The Great Google Video Download of 2011

Imagine two libraries competing to house the world’s knowledge. People from across the land contribute their own volumes towards the growth of these institutions, and while there is a rivalry, in truth, everybody wins.

Then one of the libraries acquires the other, and strangely decides to burn their original building to the ground, without moving the books. All those who contributed to this first library have 4 weeks to pull specifically their volumes out and re-shelve them at the alternate location, otherwise they’ll be set ablaze along with the walls that house them.

Sound like a good idea? Right now, we are in the middle of this transitional period, as Google Video’s submissions have been given a deadline in the truest sense of the word, to potentially (but not necessarily) be reincarnated on YouTube, the masses willing. The videos will be unavailable for viewing as of April 29th, available for last-chance download by the original submitter until May 13th.

 

WHY?

To be honest, I’m not sure why. Ads? Consolidation for simpler management? I’ll fill more of this in as more explanation is offered.

What’s the Difference?

YouTube and Google Video are not, and never have been, the same. YouTube has a starting viewing area of approximately 450×338, with the option to go full screen. Google Video starts considerably and respectably bigger. YouTube’s video size fits neatly within their fixed-width design, which does not offer room for both a related videos sidebar and videos of a more significant size, unlike Google Video. YouTube is chock full of idiotic and offensive commentary. Google Video is not. And, most significantly, YouTube has a lot more ads, from banners to over-video Google AdSense ads, which, on the smaller screen, take up a lot more real estate.

You may have noticed that all of these differences point to YouTube being worse, and for the most part, it’s true. One difference which is better or worse depending on your preferences concerns the videos themselves. YouTube has its share of intellectually-stimulating content, but such content represents the minority of its offering.

Google Video, partly due to its longstanding allowance of videos much longer than 10 minutes, has become the longstanding preference for documentaries. So, in a sense, the library being burned down is the one with the more serious literature. Whether you care or not depends on your affinity for the documentary. I happen to like documentaries. Grr.

Let the Downloading Begin!

Fortunately, there are numerous tools available allowing regular users to download videos from Google Video and other sites that stream through Flash (including YouTube). So while Google is allowing submitters to take back their content in an official and restricted way, thousands are probably already lifting what they can unofficially – as well they should. There are two main reasons to get into this:

You might not like YouTube

It’s by far the more childish platform, and is filled with junk, mislabeled time-wasting, and advertisements.

The videos might not be available

If the submitter doesn’t take the content back within the timeframe and re-upload, it’s simply gone.

If the submitters fail, will other users succeed? Will we see multiple versions of the same videos appearing on YouTube shortly?

Loss

That’s the strangest part about this; the amount of loss of time and knowledge Google seems prepared to casually destroy. As I said, there could be thousands of hours of potentially difficult to acquire documentaries that have a chance of being lost in this shuffle, the loss minimized depending on how on the ball submitters are and to what extent the rule-bending Flash downloaders succeed.

 

A month’s transitional buffer is better than a week, but still might not be enough to preserve the bulk. Time will tell, but the damage will be difficult to measure.

Then there’s the loss of time. As a result of Google’s acquisition and re-shuffling, the massive submitter base, who took time out of their lives to kindly share knowledge with their peers, adding content and thus value to someone else’s site, are now being asked to log back in, download, and upload again to another Google property (that they probably like less). How many human hours will be lost in this process?

Opportunity

My not-so-secret hope is that a big player with cash to spend sees this as the opportunity that it is, and creates an alternative platform to serve the kind of content that Google Video used to offer. There is an opportunity here for someone to fill the void Google Video will leave behind, and perhaps some justice to be served to Google, who seem to arrogantly assume people will just contribute all over again to another of their properties.

Users should not have to be stuck with a catch-all circus of content, forced into centralization out of what was once a different, preferred space. Hopefully someone with cash to spend and a noble spirit siezes the moment and provides an alternative solution. Any takers?

