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In Web Video, Syndication May Rival Search

Finding Video Differs From Finding an Article

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By any measure, the growth of online video as a new medium has been unprecedented. It has disrupted all traditional media models for content producers, rights holders, broadcasters, Web publishers, advertisers and viewers. On the Video Web, search is a helpful metaphor, but it quickly hits a wall. The Video Web is dictating a fundamental break from the traditional search we've come to know and live by. In the text search era, a user would perform a search, then would drill down, and would continue drilling down on a strictly linear path, until hitting on the desired information.

On the Video Web, it's about discovering, browsing and navigating in decidedly organic, non-linear ways. Much more than text content, video is entertaining, emotional, personal and frequently shared as a social expression or experience with friends and communities. Discovery (for viewers) and distribution (for content providers, Web publishers and advertisers) are simply better metaphors for online video. It's practically a given that we all want the freedom and flexibility to watch video instantly, without being constrained by video players or formats. Publishers of Web sites, social networks, blogs and widgets want a video experience that increases user engagement and improves monetization.

The bigger the Video Web, the more all of this matters. Consider these figures:

—According to ComScore, 11 billion videos were viewed online in April of this year by Web users in the U.S. alone.

—Nearly 135 million Americans—or 71 percent of total Internet users—watched online video that month.

—On average, viewers watched 82 videos in the month, for a total of 3.8 hours.

—By 2013, around 1 billion people worldwide will consume video content delivered over broadband, according to ABI Research.

So a strong case can be made that getting video discovered, distributed and viewed has become mission critical—at least for content providers and publishers. But viewers factor in here as well. Indeed, it is essential that the user experience be unified, to make the Video Web simple, organized and now. Viewers want a universal way to search, discover, watch and interact with video, while offering video content providers new audiences and new revenue opportunities. They don't want fragmentation, atomization—or neglect.

It's almost a cliché that online video is a business in quest of a business model. Developing a system to effectively distribute video content while compensating providers and publishers is something of a Holy Grail. Such a system will enable users to get more of what they want in the way they want it, and it will maximize the exposure and financial potential for video producers, Web publishers and online advertisers. ClipSyndicateand Voxant are already moving along the path to doing precisely this—both with news content.

The challenge for the market remains: how to best aggregate all of this material, and form the most integrated, unified systems to give audiences the ultimate viewing experience, while also enabling the business side of the Video Web to monetize these platforms.

Could it be that, on the Video Web, syndication—providing video content to myriad sites—is the new search? While the syndication model takes on various forms—depending on medium and, to some extent, on money—might the Video Web evolve something new and compelling for its diverse constituencies? Search, after all, is pull, where syndication is push... and has the potential to be piped into your life in an almost organic way.

In practice, this isn't a zero-sum game; both video search and video syndication are indispensable to making the Video Web both useful and a viable business.

According to industry analyst Will Richmond, "the trend toward widespread video syndication to small-to-medium sized Web sites continues to gain momentum." Richmond, who has advanced the concept of the syndicated video economy, suggests syndication can create "video ad inventory where none previously existed. Such is the power of syndication in the frictionless Internet environment. And why smart content providers -- from startups to established TV networks -- are recognizing that increasingly, syndication is where the broadband market is heading."

So, consider:

Syndication Makes Sense for Content Providers and Publishers
With such immense growth in online video, it's more difficult for content creators to hold onto (or even attract) their particular audiences. So it makes branding and financial sense for content producers to syndicate their material -- to have it distributed and seen on many more Web-based publisher properties, while retaining their brand(s) and their creative control. Publishers of Web sites, blogs, social networks and widgets benefit by keeping viewers engaged longer and with greater frequency – and earn revenue to boot.

Syndication Makes Sense for Advertisers
For advertisers, syndication combines simplicity with reach. Analysts predict that online video advertising will reach $4.3 billion by 2011. For advertisers, syndication may be the best way to get the numbers up while still enabling the kind of precise targeting that they've come to expect online.

Syndication Simplifies Life for Video Web Viewers
It's crucial to keep lock on to the technologies, tools and products that will most improve the user's viewing experience. Ultimately, the viewer needs to be able to cut through the fragmentation of the Video Web and have the most unified viewing experience possible -- by being able to watch and share video from anywhere on the Web.

Syndication Lives in Harmony with the Social Web
Video viewers want to interact and discover content; as noted, it's different than the old-school model for searching for text material. This audience wants browsing options, it wants to engage with the material, and it loves sharing video. According to the Online Publishers Association, 43 percent of Internet users discover and search video by clinking links in emails from friends and family. ClipBlast!'s own survey likewise found that "discovery" is the primary means viewers get to video online.

If we're searching for something other than search, perhaps we've already found it.

Gary Baker is founder and CEO of ClipBlast! (www.clipblast.com) in Los Angeles. Baker has focused his 20-year career at the intersection of television, interactive media, and the Internet. He previously served as a management consultant for IBM Interactive Media, leading Internet strategy, live webcasts and web application development for clients including Hertz, Toyota, the Grammys, PGA Tour, and CompUSA. Independently, he consulted and provided strategic direction to CinemaNow, Inc., the first website to offer video-on-demand. He also has directed and produced children's television programs, music video and sports programming for the Walt Disney Company, Dick Clark Productions, and ABC.