Friday, May 22, 2015

Ten Ways To Make Money From Your Videos Online

Having a channel on YouTube is great, but unless you’re getting millions of impressions for every video, you’re restricted in how you can monetize all the hard work you’ve put into your productions.

In a meeting today I ran through some of the techniques that can be used be used to monetize channels that you run yourself using platforms such as our own VidZapper 8 platform.

1. Banner ads and MPUs – obviously, traditional web ads can be placed around a web page: since a web page with a video player is likely to remain static for some time as the viewer watches a video, spooling the ads every, say, 30 seconds will improve impressions and click thrus
2. Video advertising – pre-rolls, interstatials and post rolls can be deployed; our experience indicates that short frequent intervals work better than traditional TV type ling breaks: a single commercial of up to 30 seconds eery three to five minutes of content is optimal
3. Overlays – it may be annoying to users, but you can overlay ads on the video
4. Takeovers – this is usually a blend of placement adverts, video adverts and a surround advert around the player and can bring strong CPMs
5. Sponsorship – channel sponsorship and sponsorship packages are two different ways of bringing a more general revenue model
6. Classified video advertising – a technique that is gaining popularity in areas such as property marketing is filming videos for private and specific ads; these tend to work best for bigger ticket items
7. VCommerce – as TV shopping channel prove, using video to sell goods (and even services) can be very effective
8. Subscription/SVOD – charging viewers to see all or oart of a channel is the mist common means of monetizing content online, with service like Netflix boasting tens if millions of subscribers
9. PPV – pay per view can also work well for more valuable and difficult to see content, especially live events
10. Programme sales – the internet presents a great way of selling programmes to broadcasters and online services worldwide

Beyond this there are other dependencies, such as the ability to build an audience. A relatively small audience and high prices can work for, say, live sports events, but very large audience with long viewing times are essential to make advertising or sponsorship work.

One thing is for certain, if you want to make money from your video, YouTube is not the only place to be.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Cost Of Encoding In The Cloud

The consultancy ABI Research recently announced that video encoding was likely to be the fastest growing sector of the video tech industry in the coming years.

Serendipitously,  at TV Everywhere we've had a crack team working on bringing a platform to the market that can compete with the few incumbent players such as, Zencoder, Amazon and Azure.

Now, there is a real dynamic in the trade off between speed, cost and quality in this marketplace, so we have spent the past six months analysing this.

Of course, every service has its strengths and weaknesses, and at TVE we've been focusing on archiving and delivery.

We're going to be launching a service that enables you to upload and store your master file with full redundancy and at least three copies stored on our partner Microsoft's Azure cloud, and direct access, then version it for playout to any device, and then also version it according to the requirement of any of your customers or users.

To do this we have built HIVE - the High Intensity Video Encoding platform (a bit like Netflix' MAPLE platform). Currently it resides on the Microsoft Azure platform and enables every single encode to have its own managed process. So, we have no queues. If you want thirty different encodes of a file for broadcast and SVOD delivery, they all happen at the same time.

We're using the service on our own platforms, but will shortly make it available via a dedicated platform called Vidcoding (and we're looking for beta partners!).

The costs in the marketplace at present for cloud based encoding are interesting:

Input GB Output GB Length (mins)
6.7 1.6 22
Low High
HIVE (TV Everywhere) £0.20 £0.40
Azure £1.95 £1.95
Zencoder £0.17 £0.69 £9.34 £10.38
Amazon £2.06 £4.13

Low represents low usage and high involves high usage, the difference between a couple of clips and an hour of HD source content per week, in general. The differences in cost are pretty breathtaking and do vary based on factors such as quality and time.

Verizon Goes For The Short Form

Verizon has just made a very contrarian move. As other telcos around the world are buying into traditional long form TV and investing in sports properties, the American telco giant has gone and bought venerable old AOL.

This reignited a debate that I have participated in for nearly two decades - what works best in internet TV - long form or short form ?

I long argued that long form would win over short form, and I think overall I was right. The reality is that people value access above all, so a live football game on mobile is better than no football game, but not as good as a football game on a 55" screen.