What Newspapers & Magazines Learned After The Crunch

& What They Still Need To Learn

Newspapers and magazines were left with three big problems after the crunch: PaperInk and Press. ‘Digital’, ‘updated’ and ’shared’ were supposed to be the answers to these issues. However, monetizing online became an entirely new challenge for print media.



The technology revolution has created a space where the print medium is unable to reasonably compete. Traditional standards for sharing information have almost become obsolete. For example, people can send/receive free, up-to-the-minute news updates in less than 140 characters from Twitter or structure complex information into infopgrahics where they can be made interactive, more visual and simple -all of which can be easily shared with hundreds or thousands of people with the click of a mouse. News sites have the challenge of being fully optimized for the web (i.e. relevant + free) while making enough money to sustain the industry.

Mark Morford from the SF Gate pinned it when he wrote: Change is mandatory. Change is healthy. But change is also a total bitch.

Here are some of the most important lessons print media has learned since its radical shift online- along with some lessons it still needs to learn before it can become a truly lucrative online business.

Lesson 1: Shifting from static to dynamic platforms

Before the crunch: Information was centralized, restricted to those with printing presses or broadcast mechanisms.

What they learned after the crunch: 
– Information is open and can be shared via many outlets: blogs, online forums, videos, images…
– Information is social. News is a discussion and you have to engage with readers by permitting comments and adding share buttons.

What they still need to learn: Information + Online = Free. Google was created “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Newspapers and magazines have to develop a way to make their information free to readers while still being lucrative. This may entail having to drop the old ads and subscriptions-based revenue model for some new online alternatives.

Lesson 2: Changing content structure

Before the crunch: – Content and ads were dispersed throughout the newspaper.
– Articles were longer, more thorough. (It could take you a whole day to read a newspaper from front to back)

What they learned after the crunch: Lists, Top Tens and the delicate art of micro information. The Web conditions a climate of fierce competition for people’s attention. In the age of efficiency and multitasking an article’s content has to be structured in a way that enables the reader to process information quickly-before the 4 second threshold is up, the user gets bored and moves on. Lists break down information so that the reader can skim through the article and get a clear understanding of the story.

What they need to learn: Focus on building social authority. Newspapers already have credibility and therefore have a unique advantage on the Web. By providing readers more personalized content, news sites can offer helpful information and generate ad revenue at the same time. I will expand on this point next.

Lesson 3: Online Money-Making Strategies

Before: Revenue based on ads and subscriptions.

What they learned after the crunch: Not much. Time magazine advocated a system that includes both subscriptions and micro-payments for individual stories. With profits falling, newspapers have been laying off staff and cutting back on their most expensive reporting projects – overseas bureaus and investigative journalism-arguably, two of the most compelling and unique pieces of content news sites can offer.

Top 5 Daily Newspapers in the United States.
Newspaper Circ as of 3/31/10/ % Change

1. Wall Street Journal 2,092,523  +0.5% (WSJ was the only newspaper among the top twenty-five in America, to actually gain new readers.)
2. USA Today 1,826,622  -13.58% 
3. The New York Times 951,063   -8.47% (NYT was forced to drop paid Internet subscription services)
4. Los Angeles Times 616,606  -14.74% 
5. Washington Post 578,482   -13.06%


What They Need To Learn:
 A Guardian article written by Grig Davidovitz and Max Levitte proposes some very sound and interesting e-marketing solutions to help solve some of the financial woes newspapers have been facing.

They say:

“Newspapers should be the online authority on what to buy and what to do. Not only is this their duty in our age of information overload, it can easily be converted into revenue.”


“[News sites should] link to product or service providers.” (The newspaper generates revenue when the reader clicks on these links)


Every actionable article (a book review, a travel guide) should have links to enable relevant action. (This could also generate revenue when a reader clicks on the link)

The newspaper industry has weathered previous troughs and while the paper in newspaper may go away, the news will still remain. Many speculate that e-readers like the Kindle and the iPad may prove to be news businesses shining knight in armor. Reaching out to readers using mobile technology is definitely a step in the right direction.The most important goal for newspapers and magazines to concentrate on is creating online business models that generate sums they achieved by previous advertisement and circulation-driven revenue streams.

