What video on the web shouldn't be: As far as content goes, the bulk of user-produced video may end up like this...
What Video On The Web Should Be: Is Google Video A Model To Follow?
While there's quite a bit of excitement about Google's new video search and ecommerce service it's also taken considerable flak being generated by those claiming to be in the know about what video on the Web should be.
Photo credit: Google downloadable video player
Many of these suggestions call for slickness and more features, but the basics of what make video content work on the Web don't necessarily call for the most flashy and gimmicky solutions.
It's more important to think about where video content is put to use by users and portals that put it to the most use by its audiences. That may mean more than premium video benefiting from online exposure but that's the playing field that premium providers must adjust to sooner rather than later.
One of the more annoying aspects of the so-called "Web 2.0" movement is the preponderance of self-proclaimed experts on the topic who crow about the power of user-generated media but who become rather despondent about anyone's efforts to surface its value but their own. The hissing and dissing surrounding Google's new Video portal seems to be one of the more noisy examples of this as of late. An impatient David Pogue at The New York Times peppered Google with suggestions as to what they should be doing with this first-ever confluence of pay-per-view and free video search online while the Chicago Tribune and numerous Silicon Valley weblogs gave less than sterling reviews. Google's losing its touch, this cranky wisdom goes, throwing up a crude and thin product while others come out with far more polished products - eventually.
How could something so basic have any real appeal?
Online video content is coming into its own in an era in which the once-rudimentary Web has gained a strong sense of its own sophistication, with the burgeoning investments of traditional media producers creating high expectations for the quick development of mature online markets for video. But at its heart the Web is still very much an experiment, a global pastiche of clever ideas held together loosely by a handful of useful technical standards and a fair amount of goodwill.
Google Video is an experiment that harkens back to the Web's very early days, when there was far more interest in content than lots of great places to find it - and therefore a lot of shoulder-rubbing amongst unlikely peers via search engines and other interfaces. It's a paradigm that we're still living with today for much of the premium content that's out there online, highlighted more strongly for video because of the limited range of video content currently in play.
The "right" way to do video online is far from a given, but it's likely to resemble Google Video more than many would like to think.
The inherent appeal of the Web is that it combines raw, cooked and unexpectedly brilliant sources in contexts that make it harder for premium content to look appealing just because it's premium.
In spite of production values and other inherent strengths the power of professional video therefore must be rethought in much the same way that other mainstream media sources have had to be rethought in light of the online explosion of media from individual and institutional sources. A video still for a blockbuster film next to stills from amateur sources in Web search results faces the same branding and value issues that any other premium source faces in text-oriented search results.
Where does premium video go from here?
There will be iPod-like "walled gardens" of video content available via many channels, to be sure, and digital rights management will make it easier for these convenient outlets to sustain themselves from the beginning.
But the crucial issue for video is to adapt to a world of peers in Content Nation who are increasingly glad to get video from amateur producers and distributors as much as from major media outlets.
Here are a few thoughts as to how video producers catering to both consumer and business markets should position themselves in an online world still driven largely by Google searchers:
- They'll come if you build it, but that's not the whole solution.
The Web is of course a far more sophisticated place than when text content first made its way online, yet many new efforts to promote online video seem to be stuck still in that earlier era's "build it and they will come" metaphor as video store outlets begin to surface in many quarters. But video needs to get integrated with a broader array of content types early on and to get so that it doesn't come as an afterthought for people looking for a wide range of content to address a need. Thinking very broadly about competition and channels will be essential to this year's successful video strategies.
- Focus on self-syndication for distribution.
One of the reasons that Google Video is taking it on the chin from so many angles is that outlets such as Blinkx have come out strongly with easy ways for users to browse and search for video content and then to subscribe to specific topics via an RSS feed to their own PCs and mobile units. While many of the Blinkx tools are still pretty balky, the concept of allowing users to build their own syndications of video content is going to be the key to video distribution for many audiences. This concept is going to be largely an afterthought for most video producers right now, but being able to help users define their own sets of video content for syndication will be one of the emerging keys to effective video distribution.
- Get users involved in value-add early on.
While early video distribution efforts such as the famous Star Wars Kid track proved the appeal of user-generated video, they also proved through the dozens of remixes of the video the importance of giving users access to video content to add value. With the push towards DRM, professional video producers are risking locking out the ability for users to annotate and use fair-use snippets to popularize a particular video product. Why spend millions on trailers and traditional distribution when your users can create both word of mouth and highly targeted marketing for you?
Google Video is a modest early entry for the growing online video services marketplace. But it's a stable and growing experiment that promises to encourage users to look at video not just as an interesting novelty but as a universal resource as important as any other kind of online content.
It may be too raw for some pundits' taste but it's the rawness that offers the exciting possibility that it and other similar services are still open to being shaped in new and exciting directions.
But most importantly any search solution alone is going to be just the beginning of video footage's voyage on an increasingly user-defined Web. Google video may be just the thing to get that voyage started in a much bigger way than ever before.
Originally written by John Blossom and entitled:
"Raw Footage: Google Video Surfaces a World of Rich Media from Pros and Users"
24 January 2006