The idea of developing specific content for specific screens is a rather dubious one - the screen is smaller, so the attention span of the user is shorter is totally disproved by the number of people I see watching video on the commuter train back home.

However, there are arguments for constructing short form content. They include subject, where certain genres such as music, comedy and some sports lend themselves to short form. Commercialisation is another reason - it's easier to place short ads in between short content and experiments that I have run in the past show that cutting up content into bite sized pieces of 3 - 6 minutes and showing short ads (never longer than 30 secs) in between is the way to optimise an online schedule. Finally, a younger demographic has always favoured shorter forms in general and this prevails.

So, the logic that Verizon put out for their $4.4bn purchase has some merit. AOL is a factory for short form content in many forms, including the written word, and there is clear evidence from services such as YouTube, BuzzFeed and AOL's own HuffPost service that this works well.

It will be very interesting to see how this is packaged by Verizon with the remainder of their quad play services.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Seven Reasons Journalism Is Now Dead

Actually, I don't have seven reasons, I was just doing a bit of click harvesting there.

But that is the first reason. Apparently putting a number in the headline increases your click thru rates (through is so old school journalism) by 23.4% (I made that up, but in journalism today you're allowed to do that because there's always some snippet of information out there that will back up this or any other statistic.

Of course, journals are now performance monitored machines who are valued based on the numbers of views they can harvests for their vast media conglomerates. As the recent UK election shows, any kind of deviation from the presumed reality is not countenanced, and even quantitative based reporting is likely to be wrong.

It wasn't the political class that had their world torn up before their eyes over the past few weeks, it was the media class, and journalists in particular. Just as buying and doing up houses, repairing cars, gardening allotments, sewing and baking have been turned from hobbies into prime time TV, so journalism has fallen to the sound bites.

I'm utterly amazed that we haven't yet had a TV talent competition to run for Parliament, but you can just see it coming. Actually, with the entertainment value of UKIP there was no need for scripted actureality. TOWIF, the only way is Farage.

But the real problem is that we now only have three types of journalists left in the media jungle: the privileged and patronising rich liberals with their million pound flats, writing about the poor and the undervalued ("The Toynbees"), the journalists who are just more mouthpieces for billionaires and who are little more than serfs on the island of Alderney ("The Murdochites") and then we have rest of of us, The Amateurs, who increasingly populate the voracious empty spaces of the Internet with inane lists, comments and photos: we're cheap, or even free, and some of us even hope to make a profession out of this, but that will depend on our ability to build and retain an audience: the ability to write considered pieces, to construct what used to be called journalism, the ability to tell a good story even, has long been subsumed by the need for ratings. The journalists' currency used to be words, now it's clicks and audiences.

So there, I shall leave someone more up to date than me with structuring content for the Internet to re-organise this article into seven bullet points...

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Why Twitter Is A Mess

So, we have an election in the UK today, and apparently Twitter is a great place for instant news. But if you search for UK general election 2015 the top result is a bloke in a hat.

Such is the issue with Twitter. It has no official channels, it is difficult to differentiate one thing from another. The curation sucks.

This is a service without merits. Its whole form is smaller than text ads on Google. The Vine and Periscope experiments are interesting, but how do you run a 30 sec ad before an 8 sec Vine ?

How do you stop your service from becoming the biggest piracy platform on earth ?

Twitter is a company in meltdown with no idea on how to commercialise its service, adding trivial add ons that are equally badly thought out. Worst still it ends up alienating anyone who really engages with it.

BT Plays A Blinder

However bad its online Internet TV service is, BT is doing extremely well with its broadband service according to results announced today. 

Should it get the go ahead to acquire EE, which is the market leading mobile service provider in the UK, it will be the dominant tri-play provider in the UK market. But, of course, the holy grail is quad play, which begs the question what plans BT has for its TV service.

To date, it has focused on buying expensive sports property, including the Champions' League, but this may not be enough in the world of box sets to take on Virgin Media and Sky.

I wonder what their next move will be ?

Why You Should Now Really Worry About The EU If You Work In Digital Media

The Digital Single Market proposals coming out of the EC are pretty terrifying in their consequences.

