Category Archives: Social Networking

Why Google Should Buy YouTube

Google and  YouTube LogosThere’s been a lot of speculation lately about a possible Google buyout of Internet video website YouTube for US$1.6B. A lot has been said about the potential value (or lack thereof) of YouTube and its future success (or demise).

But why, exactly, would Google drop one-and-a-half billion dollars on YouTube? After all, Google already operates a similar service, Google Video, complete with money-making functions such as advertising and pay-per-view/download.

What value can YouTube bring to Google?

The first obvious answer is market share. According to some estimates, YouTube serves up 60% of the online video market… more than 100 million videos per day. But you’d think with $1.6B Google can boost their own market share (estimated at 10%).

Content would be the other possible answer, but I don’t think YouTube’s collection of user generated content is worth that much, even if you manage to place advertising on them.

Some people have gone as far as suggesting Google simply needs to invest some of their war chest money and somehow came upon YouTube as an acquisition target. If that’s the case, then let me suggest Google should buy lottery tickets instead.

The rest of the theories revolve around Google buying a YouTube to eliminate competition. While a valid point, Google hasn’t normally resorted to gobbling up competitors, usually preferring to buy companies offering services that complement rather than compete with Google.

So, what does Google see in YouTube?

I like to think Google is a smart company with big plans, so I analyze them with this in mind. Think Big. Think Smart.

Google wants to dominate online video distribution and with it, online video ratings. Without ratings you can’t really sell highly-profitable advertising. And without a majority of distribution market share, you can’t really accurately measure ratings.

Google is allegedly interested in competing with Nielsen in the ratings market and in collaborating with Apple on their upcoming iTV product. I’ve written previously about Google’s potential as a Universal Personal Video Recorder (Tivo on steroids). And just recently Google held a think tank with the top US media executives (YouTube was also present). Something’s definitely cooking.

YouTube offers a quick ticket to this online media distribution empire, because YouTube has the market share but, more importantly, the data.

YouTube has over a year of extensive viewership data, detailing how / where / when and what people like to watch. Make no mistake, this is VERY valuable data. In a country with an estimated 110 million television households, YouTube’s 100 million videos served daily provide a treasure trove of data, ready to be mined, analyzed and monetized.

Buying YouTube would give Google a majority share of the Internet video market, along with the important rating’s data to monetize these videos via Google Ads.

More importantly, owning a majority share of the video market would allow Google to collect and commercialize CREDIBLE ratings data, which it could then share with the major networks and content owners, distribute their videos online, and get a cut of the ad revenue.

The Copyright Issue

A favorite argument of late is that as soon as a big player buys YouTube, said player would be sued into oblivion by copyright holders. While that may hold a grain of truth, YouTube has actively policed the website for copyright violators when alerted by the rightful copyright owner. YouTube has also signed agreements with major players, such as the one recently signed by my good friend Alex Zubillaga of Warner Music, for content distribution and revenue sharing via YouTube.

I believe Google has even better relations with these major players and with credible and comprehensive ratings data to share could easily sign distribution and revenue sharing agreements with them.

The Big Picture

All of this won’t certainly come together over night. Too many loose ends need to be tied, agreements need to be made and signed, and technology needs to be put in place. But I can certainly see a road map outlining the steps ahead for Google.

1. The first stage involves the acquisition of YouTube and its integration into Google Video. Agreements with the major networks and content producers will allow the distribution of videos via Google. Most of these players already distribute their videos online for free, so a bigger potential audience combined with ratings data would certainly be appetizing.

2. Stage two would involve integration with services such as Apple’s iTV, allowing viewers to play downloaded content (along with ads) on their televisions. Google could combine viewing history with search history to further finetune the ads displayed.

3. Stage three would allow viewers to record programs on Google’s servers and watch them at a later time. Additionally Google would have the capacity to allow revenue sharing agreements with local network affiliates, according to the viewer’s geographical location.

Of course all this depends on whether Google is indeed interested in taking a shortcut by buying YouTube. And if YouTube is not yet aware of these ramifications, if I were them, I’d certainly start raising the price.

