The Strangest Thing I Saw This Week

Wishtv_2Maybe it was a slow news day...or maybe they offer this "service" during every newscast.  I'm not sure because I prefer our NBC affiliate and generally don't watch much of the CBS one.  Nevertheless, while channel surfing during the 6:00 news hour recently I noticed one of WISH-TV's anchors pointing to one computer screen after another.  I was curious, so I stopped and watched.

What I saw was an anchor pointing out the top stories today that appeared on the channel's website.  One by one, he briefly summarized each of the top 3 or 4 and all of them were on separate large displays behind him.  Not large enough for viewers to read anything other than the headline, of course, but I assume the rest of the screens were filled with the text of the stories.

What purpose could this possibly serve?  First of all, the stories he pointed out were also covered earlier in the newscast.  If I was really interested in them I would have booted up my computer to read more about them earlier in the newscast.

The whole segment had that late 1990's feel of, "hey, we're hip...see?...we've got this thing called a "website"...go check it out!"  I figured all the major networks were past that stage.

Even Scoble's Kid Is a Celebrity

ScobleRobert Scoble, co-author of our popular Naked Conversations, isn't the only celebrity in the family.  There I was, enjoying my breakfast and catching a bit of the Today Show, when all of a sudden Scoble and his son appeared in a segment about the iPhone.  More accurately, Scoble only appeared briefly while his son got most of the attention.

Hey Robert, I see Patrick likes to write, so let us know if he's ever interested in working on a book!

WeShow Looks Cool -- Where's WeBlog?

WeshowBob Pittman, founder of MTV, has a new venture called WeShow which is described in this article.  I've poked around a bit on the site and it looks impressive.  I'd say my online viewing habits are limited to 2-3 videos per week; I generally only watch videos that a friend/relative has suggested and I'm not inclined to search for videos.  Why?  YouTube and Google Video just seem like piles of random stuff to me.  I know they have channels and other ways of sorting things out, but I've never been a video site power user.

Could a site like WeShow change my habits?  Quite possibly.  Then again, there's that difference between the lean-back approach to watching TV and the lean-forward one for online videos.  I'm more likely to surf the TV than I am a video site.  Maybe that's a function of my age, but I don't see my kids spending hours searching for videos on YouTube either.

The thing I like about WeShow is that it's organized by humans.  This excerpt from the article pretty much sums it up:

WeShow because we know: You haven't got the time or the inclination to wade through poor quality and unorganized videos; you want what you want when you want it -- no badly organized and far-flung video chaos; there's no algorithm for funny, sexy, or interesting; and the English speaking world is not the only place where content is created or enjoyed.

So if this site turns out to be a great place to catch all the best highlights from last night's games, why do I need SportsCenter anymore?  Then again, WeShow's sports channels aren't exactly bursting with content just yet and I'm sure the various leagues will be protective of their clips.

Nevertheless, I like what WeShow is doing for the world of video and I wish someone would wake up and do the same for the blogosphere.  Where's the comparable blog directory, filled with channels covering all interests and managed by people, not algorithms?!  (Btw, Technorati is NOT the answer to this question!)

MLB vs. Slingbox

SlingboxI love Major League Baseball and I get a lot of use out of my DVR.  I haven't bought into the Slingbox solution, but I can see where it makes sense, especially for anyone who's on the road a lot.

I use the site several times a week and I really appreciate their free Gameday service that lets me keep an eye on any game currently in progress.  I think MLB is all wrong though when it comes to this complaint about the Sling device.  How is watching last night's game via your Slingbox significantly different from recording the same game on VHS tape, putting it in your suitcase and then watching it on a VCR in your hotel room?  I don't hear anyone complaining about the VCR method of time- and place-shifting, so why the big deal about Sling?