The objectives are laudible:

1) better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe
2) creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks innovative services to flourish
3) maximising the growth potential of the digital economy

Now, regular readers of this blog would imagine that I'd be all in favour of these developments, but as I have written before, they are all a double edged sword and, in the hands of politicians, are likely to be used for political ends, not to benefit EU citizens or businesses. The fact that they come from the unaccountable Commission (which is appointed based on political favours) causes even further cause for concern.

Let me point out some of the issues:

Well, can we start by sorting out access to online before mucking around with everything else. Vast swathes of Europe have little or no broadband coverage (see blogs passim about rural Wales) nor 4G or 5G coverage: this would be a simple and cheap problem to solve, costing fraction of the cost of a any one of the usual unfinished, corrupt or un-needed grand projects that the EC usually funds.

The problem with this is that you are then creating a great marketplace for efficient service providers (very similar to the model followed in the UK after the nationalisation of utilities). The likes of Google and Facebook would be rubbing their hands, so you're already working against the second objective.

Meanwhile, creating a single market for content is great for consumers, but really, really bad for content producers and will bias things horribly towards US publishers and the English language, as if the internet wasn't already bent dangerously in this direction.

The ability to differentiate marketplaces based on territory and language is worth a very large amount of money to sports federations and TV producers (although this is fast disappearing as release windows become narrower), and as I have pointed out previously, how can a single broadcaster cope with the likes of Sky (or Vivendi Sky) or Liberty or Comcast should they bid ? The EBU is disingenuous in its support of this initiative since it obviously wants to bolster its role as Europe wide broker for broadcasters, restoring the position it had before commercial, US owned TV eclipsed its role.

Underlying all this are many anachronisms such as charging rates for small physical businesses, but offering subsidies for massive companies such as Amazon; where small businesses pay full tax, but companies like Amazon do not.

It is true that the biggest challenge EU companies have when creating online or service businesses is that they have a ready marketplace that is around a quarter of the size, at best, to that of the US and Canada (and you may as well bundle the UK and Ireland in there) at launch. US businesses can go for scale immediately, building this kind of scale in Europe is next to impossible. This is why Facebook could never have come out of Europe.

There is also the dichotomy of the regulatory environment. The US has been so successful in building world class digital companies due largely to the DCMA and de-regulation. Concepts like net neutrality and no sales tax were enshrined and allowed the industry to thrive.

But the other edge to this is that it has also enabled monopolies to flourish.

The US has an endless supply of capital, whereas the EU has only a tiny fraction of this on tap for startups. The nature of new marketplaces is that you often have to spend billions buying market share before making a profit. After all these years, Amazon barely makes a profit and YouTube has spent billions in subsidising free video on the internet (to the detriment of my own businesses).

So, the second objective is impossible to achieve, in my view, without heavy handed regulation, which could include:

1) Banning free services online beyond a point (remember that we all subsidise these free services through our broadband and telephone accounts, taxes, our own data giveaways and our own contributions to the web. Net neutrality just benefits the likes of Google and Facebook, not your business or my business.

2) Not allowing a market share of 50% for any service, therefore Google would need to break up or allow proper competition with its search, DfP and YouTube businesses, for example.

3) Demand market visibility - this will appeal more to my free market friends than the previous ideas - in this case the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn should be obliged to show what margins they make and what taxes are included based on a set template that all service and product companies should follow. Google have been able to use their obfuscated model to destroy whole industries such as publishing and local online by using very dubious and opaque pricing, and no one partnering with these companies know what percentage their 'partner' is taking.

4) Tax at point of consumption - this is already partially being implemented to stop the stupidity of Google billing billions in advertising in the UK but hardly paying any tax, nor Apple doing the same with its downloads. But you have to remember that the EC leader is the ex-Luxembourg Prime Minister, Jean-Clause Juncker, who set up many of these tax avoidance schemes to benefit his tiny fiefdom.

5) Internet Rates - any company consuming more than x Megawatts of energy should be asked to pay rates to contribute towards the cost of electricity and broadband infrastructure and subsidise future investment.

