Everyone’s a video producer now, are you?

February 19, 2009

I’m spending a few days at the Omniture Summit in Salt Lake City. Yesterday I was invited to speak on the topic of (what else?) video,  along with Jeff Jordan from Omniture and Carmen Sutter of Warner Music. It was somewhat of a follow-up to an Omniture Webinar Jeff and I did in December.

It was a great session — Carmen shared some fabulous details about how they use video to keep fans connected to Warner Music artists. (Two fun facts worth sharing: 1) Fan-submitted videos represent a significant number of the videos on the artists’ sites, but account for only 5% of views, as Carmen explained it: “Fans came to see the bands, not each other.”; 2) People who use the audio player on the site rarely ever also watch videos, she attributed it to an age thing, the bands that attract young audiences have fans that want to watch stuff, the bands with more aged followers have fans that have yet to catch on to video but understand streaming audio.)

In the Q&A someone raised the very valid point that everyone’s talking about how video is the next big thing, but nobody’s talking about how hard and expensive it is to produce decent-quality video.

That’s a question I’m uniquely positioned to answer because I paid my way through my (first) grad school by being a video production guy and later video editor at a traditional analog video edit suite. I’ll skip the nerdy details, but I know a lot about how hard it is to shoot good video on the cheap. 

I answered the question by saying that it’s true that good video is costly to produce. However, there is a subtle way to at least minimize cost and that is by identifying what “personality” you want your videos to convey. Once you have a style and a personality that your videos will adhere to, it removes a lot of the uncertainty in the production process. Reduced uncertainty=more manageable costs. The Blendtec guy is probably the easiest example to cite: once he decided that his approach was the mock-serious lab coat in front of a locked-down camera, that settled all the production decisions from there forward. (Never mind that it costs him a few hundred dollars to blend an iPhone.)

The second point to come out of that discussion was that by having a distinct personality, you train your viewers to expect that from you and you build the likelihood that — for those who like the personality you conveyed — they’ll want to return to see more. This, by the way, is exactly what major Hollywood producers and directors do. You’ve seen one J.J. Abrams piece, you’ve seen them all (or, in my case, you’ll want to see them all).

Anyway, it’s great timing to be talking about who has what it takes to become a video producer because Daisy Whitney at TV Week did her New Media Minute about this very topic, showcasing a variety of Internet video projects that try to do exactly this. Watch and learn — thanks for sharing, Daisy!

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Leaving Las Vegas: Final notes from CES

January 9, 2009

I’m one of the lucky souls who is not staying for the last day and a half of CES. Farewell, ye who will endure to the end of the convention. I’ve posted several entries in response to specific announcements, but as I sit at the airport and enjoy the airport’s free WiFi (yes, free! Viva Las Vegas! Next time you drop a coin in the airport slot machines, know that I appreciate your subsidy), I find myself summing up the experience with a few thoughts:

1. CES was a shadow of its former self. There were empty spots on the show floor, there were very few lines waiting for cabs, buses, even bathrooms. CES didn’t even feel as big as NAB, which might be a slap in the face, depending on who you are. There weren’t even lines for the massage chairs. No, I did not try one. I was too worried someone would take a picture of me looking like this:

massage-chairs

2. The dominant theme was the economy. Everything was about value. Yes, TVs were even thinner, they were wireless, they had Internet connectivity, but the real message was how cheap they were going to be. One TV maker didn’t even launch a line they had intended to launch, preferring instead to focus on the value TVs they already have in the market. I guess 30″ is the new 40″. Perhaps the one outsized booth space  that didn’t get the message we were in a recession was Samsung’s. See the adjacent video to get some sense, but the video doesn’t do the scale of the booth justice.

3. Some of the most important products at CES aren’t even products. There are two industry groups who had significant presence at CES, though not on the showfloor. They are the DLNA and the DECE. DLNA is the certification body that makes sure TVs, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, mobile phones, PCs, and printers will all be able to speak to each other, share content, and create a digital home that has no boundaries. DLNA has mostly been a great idea until this CES where they showed up with a list of hundreds of devices that are now DLNA certified. I got to walk through an example of picking up a Nokia phone; using it to browse the music, video, and photos on a media server across the room; then playing a video on a DLNA TV. It works, folks. The only problem is that other than the content you have ripped from your DVDs (illegally), the likelihood that you’ll have much to watch across the network is slim. That’s where DECE comes in. This group just formed last Fall and brings hardware makers, retailers, and content producers together to create a standard for digital media that would allow you to buy something on any device and automatically receive rights to watch it on any other device you own. Unlike most industry-led schemes for media distribution, this one actually makes consumer sense. These are two initiatives that I’m rooting for.

