream with musician chart-toppers exceeding the once amateur-only club. Alas, the site is a free jute box rivaled only by Limewire in the day.
    • YouTube is embracing its new role, hoping attracting familiar faces will attract a larger base of “regulars,” who until now have chosen their own weblebrities.
    • Still, amateur hour isn’t over… especially if you’re a quasi professional. While no YouTube star has yet jumped mainstream with any endurance or consequence, we may see that change in 2012.
    • Most importantly, albiet somewhat tangental, what the hell happens to the sales of my “Beyond Viral” if Borders goes bankrupt? Perhaps you can find a local Borders that’s folding, and snatch a discounted copy of the book. Be sure to take a photo and let me know.

    This post has been brought to you by the letter S. Big S.

    Online Video in 2011: Ready for Drama?

    Friends, online-video is going to be a fun storm in 2011 as the drama has just begun. It’s the first official business day of 2011, and that prompted me to awaken at 3:00 a.m. with great curiosity. I spent 4-plus hours diving into dozens of articles and blogs, and have wrapped it all up nicely for you. It’s my late Christmas gift.

    Here are “things to watch” in early 2011, including some recent articles. See also my 2011 predictions, which is a mandatory scan. This will be on the exam.

    Can WebTV tame the "Big Media" Tiger?

    1. The WebTV Bloodbath Is Just Beginning: Check out this killer article by Fortune’s Jessi Hempel titled “What the Hell is Going On With TV” to get a flavor for the impending drama in this space. And I quote: “Netflix, Google, and Apple can’t just swoop in and disrupt the $85 billion home entertainment industry. The challenge lies in navigating the entrenched interests that make up the television business.” Jessi’s piece reminds us that only a 1/10th of a percent of people have left cable television for the web, yet Microsoft says 42% of the premium Xbox Gold users who rely on it to view video are watching more than an hour a day, or 30 hours in a month. “If you’re a cable provider, that should be terrifying,” says Forrester analyst James McQuivey. The author points to Clicker.com as one I’d watch closely… a made-for-web TVGuide and search tool that allows you to locate various shows (Modern Family) and select viewing options: free, per episode or subscription. But Jessi likes Comcast as a driver of a mature online-video model because it protects the financial interests of content providers (as well as its own). I sadly believe she’s right given the confusing and frustrating state of online-video on television today (which she likens to Internet circa 1998).  Fortunately we’ve got two forces to keep Comcast motivated: consumer demand and willing startups ready to meet that demand. And he, Comcast has been asked to be cool (see Bloomberg/Businessweek article).

    Click image to read more of Fortune's "What the HELL is Going on With TV"

    2. Online-Video Platforms Continue to Get Commoditized, Then Interesting. Frankly I’ve never been as interested in the boring infrastructure supporting online video as I am the marketing, community and content that sits on top of it (where the air is easier to breath). But Streaming Media’s Dan Rayburn explains it well. Sure the space is commoditized, but just because YouTube is free doesn’t mean online-video platform vendors can’t charge a premium for more flexible solutions that can scale and provide unique functionality. According to Rayburn’s “Commoditization Is Not a Dirty Word,” vendors are shifting from talking about how they encode or embed (yawn) and how they a) integrate with ad networks and analytics, b) deliver the right video content to the right user on the right device. That makes sense, and I would not underestimate the power of a platform that meets the needs of creators and advertisers (David Russek‘s SevenEcho, for instance, is one of the best-kept secrets for storytellers and brands). There’s a wide opening for a video platform which better meets the needs of creators and advertisers (see MediaPost article by WatchMojo’s Ashkan Karbasfrooshan). The challenge, of course, is that today traffic (not content) is king, and YouTube continues to reign by miles (comScore). Thanks to music videos, Vevo and Blip.tv continue to grow — but still small fish.