The third objective takes us back to the arguments above. The EC has been instrumental in reducing roving charges between countries, so it can be a force for good, but it now seems to be wanting to take on a role similar to that of the FCC in the US. The difference is that the FCC does not have 28 stakeholders speaking even more languages with different infrastructures, local laws, mores, traditions and priorities.

If you're involved in the media industry in Europe, it's worth keeping a very beady eye on developments.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

How Long Periscope ?

Well, to all of you who paid $100 to watch the in demand stream for the Mayweather v Paquiano fight last night, more schmuks you.

Thanks to Periscope and Meerkat it was easier than ever to watch a pirated feed of a live sport event and I can't help but wonder how long these services will survive since they enable such unalloyed piracy.

Friday, May 01, 2015

How Not To Do Internet TV, Courtesy Of BT Sport

Well, you give with one hand and take away with the other.

There are some things in the world of television that are unfathomable. For example, for how long is the BBC going to fill gaping gaps in its schedules with helicopter noises because, for some reason, it cannot manage to broadcast local programmes in HD (ITV has been doing this for years).

Another incomprehensible service is BT Sport, who have the worst website in the world bar none.

I would estimate that a large proportion of people going to the site do so to watch one of the two BT Sport channels live, since it comes bundled ("for free") with their broadband connection. But getting to the live feed takes ages. It goes something like this.

1) Enter the BT Sport URL
2) Search through a cluttered interface for where the live stream is and probably select the 'Watch BT Sport' button
3) Click on the button
4) This - slowly, because of all the clutter and ads - loads an EPG
5) Click on the choice of channels on the EPG
6) A pop up appears (I kid you not..)

7) Click on 'Watch Live' (it's very small, be careful not to miss it
8) Ah, now you will get a massive ad with the 'ability' to log in

9) Enter your details (if you can remember them) and 'Log In'
10) Ah, you're on Chrome, the browser used by most people in the UK, so 2/3 of users are forced to go to a browser that only 7% of internet users use...
(To be fair, Sky are also doing this, but I'm a bloody fee paying customer, how dare you dictate what browser I have to use...)
11) Go Back to 1)
12) Enter the BT Sport URL
13) Search through a cluttered interface for where the live stream is and probably select the 'Watch BT Sport' button
14) Click on the button
15) This - slowly, because of all the clutter and ads - loads an EPG
16) Click on the choice of channels on the EPG
17) A pop up appears (I kid you not again..)

18) Click on 'Watch Live' (it's very small, be careful not to miss it again, but by now you should be getting the hang of this)
19) Ah, now you will get a massive ad with the 'ability' to log in

20) Enter your details (if you can remember them) and 'Log In'
21) Now a screen with 'Watch' comes us (what the f**k do you think I want to do at this point ?)
22) But you have your PC connected to a big screen (well, it's the Big Match that you want to watch.. And BT promised this for free with your expensive broadband..). So you get this:

23) Back to...

Oh, I give up....

And this mess of a site has been live for years now...

In Praise Of BT (Yes, Seriously..)

OK, I do whinge a lot on this blog, and I do hope that my goading makes a very small difference to improving the tech and media world we live in. Let's face it, there are plenty of people out there whose voices aren't heard and who suffer from bad broadband, poor EPGs, bad support service, silly prices and plans, and virtual monopolies.

But today I come in praise of an organisation that has singularly been lambasted on this blog in the past. It is our telecom virtual monopoly, BT.

Since moving here to The Boathouse, where they are the only last mile provider, my wifi has been infuriating, dropping its connection regularly and running slower than 4G on my phone. This is made worse since everything here is on wifi - the Nest heating controller, the Sonos audio system and, of course, my sort-of cord cutting TV services (the Freeview signal is so bad that we don't bother any more..). My wife has to video conference for hours when she works for home and her colleagues in Mountain View reckon we live in the back of beyond, so unreliable has the connection been.

So, with no heating, music, TV or work I did what comes naturally and blogged and tweeted about how lousy BT is as a company. I have done this many times in the past and the result has been radio silence (apart from some nodding, I suspect, from you out there in blog reading land).