Scott Parent Discusses Recent Digital Trends

One of the folks we ran into at Affiliate Summit East 2010 was Scott Parent. Scott is the host of Media Trust’s popular video blog Relevantly Speaking, so we decided to turn the camera on him and see what he had to say.

As a video blog host, Scott had been talking to everyone who’s anyone at the conference, and one thing that he noticed this year was that there doesn’t seem to be one predominant theme on everyone’s mind. Instead, there’ve been so many different developments that different people seem to be focused on different things, from Facebook Ads to Google Acquisitions to Twitter’s new sales force.

We also asked Scott what was on his own mind, as well as his thoughts on Twitter’s recent hire of sales force. He thinks what Twitter is doing is the logical next step, but he’s waiting to see whether it’s one that’s going to work.

Damn You and Your “This Video is Not Available in Your Country”

I get doubly irritated every time I get to a page with a video that’s not available in my country, as the situation touches both my general user and online marketer sensibilities. No one likes to have their time wasted, and getting to a page where a given video isn’t available is frustrating because of the violation of expectation. People linking to (or embedding) a video from the right country don’t know when it’s being cut off from others and whether or not they are sending their users towards a dead-end. Sometimes the video is watched on a specific site that blocks outsiders, and sometimes it’s YouTube filtering on behalf of the video producer. Both cases are relevant here.

Missed Understanding

I decided to try to see what the deal (or, as the case may be, lack of deal) was, starting with a search for “This Video is Not Available in Your Country”. In numerous messageboards and comment threads, people spend about half the time speculating as to the motivations behind these restrictions, including not wanting people in other countries to benefit from British payer TV license fees (for those outside the UK that don’t know, every household with a television has to pay a TV license fee which basically keeps the bulk of the BBC’s programming without advertisements), not having ad deals for audiences outside the country of production, and conflicts between domestic funding of internationally-viewed material. The other half of the words are spent sharing ways around the restrictions, including URL modifications that don’t trigger the IP check, use of proxy connections, and IP anonymizers. Generally, people seem irritated, but resourceful.

One impression sticks out above all others; people don’t really know why the video isn’t available in their country. While it’s obviously not the full story behind the workarounds, I wonder to what extent people feel justified finding other ways to view their favourite material when no explanation is provided. I imagine that the problems are case by case, which itself is a problem. I’m hesitant to want some kind of association to work this out, since I don’t trust what they would come up with. Still, I feel like people should know why things are the way they are, and know who to ask for more information. If there is such a group I don’t know about, they should think about optimizing for “This Video is Not Available in Your Country”, as a start. There are specific alternative solutions for the sites that restrict their own content, but I’ll get back to those later.

Marketing Dead-End Traffic

With so many people wanting the Internet to be as international as its etymology would suggest, I wonder to what extent international branding is being considered. Every time I go to a web site that turns me down like this, I’m annoyed, and don’t forget it. International users may not be your target audience, but this is a good way of making sure they never are. If it’s a case of the site restricting its own audience without any contingency measures, they are missing out on potentially useful traffic. Appealing to other countries can provide long term branding benefits that could outweigh, for example, the bandwidth costs.

For cases when it’s not a site+video combination, and it’s actually the video on its own through YouTube, I just can’t see the advantage in cutting people off. Pre-roll, post-roll, or watermark your clip and spread your brand internationally. It some cases, a new market could open. For cases when the doors are closed, did they really do an open-minded cost benefit analysis, or is this just shrug-inducing red tape? Do discussions include the benefits of the comments from international users, on the social media platforms that discuss them and on the sites themselves? What about the benefits of domestic users being more willing to watch videos with higher total view counts as testament to their quality, when the totals are inflated by an international audience? What about attempts to spread internationally, that get re-spread back domestically? Virally spread content (and video represents a lot of it) echoes around the world (it’s the point), and you can be sacrificing in-out-in traffic by not willing to see two steps ahead. It’s all wasted views, wasted traffic, wasted participation.