This Wall Street Journal article would have you believe MLB has come to their senses.  Bob Bowman, president and chief executive of MLB Advanced Media is quoted as saying, "the way to win this is with good content and good technology, not with lawyers."  He went on to say that, "the music industry proved that to everybody."  Absolutely, so go focus on making your service an even more irresistible product and leave Sling alone to do what they do best!

Are You Watching This?

TvDoes anyone remember that TV/online hybrid opportunity I was lobbying for last fallI figured ESPN would launch something like this, but like just about any other innovation, it's up to the little guy to figure it out.  The little guy I'm referring to in this case is a website I just discovered called

It's not the complete solution I was looking for, but it's an interesting start.  The free service alerts you to games of interest and lets you join a discussion forum for the game you're watching.  I'd still like to see them add some of the functionality I had in my original post, including more customization with access to live stats and video, especially for replays.  Yes, I know this opens up an enormous can of worms of rights issues, but what a great service it could be!  Also, private forums where it's just you and your friends arguing about the big game...that's a key feature they need to add, and should be able to charge for!

More On Joost

JoostI continue checking in on the Joost beta from time to time.  As I noted earlier, bandwidth and reliability issues still exist, but that's exactly what you'd expect from a beta like this.  After watching a few different sample videos on Joost, however, I'm discovering one critical fact about my online video viewing habits: I lose interest after about 3 minutes.

There are quite a few lengthier videos available on Joost.  Some of the more interesting ones are the National Geographic shows that provide an insider's view of The White House and Air Force One.  They're well-produced and very fascinating...but too long for online viewing.  What is it about my attention span that causes it to shrink when I'm in front of a computer?  I'd probably have no problem watching those same videos in their entirety on my TV, but I can't watch them all the way through on my computer.

I keep thinking, "I wonder if there's a new message in my Gmail in-box...maybe I should check."  Or, "what's the score of the Yankees game...I should click on that tab in Firefox to see."  I guess Jerry Seinfeld was right when he said that "guys don't care what's on TV...they just want to know what else is on TV."  That problems seems to be even worse when applied to online video.

I'm guessing I'm not in the minority on this and despite the convenience of online viewing, the more popular videos will be the shorter ones.

Joost Beta

JoostI signed up for Joost's beta program earlier this year and was excited to get an activation notice from them late last week.  The Joost promise is "The magic of television, with the power of the internet built right in. Joost puts you in control, and TV will never be the same again."  I was intrigued...

After playing around with Joost a bit this weekend I have to say the results were mixed.  It's important to keep in mind that this is just a beta stage, so I'm hoping they'll smoothing things out before a formal launch.  To truly be successful and pull in the mass market, however, Joost will need to work on overall reliability.  There were far too many times when the screen would get grainy or simply freeze.  Again, I know it's just a beta, so my fingers remained crossed.

On the plus side, when the system worked it worked quite well.  There were some points where I felt like I was watching a DVD on my screen; pretty impressive and a much better experience than you'd typically get with something like YouTube, for example.  Also, all my testing was done via wireless, which made the high points even more impressive.

I plan to check back in on Joost from time to time to revisit the service level issues as well as the depth and breadth of content, which also was about where you'd expect it during a beta.

The BBC on YouTube

Bbc2The BBC has long been regarded as an operation that "gets" the web and knows how to successfully leverage it. This article (free registration required) shows how the BBC is quickly figuring out how to work with Google/YouTube so that everyone benefits.  Let's hope ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox figure out how to follow the BBC's lead some day.  Rather than getting litigious or forcing YouTube to pull clips off the site, why not sit down and figure out how to create a win-win model?  And please don't think for a moment that you (ABC/CBS/NBC/Fox) will figure out how to build a better YouTube of your own!

I just hope this deal will turn out to be something more significant than short snippets of content.  I don't think  teasers like that will work; they've got to be complete segments to attract viewers and keep them engaged.

