In the late 70s and early 80s the software industry became the first to deal with a new problem in product sales—piracy. Software developers scrambled to protect their intellectual property from rampant, unauthorized redistribution. Out of the chaos, the open source movement emerged. The idea being if you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em. They began to reexamine how to capitalize on their hard work, which gave rise to a variety of interesting business models. Some tried shareware. Some offered their software as a loss-leader to support contracts. And the exploration continues today.
The next to feel the sting of piracy was the music industry. In the late 90s Napster scared the hell out of the RIAA. Their precious business model of selling records was rendered obsolete by an 18 year-old college dropout. The music industry is still reeling from the MP3 file sharing revolution and have yet to figure out how they are going to stop loosing millions.
Now, the video distribution channels are next. They used to be safe because bandwidth hasn’t been great enough to make the prospect of sharing movies and T.V. shows a viable choice. However, it turns out that ABC, NBC, CBS, and the hundreds of other channels didn’t anticipate amatuer video as competition. People are spending more and more time watching vlogs and viral videos. At least this industry is trying to face the reality of digital content by offering select television shows for download through iTunes. If they have any hope of surviving the inevitable transformation that first hit software and then music, they’ll need to know a few things.
Digital content will be free
Any and all attempts to fight this will simply lead to your own demise. You’ll have to figure out other ways to make money. Advertising is a smart place to look, although you’ll need to follow the Internet’s lead and be contextual.
The new video channels
It used to be that there were only 2 screens to get your video fix, the big screen (theaters) and the little screen (T.V.). Both screens were largely controlled by organizations that had the money it took to effectively distrubute their content on them. As a result, there were only a few players on the block. Even with the expansion of cable T.V. and satellite, the number of channels available were in the hundreds. Well, there’s a third screen in town and it will kill T.V. It will kill T.V. because on the Web, T.V. is just one type of content, namely video. Why buy a T.V. when you can just as easily have the T.V. experience without spending the extra dough on a low resolution dumb appliance. It’s the same reason the iPod will lose to cell phones and not other MP3 players. Check out Democracy and try the new T.V. yourself. Democracy is a combination video player and feed reader. Feeds are the new channels. If the major T.V. networks hope to last into the future, they’ll need to start offering their content as feeds. But, it’s not quite that simple. Because there is virtually no cost associated with it, now anyone can make a channel. For a long time, channels have been largely differentiated by the content they stream on them, however, channels in the future will be taste based. A program that appears on one channel will most definately appear on thousands more. Channels will have a great deal more overlap than anything we’re currently seeing on T.V. Why? Because with millions upon millions of videos to view, we need to find trusted sources of quality programming in order to escape the information overload.
Video sharing communities
Video sharing communities can be both intentional and loosely organized. Some intentionally organized video sharing communities include YouTube, DailyMotion, Blip.tv, and Grouper. MySpace also offers video, and because they are an online community, they are a defacto video sharing community. Even Google has entered the video hosting space.
Myspace is also an example of a loosely organized video sharing community because people post videos on their profiles, which in essence shares the content, but it’s not really a community based around doing so. In addition to social networking sites where people share video, there are also group validation sites based on videos too, such as VideoBomb where users vote for the videos they like by “bombing” them. Some video sharing communities are organized completely outside of a social networking webspace, such as torrents.
Both channels and programming are going to need to promotion. Many of the meatspace promotional techniques are going to continue having a place, but there will be more and more online techniques that will need to be employed for successful programs and channels. Here’s a few tips:
- Create a website and prominently display the link to your feed. Then promote your website like normal.
- Optimize it for search engines, which you can do by typing out all of the spoken and text content of the video. Search engines love text.
- Submit your site to a grip of quality directories Yahoo!, DMOZ, Best of the Web, etc.
- Submit your feed to feed directories
- Whore it out through MySpace and the other online communities
Video programs have a much easier task. It doesn’t matter what channel a program is distributed on, which opens programs to viral and/or self distribution. Here’s a list of helpful promotion techniques:
- Seed your best video in a torrent, watermark the video with a site that has more videos. Torrents are a great place to introduce video content into the viral space.
- Post your video on YouTube, MySpace, or some other video hosting site and use their code snippets to embed your video all over the Web. This is particularly useful for blogs and comments in social networking sites.
- Submit your videos to popular video feeds
- Post your videos on a blog, which will get them into the blogosphere, search engines, and blog indexing sites (such as Technorati)
- Submit your video to content portals such as eBaum’s World, Something Awful, Fark, Boing Boing
This is a very exciting time for video. People will be consuming video content in a variety formats and in surprising new places. There is a great deal of opportunity to join in the channel marketshare that has long been dominated by media conglomerates. People are also hungry for amatuer video like no time previously in history. Get out there and grab your piece of the video distribution space while it’s still open season!