4. There were a few fun surprises. One of my favorite surprises was the disappearing display that is hidden inside a mirror. See the video below to see it (and me in the mirror, unfortunately). Nice touch, probably not a mainstream device, however.

micro-projectorsThe other thing I saw worth noting was this array of small “micro-projectors” which is a new category that we’re likely to see grow over time. These devices (which they wouldn’t let me take pictures of in action, but here’s the display case of devices turned off) project TV-sized images onto walls from unbelievably small gadgets. This company, Butterfly Technologies, has made a cell phone that can project images. Certainly something business people might find interesting. But I’m curious to see what happens in a few years when these are as cheap to include in devices as digital cameras are. Do we all have projectors embedded into any of our devices so we can easily show the pictures of our trip to CES with our friends?

5. Vegas is still surreal. I have a few things on my list here. First, were the large ads in the airport or atop the cabs promoting a place called The Gun Store. The purpose of this store, other than to sell guns, is to let you pay to shoot guns. Machine guns, hand guns, whatever floats your boat. Or sinks it. Second, the large ad in the airport that showed a single glass of water and a lengthy explanation of why waiters in restaurants might not provide water automatically. Because the good people of Vegas are trying to conserve water. After all, they live in a desert. Of course, all it takes is a walk down the strip or through a casino or even a ride past the golf course behind the strip to see the fountains too numerous to count. I’m sure glad they’re saving water by denying me a glass of it. Third, I had the misfortune of walking down the Venetian halls when the adult film industry convention was closing down for the night. It was relatively terrifying to see the kinds of people coming out of that convention. This is a family show, so I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that all the innocent bystanders like myself were turning to each other to spontaneously remark, “Only in Vegas.”


LG adds Netflix to TVs in a small step with big implications

January 5, 2009

Surely hoping to jump ahead of the CES announcement blizzard that is about to strike later this week, LG and Netflix have announced that LG is releasing the first TV sets that stream Netflix titles directly to the TV, without the help of a separate box (as is the case with the myriad solutions we have already discussed on OmniVideo like Roku, Xbox 360, and even LG Blu-ray players). See Brad Stone’s piece at the New York Times for some more reporterly detail. 

This is a big deal. LG wants to do this because it needs to keep TV prices from the gutter; giving people content that they already have access to — but on the more pleasing screen known as the TV — is a great way to keep prices up.

Netflix obviously wants to do this because in its plans for world domination, offering a service that can serve you across channels (with DVDs and online streams) is a great way to provide the best of the analog and the digital worlds. Even though our own research has shown that the recession is convincing nonsubscribers that they don’t need Netflix, moves like this one certainly reassure existing subscribers that they’re getting their money’s worth.

I make a big deal out of this because of the model change that it represents for both the manufacturers and the content providers. It circumvents cable, it puts CE makers in a new role of content acquirers, and it signals a new way of looking at devices: as conduits through which many services can be delivered. I call this the “many devices, many services” model. With that paradigm in place, expect rapid innovation in products and services. Even in a recession, perhaps especially so.

However, a note of context is in order. A big question I’m hoping to answer with surveys this year is how many people will own Net-connected TVs by the end of the year. It can’t be many. If you imagine that 10% – 12% of US households buy a TV each year, it’s hard to believe that even 10% of them (1% of total) will be Internet-connected. Mostly because there aren’t that many Net-connected TVs on the market. A few from LG, Samsung, HP, Sony, with more likely to be announced this week at CES. And they haven’t sold well to date because there wasn’t much to offer through them other than walled content gardens with a smattering of swimsuit videos and re-runs of Facts of Life

Which is why the next big thing I’m waiting to hear at CES (or if not then at NAB) is a Hulu-connected TV. I’ll let you know when it happens.


Blockbuster’s Jim Keyes promises set top box

November 7, 2008

If you’re a faithful reader of this blog you know that just last week in Dallas I had Jim Keyes, CEO of Blockbuster on stage at our Forrester consumer forum. He gave a great speech with amazing detail. But one of the things he was clear on was this: Blockbuster wasn’t going to do a set top box this year. I pressed him on this in Q&A and he said that consumers weren’t ready for it — it was a case of “getting ahead of our headlights” to quote his exact colorful speech.

It appears that set top box question has been reopened. In a conference call with Wall St yesterday, Keyes said that a set top box would indeed be out by year-end.

Either Jim was playing hard to get last week on stage, or, rather, Blockbuster has seen the aggressive announcements from Netflix in the past two weeks and concluded that it cannot afford to let Netflix get too far ahead in this race.

If that’s his thinking, then I agree. We actually urged this kind of thinking back in our July report on the future of the set-top box. We said then that most of these boxes were doomed, but that they were important to invest in anyway. We wrote:

Even following our suggestions, the best that the most successful of these players will do in the short run is to sell 2 million boxes. Our money is on the Netflix/Roku box, as it has the fewest barriers to adoption and sufficient functionality to appeal to consumers’ desires — especially if it rapidly evolves to include more content and additional services. Without modifications to create more appeal and overcome major barriers, we expect the others will all fight to surpass a million — and most will do far worse. For those that do eclipse a million, is it enough to get the foothold they’re shooting for? Yes. But their mistake is in thinking that the foothold that matters is the device’s penetration. It’s not. It’s actually the penetration of the video service that the device features, as the ideal scenario for future take-up is one in which a viewer has a content subscription that is accessible from multiple devices.
source: Competitive Product Ranking: Picking a Winning Set-Top Box, 17 July 2008. 