    3. YouTube Community Still Alive. Is YouTube a thing, destination or community? Yes, depending on whether you live there 2 hours a day or slide over to see the latest viral clip of search for a meme. Community is still alive, and the eager and weird folks from StirFryTV are cooking up a “YouTour,” a YouTube Tour which starts in Orland on a Jan. 18 event. It will include YouTube allstars Michael Buckley, Shane Dawson and CoolGuyWithGlasses. We’re not sure if John Basedow will be sneaking onto the YouTour RV, and going shirtless to each event to pitch his “Take Control Fitness Package” (making the rest of us feel like fat asses). Paul (odcasting101) remains alive with his YouTube Gathering ning. There’s a San Antonio, Texas YouTube gathering planned in June 17-June 19). While YouTube’s Creator blog has gone dry, it points to 488 YouTube gatherings listed on Meetup.com (mostly tiny ones). I just discovered YTGatherings on Twitter too, and it alerts us to such events like Jake & Amir’s Toronto event on Jan. 27, 2011. I’d be surprised if a YouTube event doesn’t spring up as part of the popular Austin, Texas SouthBySouthwest event March 11-20. After all, there are several YouTube and online-video sessions as part of the programing and Felicia Day is keynoting.

    4. Video Search Will Suck Less Get Better. Sure we’ve been saying that for years, but ThinkJose’s Jose Castillo explains why video search sucks: “The internet was never designed as a platform for video… the basic structure and platform we are using to consume visual data is an outdated system originally used for sending text messages between universities.” Castillo reminded me that Blinkx.com is still around, and that Microsoft’s Bing search has a mouse-over playback (and don’t tell YouTube, but I think Bing is curating better with a homepage of videos that I regard as more relevant than what I’m finding on YouTube). He also points to CastTV, which provides blended results from YouTube, CNN, Amazon and other sites. See also Clicker.com (point one).

    5. Video Greetings Will Get More Awkward in 2011: Cheesy Christmas video greetings were hot, with some being fabulous and others being downright painful. They didn’t stop, as evidenced by Profnet’s stunningly awkward 2011 New Years video. I hate to say this, but I think we’ve only begun to see how low corporate video-greeting cards can go. Sure this isn’t an “industry shaker,” but it sure will be fun to watch.

    6. Video Destinations Rival YouTube: When I pop into a few well curated online-video sites, I increasingly believe YouTube, while still growing in views, will lose share in 2011. Check out Bing’s site and you’ll find a piece about Mona Lisa’s eye codes by NBC (saw it on TV last night), the “No” baby (that has viralinated), and how to break your soda habit via Howcast. That’s far more relevant than what I’m finding when I browse YouTube’s inhumanely edited topic areas, or surf my bloated subscription box. Yahoo Video is still luke warm, but I’d expect it to steal share with the shift away from consumer-generated content in March. AOL Video is still Revverish (insert tumbleweed and sound of crickets) but getting better. While YouTube focuses on being a platform, being relevant on television and mobile, and hopefully searching video better.

    7. Damn We Need Curators. It’s simply not possible to “browse” for good videos on YouTube anymore, although perhaps Google will consider some of my unsolicited New Years Resolutions for YouTube. Ultimately I’m not likely to find good content surfing the “most viewed” on YouTube (now dominated by a few niche “web stars” that appear to be “crowd sourced” by a tiny segment of apparently stoned teenage video enthusiasts). Instead, we’re more likely to find it via curators like eGuiders. Why aren’t we seeing more curators (see NYTimes blog on subject from last year). For instance, ReelSEO’s Jeremy Scott carefully selected some fantastic viral highlights from last year. That was more helpful to me than combing through YouTube. I wrote a lot about curating in Beyond Viral; go buy that dang book so I’m not the laughing stock of Wiley. Hitwise’s Bill Tancer saw the migration of early YouTubers to curated content sites a year ago, but it’s been oddly quiet.