Comments are always welcome. I’d love to discuss these ideas.

UPDATE: Shortly after writing this article, Google did indeed proceed with the purchase of YouTube for US$1.65 Billion in stock… which I actually think is a bargain. Stay tuned for a post-buyout article.

Case Study: NBC’s Heroes

HeroesAfter a summer-long teaser campaign, NBC‘s “Heroes” opened to great ratings and wonderful reviews. I haven’t been this excited for a new series since 24 and Lost first showed up.

According to this recent LA Times article, the networks are spending increasingly higher amounts to produce their new series. High-definition video is more expensive to produce. Marketing campaigns are no longer restricted to their own networks. And successful shows demand much more than just a TV image.

Heroes

Heroes is a tale of “ordinary people with extraordinary abilities.” Sort of like “X-Men” before they got together under one roof. There’s the cheerleader who can’t get hurt. The single-mom whose reflection in the mirror has a mind of its own. The cop who can hear your thoughts. The Japanese salesman who can bend the space-time continuum…

Heroes offers a great many opportunities for Digital Media Integration. Is NBC taking advantage of them?

What Heroes is doing right

Heroes has a magnificent story where, like in Lost, all the characters are somehow connected. The producers have also tried building an off-screen story to accompany the broadcast. It’s in this area of media integration that shows like Heroes can really make a difference. These are some of the things NBC got right:

Heroes Hiro* Hiro Nakamura (space-time dude) has a blog.

* Claire Bennet (unbreakable cheerleader) has a MySpace profile, as do some of her on-screen friends. (Very interesting, given that MySpace is owned by one of NBC’s rivals).

* If you missed the live episode, you can download it or watch it on NBC’s website. They also have a two-minute replay available.

* Message Boards let you get together with other viewers and some of the show’s producers and explore your wildest conspiracy theories.

* Heroes Comic BookOnline Comics delve deeper into the storyline.

So NBC is actively expanding the show into the internet, which is great. But they still have a way to go…

What Heroes is doing wrong

Considering the effort NBC has put into this show, it’s sad to see them not taking full advantage of the available opportunities. These are some of the things they either got wrong or didn’t get at all:

* Hiro’s blog is hosted at nbc.com, under a huge NBC logo and navigation banner.Hiro's Blog on NBC

* Hiro’s blog shows a note indicating it’s been translated by Yamagato Software. A Google search for this company comes up empty. A mock website for this company, perhaps with some hidden clues, would’ve been great. (Interestingly enough, there’s a Yamagata company that does translations).

* There’s no online presence for Isaac Méndez, the artist. An online gallery or even a Flickr account should me available with some of his paintings.

* No online mention of Peter Petrelli’s brother political campaign.

Coming Soon?* Incomplete website. Even though we’re past the second episode of Heroes (and the lengthy ad campaign), some areas of the official website are still not ready. Try clicking on the Games or Downloads links and you get a “Coming Soon!” message. And if you cheat and enter the urls yourself, you get half-finished placeholder pages.

Is it too late?

NBC still has time to fix these problems. The show is young and the audience large. And there’s always the remote possibility that these materials are out there, but still haven’t been discovered or made it to the top of the search results… And user generated content (maps, theories, connections, etc.) will eventually surface.

But this has all been done before, and it’s been done right (see Lost and The Blair Witch Project), so what, exactly, are we waiting for?

Flowing with Productivity

Michael Buffington wrote a very inspiring post about getting into flow and what techniques help him become and remain productive throughout the day.

In this age of multitasking, Digg, YouTube, del.icio.us and so many other sources of information to keep us distracted throughout the day, it’s imperative that we find ways to concentrate on the real important tasks at hand. And judging from the comments on said article, as well as several other blogs, this is a real problem among the internet savvy population.

Discipline plays a big role in entering this flow state, since checking emails as they come in, examining the latest Digg articles, and hopping over to check out the funny YouTube video our colleagues sent, all conspire against achieving the concentration necessary to flow. Of course much of that information we check throughout the day is what keeps us on our technological toes – on the cutting edge of knowledge, so to speak.

