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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Looking for evidence that the online video ad market is tightening

February 4, 2009

Daisy Whitney’s New Media Minute is out this week and in addition to discussing the basics of fair use (a supposed “safe harbor” in the world of YouTube video production that won’t, in fact, turn out to help as many people as hope it might), she opens with a brief discussion of how online video producers are starting to back away from producing online videos on spec. Instead, they want advertisers signed up from the get go — the way that Electric Farm Entertainment (EFE) NBC produced the NBC-distributed non-hit Gemini Division, for example. (Amended to reflect Brent’s comments below,5 Feb).

See Daisy’s video below for more details. This could mean the market is maturing. It could also mean the market is getting tougher and people don’t want to spend in hopes of later payoff. For my part, this is causing me to finally step out and address the big question that has been hanging over online video since the market crashed in October: Is the market for online video advertising tightening? Are advertisers — once eager to spend a 50% premium on a CPM basis to reach ABC.com or Hulu.com audiences — going to pull back from this medium simply because cuts are coming across the board? I say this in an environment where broadcasters expect a bloodbath on the upfronts later this year — the same upfronts where a lot of online video sponsorships are presold (think Sprint + Heroes). 

It’s time to collect the evidence. What are you seeing? What conversations are you party to where people are cutting back on online video? Or are you hearing people get smart about it and realize that an online buy is still less-cluttered and more-targeted than other TV buys? I’d love to hear specifics, anonymous or not. Have at it.

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New Media Minute – online video startups to watch

December 16, 2008

This week’s New Media Minute from Daisy Whitney. Of the ones she singles out, I’m a big fan of Boxee and will be blogging more on them in the coming weeks. I also have my eye on Kaltura. What online video startups do you think we should watch through 2009? Let me know what you think.

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Next up: online video sites start programming

December 10, 2008

Programmers. It’s a word that broadcast and cable networks use to describe themselves. They don’t just deliver video, they “program,” meaning they select the content to fit the audience, and they arrange it in just the right order to satisfy. 

Programming also happens to be what online video sites need next. Sure, letting me search for content is a given, but what about tailoring the content options so they feel like they have been “programmed” just for me?

This is a great intro for a new weekly feature I’ll be adding. Beginning this week, I’ll be embedding the New Media Minute from Daisy Whitney at TVWeek on a regular basis. I like much of what Daisy has to say — she’s often focused on some of the online video production and management topics that I don’t get to, so her content will be a great add. Plus, Daisy gets it, so her point of view is worth sharing.

From her this week: 

What if online video was more like Amazon or Netflix? Imagine video-centric sites like Hulu or NBC.com actively recommending videos just for you…The future of online programming could get a lot more personalized as video sites develop the brains to predict and serve up shows tailored for an individual viewer’s tastes, reports the New Media Minute. For details on what this future might look like, check out this week’s edition. You’ll also hear from YouTube documentarian Chuck Potter about what it takes to be a Web star.

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Announcing the “Everywhere Video” contest – win a Flip Mino camera

October 30, 2008

Quick post just to let you know that today I officially launched the “Everywhere Video” contest. Where have you come across an unexpected video screen? In the back of a taxi? At the gas pump? In the halls of your kid’s middle school? 

One of the key predictions of OmniVideo is that an explosion of screens is about to occur. My former colleague and wonderful idea-man, Chris Charron, used to talk about the “Screening of America,” and we’re now seeing it come to fruition. There are more screens than ever before, being used in traditional ways and some surprising ways.

I’ve posted on a few of these, like a full-motion ATM video screen in NYC that runs ads when not in use for banking. But there are more, and my challenge to is is to find them and tell me about them. Go to the “Everywhere Video” contest page to see how to enter and win the grand prize, a Flip Mino digital video camera.  

I’m very pleased to welcome Jason Kilar, the CEO of Hulu.com and Daisy Whitney of TV Week and the New Media Minute video blog as my co-judges. We’re ready to sort through the best you’ve got. And if you’re concerned someone else already did yours, you can still win an honorable mention prize for having the most valid entries or the most creative submission. Go forth and compete!