    8. Online Video Gets More Social. I didn’t hit that hard enough in my 2011 predictions, so let me point to Hitwise’s report about Facebook driving the social engine of the Internet. Basically Facebook’s growth hasn’t slowed down, and MySpace and Bebo are crumbling. YouTube, surprisingly, is flat relative to Facebook. I’m telling you… watch for Facebook offering revenue sharing and see if the YouTube community shifts over to Facebook. Daneboe’s cracked Facebook via the insanely popular Annoying Orange with nearly 7 million “likes” (compared to only 1.5 million YouTube subscribers despite his 423 million views). Currently Daneboe uses Facebook to alert fans to a video, then streams it on YouTube where he generates a percentage of income. How easy would it be for him to start using Facebook if the company revenue shared? Most of us YouTubers haven’t cracked Facebook yet, and it’s high time for that. NYTimes Tech Blogger, Miguel Helft, also points to Clicker.com (someone’s doing good PR) for socializing video.

    9. You’re Going to Pay More for Broadband: Video will soon dominate the percent of Internet traffic (see 2011 “Year Ahead In IT,” point 6). You .o5 percent of cable snippers are draining the economic system like illegitimate welfare recipients or those pesky entitled Boomers looking for social security payouts. Sure maybe there will be a poor-man’s broadband solution, but the rest of us are going to pay. With broadband suckers like Netflix and the new Skype iPhone Video one-to-one apps, do you honestly think telecommunication firms and broadband providers aren’t going to get wise? The U.S. is 18th in the world for speed, and we can bet that’s going to get some attention despite the historical year-over-year flat cost of broadband.

    10. Google Going Beyond YouTube. Despite the GoogleTV Sony/Logitech launch running into a mix of praise and hiccupsreworking software and media-company resistance, we can expect Google to go beyond YouTube in 2011. Check out Information Week’s predictions on what Google will do this year. Among them: going Hollywood. That appears a difficult but inevitable play for Google to “organize the world’s information,” when you recognize “big media” as a large, sustainable chunk of it.

    Finally take note of NewTeeVee’s Liz Shannon Miller’s poll about what force will really impact the space. Most votes are not for Hulu, Netflix, TV Everywhere, Apple or Google… most of us believe the real “shake up” or transformation will be driven by… something else. If YouTube and Facebook’s relative overnight success taught us anything about this still-maturing market, it’s that where there are problems and unmet consumer needs, there’s always something sudden and new that can keep it interesting.

    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?

      You Don’t Have to Be CableTV’s Bitch. Options Abound!

      The poor television networks and cable. In one of the seminal points of the evolution of online-video-to-television and mobile, the networks are putting legitimate near-term business desires and needs above consumer demand and innovation. You could view recent moves — like blocking GoogleTV and Hulu’s paid app with ads — as strength and discipline. Avoiding threats to their lucrative cable TV partnerships. Or you could view all of this as a tragic flaw — not dissimilar to the music industry’s early failures in the dawn of digital distribution.

      CableTV and networks are preserving their cash cows. But not for long.

      It’s the perilous curse of any comfy industries that is reticent to let high-potential new revenue streams and consumer demand cannibalize their cash cows … and it’s the cart blanche for startups that produce new models to meet consumer needs.

      But guess what? You have a choice (see options below). Ironically, I have Verizon FIOS servicing my home as I write this blog entry, and the company is updating its offering to provide more for less (less expensive additions, faster broadband and soon web-via-TV). Still, the cable-TV box is quickly dying (see WSJ). The FTC is making it harder for CableTV companies to force its own boxes on people, yet most of the “unwashed masses” don’t know they have other options. It amazes me that most people are oblivious to the fact that the CableTV box and the DVD player are the least interesting things that can feed their HDTV.

      Meanwhile, Hulu is also slipping: yesterday I was about to download the Hulu app on my iPad, until I saw that it had one of the worst ratings I’ve yet seen on iPhone/iPad apps! Apparently the “Generation I” isn’t keen on the subscription charge plus commercials, and Hulu is missing the opportunity to develop an ad-supported wide “anytime, anywhere” distribution of network content without intermediaries. In a similar flub, Google TV is being blocked by networks and Hulu, because they’re no doubt rooting for a network-friendly cable alternative that will take forever and suck. But they’re counting on it stopping a “great migration” away from monthly cable.