But do we really need ALL THAT information? One thing is staying as up-to-date as possible, but it’s an entirely different thing to become practically useless because of our constant need to be “informed.”

In the end, we need to remind ourselves that all those successful people behind the websites we feel the need to check every five minutes are, more than likely, zoned in, worrying about their own gigs. And their success should tell us something.

Revision3 finally goes live

Revision3After several days of server errors, it seems Revision3 is finally live, sporting a brand new and very cool look. Gone is the “Sign Up” page… which is interesting, but more on that later. According to their own About page,

Revision3 is the first media company that gets it, born from the Internet, on-demand generation. Unlike aggregators, mash-ups, clients and web sites, Revision3 is an actual TV network for the web, creating, producing its own original entertainment and content.

They also mention that their “content is designed for a new audience. This audience, like television, expects dependability and quality, but unlike television, wants a more gritty, edgy, highly-targeted and in-depth form of entertainment,” and offer to make their shows available on as many platforms and through as many distribution methods as possible.

So far, so good… even the content is entertaining (Ctrl-Alt-Chicken, Diggnation, NotMTV, thebroken, etc…). The quality of the videos is very good and they are available, as promised, in a variety of formats (quicktime, wmv, xvid, theora).

Founded in part by some of the Digg boys, Revision3 is sure to make a lot of noise in the internet television scene. The lack of a sign up page (which was available, though not working, in the previous iteration) really caught my attention. While Revision3 is certainly no YouTube (content is generated by Revision3, not uploaded by users), I was expecting a certain level of personalization, viral marketing and social networking – particularly because of Revision3’s ties to Digg. I’d certainly like to be able to bookmark my favorite shows, share my playlists, see what everyone else thinks about any particular show, see a show’s ratings, and share my favorite shows with my friends. But, hard as I looked, I could not even find any mention of signing up as a regular user. I’d love to know the reasons behind this.

For more on a user-centric, internet TV experience, read Google Media: How Google will change the way you experience music, television and media in general. On that article, I explained what I envisioned Google doing on the internet television front, complete with an interface mock-up of what the user experience could be like. The same concept could apply to Revision3 as well.

Tech wise, Revision3 seems to be running on CherryPy (“a pythonic, object-oriented HTTP framework”) and their Flash video containers are done by BitGravity.

The Paris Hilton School of Blogging

So there I was, wide awake in my bed, wondering if the Crestor was keeping me from catching some much needed Zzzzs, when I decided to scramble over to my HP Media Center PC and check what was new on Digg. Over on my number two display, a trusty old 17″ BenQ FP731, my RSS aggregator, KlipFolio, diligently scrolled the latest Digg news. One headline caught my eye:

“How Paris Hilton Can Help Your Web Development (seriously)”

I clicked and waited mere milliseconds for Digg to pop-up on my primary monitor, an awesome Gateway HD FPD2185W. I read the comments on Digg and quickly had Firefox whisking me away to chartreuse’s Beta blog. As the post came up, I decided a late-nite snack was necessary to accompany this mix of marketing savvy and Paris Hilton photos.

Three slices of buttered Holsum whole wheat, crisply toasted in my DeLonghi oven, and a glass of milk would suffice for tonight.

The article is brilliant and shows how Hilton has exploited the attention economy to advance her own career. According to chartreuse, Paris is the queen of links, gratuitously dropping brands, locations and names whenever possible.

Though she hired a publicist to get her on Page 6, she never really talked about herself. She talked about other people. She would mention the designers of her clothes, the club she was going to, who made the sweater for her dog, all without any guarantee of any return. She just threw out links.

It’s gotten to the point where people are using the tactic of rejecting Paris as a marketing tool.