But this time I got a response from the @BTCare social media team. We swapped a couple of tweets, but then I was surprised with a real world phone call from a very friendly Irish fella called Richard.

He suggested a few things and didn't treat me like a dork - I do know how to reconfigure a router. Unfortunately they didn't work. In the end I crawled up in the attic (the best place to have your wifi router in a large house, by the way) to have a look at the hub and realised what had happened - the previous owner had the hub in serial with a BT Business box and the two were just clashing. So, I tried a BT5 hub, but that didn't work. All this time Richard was calling me to find out how I was getting on in my frequent visits up the ladder to the dusty attic.

Yesterday he arranged to get a new hub to me and today I installed it and hallelujah! Everything is behaving nicely and working much faster.

So, let me publicly thank Richard and the social media team at BT and commend the company for taking such a proactive approach. It's nice to be able to spread some praise for once!

Betting Big On TV

I was sitting by the river in the pub next door with my old friend Allan McLennan from Padem last night and we were trying to remember when there had been so much top flight M&A activity in the global TV industry.

Charter is circling TWC after Comcast pulled out, but Comcast has only just bedded down UNBC, whilst in Europe there are stories that Vivendi may bid for the the recently rolled up Sky whilst Liberty, owners of Virgin, have discounted increasing their stake in ITV, but have themselves become subject to the attentions of Vodafone and their cash pile.

Apple meanwhile has a cash pile that would roll them all up...

"May you live in interesting times", as the Chinese curse says.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Narrowcasting Failure

Around 1996, when I was running a mutlimedia company distributing video on CDI and CD-ROM the internet came along and by 1997 I was doing webcasts for the likes of Shell and Orange, and by 1998 for MTV.

I was convinced that the future of TV was over the internet. After all, delivery of content was a nightmare. You produced for broadcast on a small number of channels, or release on VHS or then DVD. It was a tough business.

So, we enabled delivery over the internet, using technologies from companies like Real and Microsoft and a lot of our own secret sauce.

As a student of film and TV I was convinced that a new dawn was coming, whereby anyone could build and launch their own TV channel. We would see narrowcasting, localcasting and even hyperlocal TV.

Instead an American behemoth came along and pulled the carpet from under my feet.

YouTube is the ultimate narrowcasting platform. Anyone can have their channel, provided you leave that logo in the bottom right hand corner and hand over 90% of any advertising revenue (when I use Google I buy video ads at around £10 and earn around £1).

That was not what I saw back in the day.

I saw a replication of the magazine model, whereby you could publish and make money from a narrow demographic based on their interest or profile, not on their behavior.

Instead, delivering an audience based on nothing more than the last site they visited is rewarded.

Indeed, you are best off making sure that Google cannot see or index your site if you want higher CPMs, but then you will get no traffic from their search, so this is a double edged sword.

Moreover, if you put on a live event there is a huge chance that YouTube will get you again by illegally transmitting the event for pirates, and still no one gets to sue them...

For video advertising from Google I'm currently seeing £1 CPC. That probably means you'll earn around £10 for a thousand hours of video watched and this isn't commercially viable. From a service that is disabling you.

So narrowcasting has been buried by Google, both in terms of platform and delivery and in terms of commercialisation. What is extraordinary is how content and rights owners have fallen for this. This is sheer laziness or ignorance.

Any producer, music owner or rights holder dealing with YouTube is an utter moron and they are being ripped off beyond belief. YouTube pays royalties around a tenth of Spotify; your ad revenues from Google are around 5% of what you would expect if your content was being properly monetised.

But this is the scope of our world. Consumers vote for the cheapest and easiest and then moan.

Narrowcasting has failed because those owning rights are lazy and stupid not entrepreneurial and agressive. You see some great vertical sites such as Pistonheads or Ravelry, but narrowcasting video sites are few and far between.

But all is not lost. Here's an agenda for narrowcasters:

1) Control your own content
2) Distribute across media: social, YT, your own website and third party websites
3) Commercialise yourself, sell your own vertical ads