An Unevenly Distributed Future: MITX Internet Video Panel
Last night I went to a great MITX panel discussion at MIT on Internet video. Scott Kirsner moderated a great and diverse group representing the media, CDNs, VC, and agency worlds. Scott organized the discussion into three buckets: how are users interactions with web video changing; how is the production side of the business evolving to enable new things; and, the "monetization" of all this. Here are my notes, and a few ideas:
1. Yahoo! buys Maven Networks. What up? Adam Berrey from Brightcove: "It's a head scratcher. Doesn't make sense for Yahoo! to be getting into being a white-label video platform provider. Maybe, given all the ad network acquisitions, Yahoo! has in mind using them as the basis for some sort of video ad serving platform?" Mike Hirshland (VCMike) -- "The match is a bit strange but folks in this category have been getting acquired recently, so it's not unusual in that sense" (or words to that effect).
2. Digitas' Dean Whitney notes limited quality has held video back on the web, keeping it to short clips. Better content delivery will make longer, more complex video a better experience online. Here's Dean's post on how BitGravity is making HD video over the web happen. As technologies like this make long-form, immersive, "classic-TV" type content watchable online, TV ad dollars whispering brand awareness into our subconscious minds will follow.
3. Eran Lobel (boston.tv) noted popular Boston content categories: music videos, bands, sports, comedy.
4. Denise DiIanni from WGBH pointed to more and more people watching their broadcast content online. Especially great reaction to "Frontline" on the web. Also, NOVA vodcasts are very popular. Denise said later that in her experience, good storytelling trumps good production values virtually every time.
5. Adam and Scott talked about how YouTube and TMZ-style short form clips allow users to create their own interactively serendipitous DIY narrative, as an alternative to the classic long-form DIFM model. Scott mentioned his 10 second rule: you must provide a "hook" and some evidence of substance to follow in that span if you want any hope of keeping a user, let alone going viral.
6.Adam pointed us to Visible Measures, a video analytics firm here in Boston that just raised $14M. This will be big, since Nielsen made lots of money just tracking the TV equivalent of our Platonic shadows.
7. Ad formats -- expect pre/ post roll to die in short format video, in favor of overlay formats which by definition are permission-based. Mike goes further -- we won't see pre-roll at all in two years.
8. Things limiting big TV ad dollars from flowing to internet video: lack of an "AdSense for video" (though guys like Waikit Lau at ScanScout are working on that); limited reach/ buy size of most videos; and lack of ad inventory to support creative rotation to keep response rates up and viewer ad fatigue down. On this point, I wonder if the agency world will evolve "micro-agency networks" of independent producers doing really short-form ads, using specialized content authoring and management systems, and getting royalties out of a PPC stream from an ad network?
9. William Gibson moment ("The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet") of the night was Steve Garfield showing us how he streams live video from his Nokia N95 V3 onto his blog using the QIK ("Quick") service currently in beta. Better yet, when he starts a stream, he's set up his phone to automatically send out a Twitter post so folks with video-capable phones can see his stream. Even more better yet (as I understood it), the QIK video player in the browser integrates a chat client. So Steve starts streaming last night's panel, and Fred, one of his Twitter feed subscribers who happened to be in Paris, starts chatting with Steve in real time during Steve's stream of our session, with Fred's comments showing up as an overlay on the display of Steve's N95. That was a mindbender. So many possibilities...
10. And for multi-channel integration of video ads, Dean pointed us to http://mytalkingstain.com/ where you can upload a photo to make your own version of the Tide talking stain ad that ran during the Super Bowl.
So with all this going on, it's only a question of time before the dam bursts and the $60 billion in US TV ad money floods online to add to the billion or so there now in web video. Here's a really good podcast of a recent iMedia presentation by Doug Weaver on the topic.