      You can’t blame the networks for wanting to charge for content, which is the very basis of a very fair $99 AppleTV model (where consumers pay “ala cart” to rent specific television shows, and it’s commercial free HD content without a subscription). But the “one to watch,” in my opinion and others, is Netflix’s evolving model, a fixed-price (as low as $8) “all you can eat” movie rental service which is becoming much more generous and easy, as viewing options rapidly expand from DVDs by mail to desktop, Roku, AppleTV, Netflix, some DVR and DVD players, and iPhone. We don’t even bother with those red Netflix envelopes by mail, and our days of visiting Blockbuster are completely over. Sometimes we accidentally pay $5 for Verizon’s “on demand” movies, only to discover they’re part of the free Netflix library to which we subscribe!

      Hulu’s bi-polar approach, driven surely by networks and not by Jason Kilar, the company’s smart, flexible and customer-oriented CEO. Kilar has created a site designed first for viewers, and offers advertisers novel ad options (like allowing viewers to view one trailer instead of multiple in-stream ads, or giving consumers the choice of what ad they view). But Hulu also has to protect its content partners, who aren’t keen on anything that threatens the addictive income they fetch from cable providers.

      Just like smart phones exploded in the past 18 months, the online-video & television merger is just entering “the tipping point.” It appears the emergence of GoogleTV has everyone innovating in desperation. So what should you do?

      Like the boys from Prison Break, set yourself free. You have options to escape the restrictions of your cableTV provider.
      1. Join Netflix for if you watch more than 2-3 movies a month. It’s the most cost-efficient and easiest way to watch movies because it’s “all you can eat” on a fairly decent library. To enjoy it beyond the laptop, you’ll want a $99 AppleTV or $80 Roku. The quality is fantastic, and it’s easy to use.
      2. Google TV has folks scared. And scared industries innovate.
      3. Unless you don’t mind the horribly slow and counter-intuitive cable boxes, you may still want a TiVo. It’s frustrating to pay TiVo a monthly subscription (around $15)  and still pay your cable provider maybe $5 for a card allowing TiVo to read the signal. But TiVo is the gold-standard for easy interface, and sells refurbished boxes. Even better, there’s one you can rent, which helps you avoid the one-two pain punch of a purchased unit plus subscription. TiVo, like most new Blueray DVDs and retail DVRs, also offers Netflix and other services (like Amazon and Blockbuster, for when Netflix doesn’t stock the latest movies).
      4. Keep your eye on CableTV box alternatives: AppleTV, GoogleTV and all of the new BlueRay DVDs with advanced options. You’ll find there’s far more for your HDTV to enjoy when it’s not plugged into that archaic cable box, but most of us accept these dumb boxes without question. As I learned recently from Cluetrain Manifesto author Doc Sears, the manufacturers of these boxes will attest the fact that the cable providers “dumb them down” for various reasons, not the least of which is preservation of a dying business model.
      5. Finally, if you hate watching television via a hot laptop, you may be a candidate for an iPad. It’s small, it streams Netflix well, and it’s a good bed/couch option if your spouse is watching Nancy Grace and you want to avoid getting a TV lobotomy.
      My wife watches Nancy Grace, and I'd rather hear our pet pig squeal (or watch something smart and funny on my iPad with scream-canceling headphones)

      DIY Guide to Viral Video

      Daisy Whitney. Brought to you by the letter R.

      The law, friends. Take out your #2 pencils and steno pads. You’re about the learn The Nalts/Murphy “Inverse Creation & Consumption” Law. And you can get a free copy of my book, which doubles as a decorative monitor stand.

      The gal pictured above — contorted like a memorable scene from Exorcist — is journalist, speaker and author Daisy Whitney, and she’s giving out 3 copies of my book if you tweet with #beyondviral. I’ll match it by giving away 4 copies of Beyond Viral via Amazon, and give you through Friday, Sept. 24. She wants you to tweet with #beyondviral on why you’d like the book. I’m giving out 4 copies to the funniest tweets with #beyondviral.