What the article doesn’t go into is how to apply this to your blog (as originally promised in the misleading Digg title). I’m not sure that dropping names on your blog will guarantee you rich marketing campaigns, but everyone knows that cross-linking helps boost where you appear in Google search results. So the best way to do a Paris Hilton on your blog is probably to link to other blogs of interest to your readers or articles and hopefully get some links back in return.

If you pay attention to other bloggers (and your content/banter/mojo is smart), they’ll eventually pay attention to you. Smart comments on popular blogs will also boost your “attentioness” on the Internet. But as usual, the best way is to provide smart, useful content for your readers. Unless you’re Google or Digg or YouTube or Paris and are simply a platform for the sale and promotion of attention.

This article comes to you thanks to WordPress blogs, Dreamhost hosting (use promo code 29OFF for $29 off any hosting plan), the Microsoft Windows XP operating system (at least until I get an Apple MacBook Pro), Sysinternals utilities and the wonderfully elusive CreateShortcut util by Jeff Key.

Google’s Flickr Killer – Part 2

This is a follow up to my post: Google’s Flickr Killer.

As I’ve already mentioned, a photo organizing and editing tool that runs on your computer (and not over the web) -such as Picasa- is an integral part of the equation. If I could upload straight from Picasa into Flickr, I would use my Flickr account ten times more than I do now. Since I’m using a beta version of Picasa Web Albums, I can upload directly into Google’s own web-based photo storing and sharing service. But, convenient as it is, it’s still no Flickr (or smugmug or photobucket).

These are some of the features which, in my opinion, will permit Google to turn Picasa Web Albums into the next, best Flickr:

  1. More storage space. How about unlimited? The current 250MB is laughable, and the only upgrade option is to 6GB.
  2. Direct linking to images, at several sizes. This would allow users to link to their images from their websites, blogs or forum posts.
  3. Tags. It should be easier to tag photos within Picasa and these tags should replicate in Picasa Web Albums. Tags make organizing photos easy and fun, and make it much easier to find similar information from other users.
  4. Geotags. Come on, Google..! Google Maps/Earth + Picasa + AdSense = Why isn’t this happening quicker?
  5. A powerful API. An API would allow users and companies to offer third-party services, add-ons and tools beyond Google’s imagination or capabilities. Map tools, printing services, backup services, blog galleries, mosaics, games, t-shirts/purses/mugs, avatars… you name it, someone will come up with it.
  6. Add-supported, revenue-shared. Google could use the AdSense network to advertise on user’s galleries and photos based on the tags used (or use an image-analysis algorithm to extract relevant information from each photo). Beyond a certain number of hits, Google would share the advertising revenue with the photo’s owner (via Google Checkout, of course).
  7. Comments and notes. Visitors should be able to comment on each photo, ala Flickr.
  8. RSS feeds. RSS-everything: tags, users, comments…
  9. Better GMail and Blogger integration. (Currently I can only post four images at a time to Blogger and can’t BCC: on my emails). Ideally, Picasa would allow posting to any blog (WordPress, for instance) the way Flickr does. Publish-by-email would be nice as well (send your photos to a predefined secret email, and have them appear on your photogallery and blog).
  10. And of course… Google Search for all my images.

The funny thing is, Google has already implemented these ideas in one or many of its services. So, what is taking them so long to tie them together into a killer photo storage and sharing web service?

Do you have more suggestions for Google? Post them in the comments to this article.

And Google, I’m available for hire… in case you want to boost Picasa Web Albums into hyperdrive.

Contact me through this form:

[CONTACT-FORM]

Google’s Flickr Killer

… or why Yahoo needs to buy a desktop photo managing app, pronto.

I’ve been using Flickr for a while now – I even have a Pro account (I previously used smugmug). I also use Picasa to manage my photos (having tried several versions of Adobe’s Photoshop Album). I like Picasa’s simplicity, instant image fix-ups, and Gmail integration (for major alterations, I use Photoshop CS2). However, getting images into my Flickr account is a major operation. I can use Flickr’s Upload Tool to store my images on Flickr, but I usually like to crop, color-correct or otherwise fix my photos before showing them. So after fixing them in Picasa, I must export them to a new folder, which I must then upload to Flickr.