How to Not Be A Lazy Ass About It

I may just not understand the tricky bureaucracy of it all,  so let’s just assume for a moment that videos restricted in this way will never be de-restricted, and for good reason. What then?

Reddit apologizes when asking that you use their captcha in creating a new account. To me, that’s classy respect for a user. Sites that offer videos to a limited demographic could learn a thing or two about how to be good to users that have arrived on their site and triggered their ad banners. Here are some things to consider (Note: these do not apply in the video content alone situation, and are directed at sites that restrict their own video content):

1. Identify your users. This isn’t so much a full solution as it is a pre-step. If you are going to treat these people you’re cutting off with a bit more sense and respect, you need a mechanism to identify them and know when you’re communicating with them. Use Geo-IP targeting and start focusing.

2. Explain the situation. I mentioned earlier that people don’t know why videos aren’t available. “Copyright restrictions” is not enough of an explanation. If I copy DVDs and sell the copies, that would sound a lot more like a violation of copyright restrictions. Does the average person really understand it in this non-domestic video viewer context? People sometimes change their entire site’s content using Geo-IP filtering, depending on the user’s country of origin. Once you know you’re not going to offer your videos, you’ve recognized that the user is from a non-viewing country, and you’ve decided want to be decent about it, why not add a hyperlinked line of text that says “Why can’t I watch this video?” that leads to a pop up box or page that explains? Maybe there’s no immediate profit in that, but it’s not exactly brain surgery to implement. Considering videos get linked to from sites all over the world, wouldn’t it be worth the relatively small effort?

3. Tell them what to do instead. Re-direct your otherwise underprivileged users, either with full-on browser redirections, or by adding a link to where this content can be found in their region. I’m a big Daily Show & Stephen Colbert fan, so when I was living in Canada, it was always irritating to have the best clips hit the homepage of Digg and then not be available for Canadians at same URL. America’s ComedyCentral.com, the main location of The Daily Show and its clips, parallels Canada’s TheComedyNetwork.ca. When I’d click on the Daily Show clip, I’d get pretty much the usual “sorry no video 4 u” message. This is content that actually IS available on the other site, but they don’t do much in the way of getting you to it or showing the same material. In many cases, the content isn’t exactly the same, and one site’s clip is another site’s full show, meaning too bad if you wanted to get aboard the specific clip’s buzz on your country’s web site.

Last fall, I moved from Canada to the UK, where the same Daily Show content restriction applies. From here, when I head on over to The Daily Show’s site, this is what I see:

I didn’t crop maliciously. There is no extra information about why it’s restricted, and if I can see it elsewhere. I guess The Daily Show isn’t watchable in the UK. Darn.

Oh wait, it’s available on Channel4, right here. Argh. I can’t image the red tape extends so far as to not allow some help for UK visitors typing in a fairly expected domain name to find the content. Comedy Central UK is active, but the .com doesn’t point you to it when visiting from the UK, either.

What’s Next

It seems ridiculous to me to have users struggling to find ways to see people’s content, when so much of the web involves people  begging people to watch their videos, trying to build traffic. These aren’t even commercial-avoiding TIVO or torrent people – they’ll watch the ads. That reminds me. A few days ago, I came across a page that had the nerve to show be a 15 second ad before telling me the video I came to see was unavailable to me. Motherf… I can’t remember where it happened, but the day it happens again, I will include it here.

For now, it’s up to users to hunt for alternative ways to watch many of the things they love. As they do this, it might be smart to write to the relevant networks and request a fuller explanation, express discontent, and point out some of the suggestions above, in the hopes of creating a more international network of entertainment-lovers.

