See You at Usertainment Watch

August 18, 2007

For the time being, I’m consolidating User-Generated Nation with my original blog, Usertainment Watch.

You’re invited to pay a visit!


Making Sense of Video Advertising “Anarchy”

June 10, 2007

In ancient video history (pre-2006, before “video” displaced “television” as the default term), advertising meant buying time for placing television commercials and, occasionally, infomercials. The only variables were the length of the spot, and where and when they were placed.

Then YouTube came along and dumped all the apples out of the cart. Today, we have anarchy and uncertainty. Or maybe we should consider the expanding options to be more like a smorgasbord of new opportunities. If so, here are some of marketers’ choices:

Sponsored videos, produced for a fee by semi-professional usertainers, and spread via their fan bases.

Video usertising contests, such as those mounted by Doritos and others that were hits at February’s Super Bowl. 

Contextual, Google-style text ads displayed next to videos (just beginning to emerge, but certain to be HUGE).

Product placements — a specific form of sponsored videos.

Subversive campaigns — deliberate “viral mysteries,” inspired by the success of lonelygirl15.

How-to videos — a form of sponsored videos or product placements.

Emerging mobile formats, which presumably will include associating videos with Twitter postings.

Widgetized video — and it’s worth mentioning that associating such videos with abbreviated text ads looks like a good bet.

Proliferation of web-only video networks — ranging from content-development plays such as Michael Eisner’s Vuguru, to a host of well-financed YouTube clones and variations (such as Joost) waiting in the wings.

Online initiatives undertaken by traditional television networks and channels.

Re-invention of POTS (plain-old television service) as TV and TV advertising adapt to online innovations.

Half a dozen other options I haven’t thought of.

Did I say smorgasbord?

BusinessWeek Proposal: Video’s Limits, or Infancy?

June 2, 2007

bw_255×65.gifThis week’s reports that BusinessWeek is considering launching its own YouTube-style video channel points to an interesting question: Does such an initiative strain the limits of where user-generated video can go, or does it instead just scratch the surface?

Some aspects of the proposed BusinessWeek program struck me as perhaps pushing the limit. A user-generated business-ideas contest, on a mainstream business website? For that matter, is a buttoned-down brand like BusinessWeek suitable to UGC video at all, given that the form thus far tends to be dominated largely by humor and assorted oddities? And then there’s the matter of unruly commenters and irreverant response videos. Oh, and what about the tendency of users to hijack a UGC site (as Digg recently learned) if it shows the least tendency to attempt to “control” their behavior?   

Granted, the emergence of Internet video as a platform opens huge opportunities for BusinessWeek and other established business-media outlets. The question is, would they be better off taking a more conventional approach — or if unconventional, something (I have no idea what) that doesn’t even remotely resemble YouTube?

If nothing else, we’re full-bore into experimentation. Who knows, this proposed initiative by BusinessWeek may soon end up looking tame.

A “Social OS?” Don’t Bet Against It

May 28, 2007

logo_facebook-cmyk-7inch.jpgInternet and VC circles have begun to buzz recently about the possibility of social-networking sites evolving into “social operating systems” or “personal operating systems” — as central to people’s social and personal lives as Windows is to a computer.

A particularly influential voice promoting this notion could be heard this past week, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg evoked it at a major Facebook event in San Francisco.

Far-fetched? Not really. In fact, MySpace and Facebook already are approaching that level of functionality for many of their members, especially those who are 25 and under. Just ask a few teenagers and young adults how they manage their social lives, and the pervasive role of MySpace and Facebook (usually one or the other) becomes immediately clear.

Some key elements, to be sure, remain to be adequately integrated. Mobility is key, given younger consumers’ heavy phone, text-messaging and mobile-entertainment usage, and experimentation with GPS-enabled social apps. Clearly, any fully functional personal OS must work as well (and somewhat differently) on the go as it does on a desktop or laptop.

Meanwhile, coming at the personal-OS opportunity from a somewhat different angle than MySpace and Facebook are virtual worlds such as Second Life.

So — a social OS? The term itself is a bit too geeky to be adopted by the masses — but the concept behind it is logical enough and would seem likely to spawn a whole new generation of interesting startups.

Is Vidmetrix Your Next Key Metrics Source?

May 23, 2007

Marketers definitely should check out Vidmeter’s new video analytics service, Vidmetrix.

Vidmeter/Vidmetrix intends to be a “go-to” source for marketing metrics on Internet video, and it’s showing strong progress toward achieving that goal. Though he launched Vidmeter just a few months ago, founder Bri Holt brings relevant expertise to the task and he and his team are building it out quickly.

Vidmetrix, Vidmeter’s new service, “is designed for marketing firms to track their online video campaigns, see how much exposure they’re getting, and see consumer feedback,” Holt says.

That means tracking views and comments across 44 (“and counting”) video sites, and generating a rich suite of reports and tracking. Vidmetrix also enables tracking videos hosted at a business’s own site, and for integrating that data with activity from distributed channels (YouTube, etc.).

Needless to say, tracking and metrics that can bring visibility to the rather chaotic world of online video is invaluable to marketers. If you haven’t done so yet, check out Vidmetrix.

How to Do Product Placements Right

May 22, 2007

With video product placements at YouTube and other sites getting more attention in the media, including a recent story in the Los Angeles Times, marketers should be examining their practices.

The issue is not whether product placements make sense — they do (see previous post). What marketers need to focus on is how to do them right, so they’re effective.

The first emphasis, which should be obvious, must be on entertainment value. Remember, videos distributed primarily through YouTube and other websites rely almost entirely on popularity in order to gain viewers. This is completely different from buying your way in front of an audience, as with conventional television advertising. A video that lacks strong entertainment value simply won’t get played, won’t get positive ratings, and won’t pick up comments — whether it’s sponsored or not.

Certainly, “over-the-top” product-placement videos can succeed. So can poking fun at your own brand or your own mainstream advertising campaigns (within limits, of course). Blatantly subversive approaches, such as the initial “mystery” that surrounded lonelygirl15, also can work.

The products themselves can be placed in videos, promoted with a post-roll citation, or both. With subversive campaigns, the rules are entirely different and both media interest and the “reveal” must be carefully orchestrated.

Either way, keep the time element in mind. The pacing and plotting of a video clip that runs two or three minutes are more like a mini television show or movie than a commercial.

Product-Placement “Controversy” Overblown

May 20, 2007

Marketers should not let recent media reports about a video product-placement “sellout” scare them off from sponsoring videos or dropping products in.

The concerns, first raised in the the Los Angeles Times a few days ago and likely to spread further (I received a call from a reporter in Virginia on the issue after the Times story appeared), are overblown.

YouTube has been covered in the media so exhaustively that reporters are searching for new and juicy angles. I’m sorry, but seeking controversy in product placements isn’t going to win any Pulitzers. The concerns could continue to circulate in the media for awhile, but they’re essentially meaningless.

Far more important for marketers is to execute product placements and sponsored videos correctly, in order to get optimum bang for your advertising dollar.