Ideally, Picasa would upload to Flickr, making tagging, editing and arranging files a breeze. I doubt Google will do that, though (Picasa doesn’t even upload to third-party blogs, limiting itself to Google’s own Blogger service).

Google has been recently testing an online photo storage and album service: Picasa Web Albums. While it’s still no Flickr, its integration with Picasa is a killer feature and Yahoo/Flickr should take notice. I expect it will eventually integrate with Google Maps/Earth for geotagging, and Checkout for selling your photos, among other Google services. Once Picasa Web is out of beta there really shouldn’t be any reason for Picasa users to keep using Flickr. We all know how long Google’s betas last, so there’s still time for Yahoo to catch-up, but the ball is certainly flying out of the stadium.

Comment in you have any suggestions on which software Yahoo should buy.

Google Media

Google Media
How Google will change the way you experience music, television and media in general.

Google, Google, everywhere

It seems you can find Google just about anywhere these days. Internet search? Check. Satellite mapping? Check. Photos? Check. Online shopping? Check and check. Advertising? Check. Web analytics? Check. Finance? Check. Video? Check. Music and television? Err, not yet, but the battle plans have been drawn.

Google has been quietly getting ready to bring the power of its brand and technology to the way you experience music, television and media in general. A simple search through Google’s job boards will display several openings for programmers, technicians and project managers for their video-on-demand, set-top box and media integration projects.

From the web to your television

Google has the equipment and expertise necessary to set up a massive media distribution and tracking network, integrated into their existing search and advertising technologies.

With the release of Google Finance, Google has unveiled a simple, information-rich interface that readily lends itself to other areas, such as music and television. Imagine having all of your favorite show’s news, postings, ratings, reviews and episode guides at your fingertips. Create your very own programming guide, including not only your favorite shows, movies and music but also, why not, your favorite ads. Quickly vote on your favorite shows, buy merchandise and share your opinion with other viewers. It’s all possible in Google’s universe.

I’ve made a simple mock-up of what Google’s TV dashboard could look like (click on the image to open the full-sized, commented drawing on Flickr):

Google TV (clip 150KB)

This dashboard would give the user access to the whole Google Media experience. News about the current show (via Google News), recording (via Google PVR – someday), user comments (via Google Groups), slideshows (via Picasa), scheduling (via Google Calendar), etc. Everything about your favorite shows at your fingertips.

Google is also making inroads into the set-top box business, hoping to bring television straight into your television (whether it’s in your living room or your mobile phone). With the right connections into your home, Google could use their massive disk arrays to create a huge, universal digital video recorder, giving you access to every show on television (or at least to those shows the local networks allow you to watch). There would be no need to be home in time for a show or to remember to schedule your video recorder… they’d all be online, waiting for the correct password or payment to send it your way.

Bringing it all together

There are still some areas where Google lacks the experience to properly pull this off, but they seem to be hard at work at filling most of these voids.

Searching within video and music files (allowing you to search for particular dialogue, images or sounds within audio and video files) and online transactions (allowing you to pay or get paid for buying or experiencing content) are some of the areas Google has been actively working on (though some argue that search within compressed media files is not possible). Others, such as ratings analysis (necessary for tracking a show’s popularity and establishing value) should readily evolve from Google’s vast experience with search result placement and web analytics.

If successful, Google will offer the viewer an integral, enjoyable and information-rich media experience. Hey, they may even get you to watch the commercials. Not bad for a newcomer.

UPDATE: This article was updated on September 28, 2006 to include the Google Dashboard graphics, which hadn’t been uploaded to the server when the original article was published.

Impresionante ejemplo de información ciudadana

Un recuento de como cientos de ciudadanos vieron y reportaron los sucesos de Londres el 11 de Septiembre (ataques terroristas en trenes subterráneos).

El artículo original esta en The Day Citizen Media Went Mainstream y lo más impresionante es está “película” enseñando como fue evolucionando el artículo sobre los ataques en la Wikipedia.