That’s the key. It’s getting the Blockbuster service into people’s homes, much the way Netflix is doing with its multitude of announcements. So even if Jim didn’t tell us the whole truth, we’ll still approve of where he’s headed. Of course, we have no details on how he’ll do it. If he follows through on the subscription model he hinted at on stage, that will be intriguing. Stay tuned.


Marc Sands of the Guardian on the future of the media

November 7, 2008

Marc Sands, Director of Marketing at the Guardian newspaper company in the UK spoke at our Forrester Research Consumer Marketing Forum in London on the 7th of November. He came to speak about how media companies have had to give up control of the media — the sources of media content, the analysis of the content they deliver, and the online communities that feed off them.

I introduced myself before Marc’s speech and mentioned that I would be posting a blog entry. In classic British modesty, he appeared uncomfortable with the attention. I misinterpreted this as concern about my blog and asked if he was okay with being blogged live. He responded very quickly and sincerely:

That’s the whole point, isn’t it? We media companies have to give up control over the content. So whether I like it or not doesn’t matter.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Here’s what else I learned from Sands:

  1. The newspaper isn’t dead, it’s just changing how it adds value. He’s not pretending that newspapers aren’t challenged and the question of where the money will come from looms very large in Sands’s view, but he showed some data about how newspapers are becoming more valuable as sources of analysis rather than daily information. See the clip below for his comments and data. His point isn’t just about newspapers. Rather, he’s emphasizing that all media have to find how they either pursue a niche, or use a multimedia strategy to meet their audience’s different needs. 
     
  2. One potential side effect of media digitization is the rise of people who don’t consume news at all. Sands reported data on consumers who don’t engage the news at all. He mentioned that as many a tenth (didn’t catch the actual number, sorry) of Americans don’t consume news at all in a typical week. He wondered aloud whether they knew yet that their compatriots had elected a black president.
  3. The people inclined to say “yes” are the ones who will shape the future. This was a particularly powerful point, especially coming from somone at a newspaper which Sands admits tends due to its political leanings to say “yes” to just about anything (including Ricky Gervais’s hilarious podcast). He said that people who are by nature inclined to say yes to new things will do the most valuable experimentation. As a result, they will end up having a disproportionate impact on the future (my words, his implication). To that I say: “Yes.”
  4. The media have the luxury of having short development cycles. Media companies can launch new things, new stories, new ideas, quickly. They can also make mistakes quickly (he mentioned the role of citizen journalism to correct news organizations when they fail, such as in the case of Dan Rather vs. George Bush). But, responding to the speech before him from BMW in which the company spoke of 5-7 year development cycles, he added, “at least when we make a mistake, it doesn’t get built in to the body of a car. We can bury our mistakes more quickly and move on.” 

Web stream of my speech at the Forrester Consumer Forum

October 28, 2008

Imagine my surprise to find out that one of the bloggers on the front row of the Forrester Forum streamed my keynote speech live. You can see the archive of the stream here. It begins with Carrie Johnson’s kickoff to the forum and then at about minute 11, she introduces my keynote. It’s not the best quality image or audio, but if you’re really interested in the speech, here it is in its glory.

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What is a Convenience Quotient?

October 28, 2008

A Convenience Quotient (CQ) is something we debuted today at our Forrester Consumer Forum in Dallas. It’s a new metric we have devised to summarize how convenient your product/service/channel is to consumers. In concept it’s straightforward:

Convenience = Benefits – Barriers

Basically, the convenience your product offers is a function of the benefits you offer minus the barriers that stand in your consumers’ way. If you offer tremendous benefits, people will overcome great barriers to get at them. If you offer modest benefits, even the slightest barrier will stand in your way. An example I offered today in my speech is depicted below in the slide (which you can click on to see a bigger version of).

 

A slide from my presentation at the Forrester Consumer Forum

A slide from my presentation at the Forrester Consumer Forum

In this example, you see the way the CQ works. You start from 0, you add up the benefits you provide (that’s the tricky part, obviously, and we’ve developed an approach to doing this which will show up in our research) on a scale from 0 to 1. Then you subtract the barriers that stand in your way. If you end up with a positive score, it means you have more benefits than barriers whereas if you end up with a negative score, well you know that negative scores are never good.

This example shows how CQs might work in the case of a banking website when a customer needs help with a serious issue (lost ATM card, missing deposit, etc.). I ran through sample scores that different alternatives might have: FAQ = 0 (few benefits, few barriers, cancel out); email = -.2 (many barriers, uncertain benefit); 800 number = .05 (some barriers, decent benefits); online chat help = .2 (many benefits, few barriers when done right).

It’s an important concept that we’ll be developing more fully in our research over the next year and I’m already getting smart questions and comments from forum attendees about it, so look for me to talk about it more on this blog as it relates to video entertainment.