On the rising problem of “disappearing content” from online video sites

December 11, 2008

Gotta give some props to Greg Sandoval (pictured at left) at CNET News who did a great piece this week on the seemingly random removal of content from Netflix and iTunes. (see TV has license to kill movies at iTunes, Netflix | Digital Media – CNET News).

If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you know that “disappearing content” is par for the course. One of my most read posts in the history of this blog is my piece on Why CBS Pulled The Mentalist From CBS.com. I also briefly covered how Sony Pictures apparently pulled certain of its films from Netflix only when viewed through the Xbox 360 (you can still watch them elsewhere). 

I know it’s easy to start throwing snowballs at these guys for not understanding the power of the online channel. I have a few of those snowballs in my arsenal as well. But I have to confess, I consider these stops and starts a good sign.

What? That’s right, this is a good sign. Because if the corporate heavies had their way, none of these movies or TV shows would be available on Netflix, iTunes, CBS.com, the Xbox 360 (you get the picture) in the first place. The fact that they threw too much up there, then realized they didn’t quite have full permission to do so and have had to retrench is a sign that they’re experimenting. Importantly, the fact that they only pulled a few and didn’t just rip the whole thing down is also a good sign. Remember, danger lurks in darkness of media executives’ souls. They’d rather not do the right thing. But the dynamics of the market are forcing them to. Huzzah for us. 

Let them have their fits and starts, let them figure it out as they go along, as long as they keep moving forward.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to weigh in.

SpiritClips.com — making money off Aunt Patsy

October 3, 2008

We all have that aunt, sister, or cousin — you know, the one who forwards every inspirational story or heartwarming photo of seals kissing she finds online (or that is sent to her by her network of women just like her). Mine is Aunt Patsy. And although we find ourselves deleting many of these emails without reading them, every once in a while, we get suckered into opening the email and either regretting we did or winding up with a tear in our eye.

Right? At least that’s what SpiritClips.com is banking on. This company launched in September with a simple mission: turn these sappy yet moving stories into short films that will warm your heart and hopefully get Aunt Patsy to subscribe to watch (and forward) as many of these videos as she possibly can. SpiritClips has produced a series of videos already and hopes to release a few each month into the deft hands of Aunt Patsy’s everywhere. Newsweek quoted me on the topic just a few weeks back, and I thought it worth amplifying my comments here.

Some valid criticism has been made pointing out that people don’t pay to watch video (unless you’re a laptop warrior buying iTunes videos for the road). Online video is free.

But that’s the whole point with SpiritClips. They don’t need millions of people to pay. They just need a lot of Aunt Patsy’s.

Fewer than a million will do nicely. One sly way SpiritClips hopes to attract more Aunt Patsy’s — they are inviting their audience to submit favorite heartwarming tales for consideration to be produced as high quality short films. A nice twist on user-generated content.

If you click here or on the picture to watch “Sally,” the flagship short film SpiritClips founder Rob Fried invited me to watch when he briefed me on his launch, you’ll see exactly what I mean. (Cool note: Sally is played by Rob Fried’s wife, delightful actress Nancy Travis, whom you may remember as the flighty mother in Three Men and a Baby among many other things.) This content isn’t designed for cool teens or oversexed males as so much of what’s online is. It’s targeted at Aunt Patsy, wherever she may be.