SES Toronto : Monetizing your Audience Site Clinic

1. Information on the foldover not properly used

2. Really slow load time

McDerment asks: what is your target audience? What is it about your brand that beats the competition

Customers are small to medium retail stores. Price and and Design is what makes them different.

Who you are, what you do, and what you matter should be the first thing people see about your brand.

Slegg: Green Ad the left is too noisy and deters attention.  The banner should show more details about particular products.  Images have watermark from another domain name.  Also they affect conversion negatively.  People aren’t necessarily going to steal images of display stands.

Segal: why is the Watermark a different domain? he explains its a

McDermet:  do you have studies that people are purchasing this online?  He suggests a lead generation model which may be more efficient.  Apparently 70% of total sales on site are from call-ins.

Segal:  So maybe the phone number should be more prominent.  Show the products in context.

McDermet: remove ecommerce may increase sales… force people to call.

Retirementhomes.com

Business:  Online directory for Retirement communities homes.  While he describes his business we hear a video which has started playing on the home page. 😛  They drive leads to their members (retirement homes).  Revenue model is for placement listing for retirement homes and very little advertising.

McDerment: very clar on the home page what the website does.

retirementhomes.com says most visits are internal landing pages coming from SERPS.

Slegg: Some articles and content do not fit with the site’s subject.

it ends up that the article is a paid advertisement.

Slegg: sticks out like a sore thumb. It can even trigger a penalty in Google.

McDerment: Who is the target customer?  Is it the families looking to place an elder? is it the elder person themself?

Its Both

MdDerment: Ok so maybe you can segment the info and copy for both markets.

Slegg: You can do beter placement than those types of articles.  The wordst performing spot for adsense… Less wider border.

MdDerment:  Target aMcDerment: dvertisers for that specific group.  Some advertisers can actually add value to the site.

Segal: who provides content?

Inhouse content writers they do it for SEO.  Its exclusive content.

Slegg: explains concept of dupe content.

McDerment: There is no signup for real “clients” which are the retirement homes.  They should be able to convert on site.  They have a couple of links but its not “Call to action” enough”

Torontodancesalsa.ca

Canada’s largest provider of Salsa Instructions.  1000 people are taught Salsa a month.  They do a lot of Social.

Slegg: Home page is Suuuuper long.  Content gets diluted with such a long scrolldown.

They A/B Tested and they rank #1 for what they wanted.

Slegg: you have dupe content because all articles are in home page… (I dont agree, its like a blog format actually and many people don’t do “more” function on WordPress)

McDerment:  There shouldn’t be more than 7 nav chunks on top bar… use secondary navigation instead.  Font is hard to read, all links are 2 words.  Almost all navigation I would reducce to one Kw: “schedule” instead of  “class schedule”

Segal: I would do excerpts on the home page of articles but not the whole article.  Shorten the home page.

MdDerment: I would feel comfortable booking a lesson here, which is a huge WIM! images are authentic lookeing etc.

Slegg: Have you checked Google Cache?  I can’t check it coz people have been bad from this IP address tee hee 😛  I wouldn’t be surprised if internal pages arent indexed…

McDerment: primary purpose of site is lead generation… I havent seen a phone number or a quick contact form.

Any suggestions for making it more “male oriented”?

McDerment: get a discount if you bring a man, etc.   Testimonials are Awesome you should have more and show guys more prominently in images.

Phones.com:

Business: Affiliate Model and adsense is the source of revenue.  Descriptions of products are uniquely created by company.

McDerment: Title Tags could be fixed.  He’s impressed with the domain name.

Slegg: “Phone comparison and reviews” suggested as Title tag.. but suggests he do keyword research before coming up with a final version.

McDerment: dynamically add title tags for phone products.

Slegg: misunderstood and thought McDerment meant each page load adds different title tags… not the case. Almost had a fight!!