      In related viralility news, PC World Magazine recently provided us with the well-kept secrets to producing a viral video. Writer Christopher Null “ferreted out the top themes that make a video go viral.”

      The secret sauce? Singing, dancing, injury, animals, medications, babies, hysteria, parody and remixes. How’d the Amazon/Woot video do on those criteria?

      Lest I get cynical about the methodology that drove Null’s ferreting, I should echo his disclaimer that chance plays a role: “It’s art, luck, and, usually, a lot of simple stupidity.”

      I hope people realize that when I proclaim “viral is dead” (see mini-educational video on beyondviral.com), I’m not saying that we’ve seen our last viral videos. Heavens, no. As long as we humans possess a collective desire to share in an unusual experience, we’ll have videos that “go viral” like eager germs. I’m just saying that marketers, brands and advertisers are better off not chasing the viral dream… and instead do some things that will work by orders of magnitude more exponentially (take that, mathematician editors). That’s the point of my book.

      Wait– that’s the point of you reading the book. The point of me writing the book was to learn you something, sell more copies than Steve Garfield’s Get Seen, artificially impress people, and accelerate my career as a public speaker in the marketing and digital circuits (I had to disclose that because the kids are saying transparency is all the rage in social-media these days).

      Gather around kids. We're going to learn about viral video and bird poop!

      It’s almost time to soak in the latest “This Week in Media” podcast show 201 titled Beyond Viral. But first let me introduce my Nalts/Murphy’s “The Inverse Creation & Consumption” Law. All web content will be consumed inversely to the time you spend creating it. Let’s rank these four in order of time spent creating: 1) The book, 2) The episode of “This Week in Media,” 3) the blog post you’re reading, 4) this video I’m about to do about this blog post. Now let’s review them in order of views/consumption: 1) the video, 2) this blog post, 3) TWIM and 4) the book. See how it works?

      You can find the “Beyond Viral” episode on iTunes or stream it from Pixel Corps. Daisy Whitney and Tim Street co-pilot the weekly podcast (Clayton Morris joins them sometimes), and guests include Lon Seldman (Local Online News TV) and… me.  Gammit my hyperlink fingers hurt. Dogs bark, phones ring, connections drop… entertaining all 7 listeners – eight if you just tuned in. It’s like college radio, only you might learn something — especially from Tim Street. Tim’s that guy you knew in highschool whose humor might distract you from his genius. In this episode he’s dialing in from an app convention you’d not otherwise know about but for him. He says you’re gonna have to start paying more for bandwidth, so put that on your worry shelf.

      If you have the patience, you’ll eventually hear me curse Verizon’s bandwidth problems as the company coincidentally breaks up my voice-over IP connection… little bastards. I’m listening to my creative use of the English language as I type, goodly. Before the show taped yesterweek, I made up an acronym about how to engage via online video: DAISY. What’s it stand for? I don’t remember. But if you have ears and the will, you’ll discover that you can’t show up to a cocktail party, take off your shirt and hand out your business cards. It’s not polite, says Street, who describes seagull YouTubing in the podcast.  You also don’t need to smash rocks to make fire if there are bic lighters hanging around. But hey I respect your space, man. Rocks are fun.

      Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney.

      Speaking of birds, Mockingbirds is Daisy’s new book- it’s fiction and it’s about date rape. Mockingbirds addresses a heavy topic, but Daisy hopes it will encourage kids and parents to discuss the topic… If that stops one date rape, I’m guessing she’ll be happy. Check Mockingbirds out on Amazon. If you don’t buy… it then you’re pro date rape.

      I’m meeting Daisy and Axis of Comedy‘s Paul Kontonis in NYC tomorrow. I wonder if Paul will bring his book to the sall-on. Still time to get to Kinkos, Kontonis. (You may remember these little sweethearts from such films as “Uninvisible Man“). The inverse creation/consumption rule applied here… it took about an hour to make and was seen more than a million times. By contrast, my claymation “Butter Attack” took an entire day, and has been seen 50K times.