That reminds me of Google Video's original announcement of their relationship with the NHL.  The NHL's original press release made it sound like live games will be available on Google with a "delay".  I was totally into that idea, especially now that the NHL has virtually disappeared from my cable TV options.  As it turns out, it's just highlights and archived games from weeks ago; a quick search of Google Video today turns up zero games from the month of January!  Apparently the NHL's definition of "delay" (weeks) is different than mine (minutes).  My guess is the traffic hasn't lived up to the original hopes, which is too bad, given how tough it must be to rebuild their fan base after that ugly strike.

How Not to Knock Off YouTube

YoutubeAccording to this report, all of the major networks not named ABC are in talks to create a YouTube knockoff.  Good luck.  Sure, thanks to YouTube's renewed efforts to remove copyright infringing content from its site, many of the more popular videos are quickly disappearing.  And yes, that makes YouTube a less desirable destination...unless you happen to be looking for more Mentos/Coke videos.  But when was the last time two or more networks came together and created something interesting and sustainable?  Has it ever happened?

Will the networks ever really even be able to agree on design, terms, etc.?  We're talking about some pretty large egos around the table, so I'm skeptical.  Then there's the fact that ABC isn't even interested.  The article notes that ABC "wants to rely on the strength of its own brands."  In other words, ABC's ego was so large it couldn't even fit in the room with the others.

I truly believe these networks have the content most viewers want to see.  It's just that I can't imagine them collaborating to create a better (and more attractive) solution than YouTube.  Just look at the NFL Network for a great example of how even a small player can suffer from a huge ego.  Your cable company doesn't offer the NFL Network?  I rest my case.

The best solution here is to work with YouTube and figure out how to monetize their existing platform while also dramatically reducing the number of illegally-posted videos.

YouTube: Friend or Foe?

"YouTube Won't Cannibalize TV?"  Ha!  Funny one.  Actually, that's the title of a ZDNet blog post by Donna Bogatin.  She sounds as skeptical as I am about this.  Btw, be sure to read this YouTube article in the latest issue of Wired -- the Ball State sportscaster video cited in the article is highly entertaining.

The latest YouTube debate seems to be whether they can really introduce a more lucrative advertising model to their platform without alienating all their current users.  Although you see banner ads on the site, pre- and post-roll ads are thought to be the only way to truly monetize the traffic.  I disagree.  Why not simply reserve the top 20% or so of the video area itself for some sort of embedded banner advertising?  It would either overlay the video itself or push the screen down a bit.  YouTube could create an algorithm that splices in relevant ads on the fly, just like they do with AdSense today.  Besides the obvious benefit of not forcing people to wait for the "main attraction", it also presents the advertising message along with the content itself, likely leading to a much stronger impression.  It's just like all those crawlers you see on CNN and other cable networks -- we're so used to them that we don't really mind them anymore, but they represent an excellent piece of real estate for online video advertising.

Bogatin's blog post goes on to talk about how YouTube really lends itself to "short bursts of content" rather than full-length shows.  That's true today but I seriously doubt it will be a long-term limitation.  Why couldn't YouTube host 20-, 30-minute (or longer) videos?  My attention span while I'm online does seem to be shorter than when I'm watching TV, but not by much.  We'll definitely see longer videos on YouTube in the future, especially once they get that advertising model in place.

I also expect to see an explosion of custom channels on YouTube.  You'll have channels for every niche imaginable.  That will also lead to more video links being embedded in blogs and other websites.  For example, if there was a good publishing/media channel on YouTube I'd be interested in including a widget-like link to it from my blog.  Again, the advertising model comes into play.  Think of Google's AdSense, but for video.  If you insert a custom channel on your blog, everyone who clicks and watches a video contributes to your income.  I tend to think the click-through rate for that sort of object on the screen would be much, much higher than the click-through rate for the typical AdSense block.

If you're in the TV/video business and you're not working on a strategy to either work with or compete with the Google/YouTube juggernaut, you're kidding yourself.  They're coming and they have all the weapons to be very successful, at your expense.