      Do you need a final example of The Law? Scary Maze is my most-viewed video and I spent less time making it than you took reading this post. Gum Tree should be my most popular, even though I’ve probably spent 20 hours on any of my 1000 plus video buried under piles of farts. The law, friends.

      AppleTV vs. iTV vs. Roku vs. TiVo vs. WTF?

      The iPin is AppleTV's latest model, and it's smaller than a grain of rice but 32.5% larger than Plankton from Spongebob.

      I’m a long-time advocate of the AppleTV, and intrigued enough by the iTV that I’ve got one on route. So what’s the difference, you ask? First check out Ryan/NewTeeVee’s coverage of AppleTV vs. Roku vs. Boxeee. Liz/NewTeeVee provides more in-depth coverage of the AppleTV/iTV.

      So there’s no iTV. It’s just a new version of AppleTV, where the price of the unit was slashed in third. At $99 you won’t likely find a smoother interface to stream your content… assuming it’s as user-friendly and fast as AppleTV’s earlier model (around $300 with some room for storage).

      We like the lower entry price making it an impulse buy, and the 99-cent rentals of television shows we miss — despite our best attempts via TiVo or the vintage DVR you’re using because you’re the cable company’s little bitch.

      Until now we were buying assloads of missed television shows at twice that price ($1.99), and that’s a bit bloated for a 23-minute show (but certainly fair for an 45-minute show). We’re talking about decent HD, no stupid pre-rolls, an easy interface, and easy purchasing via the credit card Mac has on file. And for 95% of the shows we bought, a rental would be fine.While we’re not happy to see episodes costing $2.99 to own now, we’re hoping that our old AppleTV enjoys a software upgrade that makes it a new one. Otherwise we feel screwed. Except “The Office” and a few other shows, we don’t need to own in a reasonably priced “on demand” word. Wait that’s a drop quote.

      We don’t need to own in a reasonably priced “on demand” word.

      I find it perplexing that the unwashed masses are only beginning to adopt these things. We’ve got a Roku that’s not used often except for occasional Netflix viewing. The TiVo is the primary device because it plays live Verizon Fios without subjecting us to the horrible Verizon machines… TiVo also allows us to “subscribe” to YouTubers like “Obama Girl” and “Rhett & Link” and “The Onion” and “College Humor.”

      Maybe I’ll do a little video demo when I get the new AppleTV because I read Scoble’s tweet that we can use our iPad as a remote to the new AppleTV, something that didn’t seem very easy with the old one.

      Bottom line:

      • AppleTV is different in two ways. Cheaper unit ($99 not $300), and now you can rent all that television you missed or if you’re still not paying for access to premium channels because you’re a cheap bastard like me. Wait that made no sense. I’m probably paying more by buying these shows.
      • More choices (in hardware and vendor/price options) means a more confused marketplace but more attention by the mass market. Only one or two will survive, and you’re going to be getting lots of questions from your parents in the next few years. At least there’s no flashing 12:00 to worry about.
      • I’d predict that these will be mainstream by the fall, but I’m a bit gun shy making that prediction a 5th year in a row. I can’t even remember how I hedged this subject in my book, which is coming out in a week or so.
      • If I talk about my book too often, please tell me. I have seen authors do that, and it’s revolting. If I’m walking around with spinach in my teeth, you’d say something right?
      • How the heck did Netflix secure its space in this evolution? We thought they’d be Blockbustered.
      • It doesn’t bother me that only two people read my blog carefully.
      • Seriously- give me one good reason NOT to have a friggin’ Roku/Netflix/TiVo/AppleTV in your house? Sure it’s a few more devices and subscriptions, but we think this Onion spoof on Blockbusters is a reality now. When’s the last time you rented a DVD?
      • Is anyone else feeling like YouTube has gone WAY to far with the pre-rolls lately?