Honolulu Sax © Gary Hayes 2005 Given I am travelling, doing the relative-thing and moving home over the next week or so this may be my last blog for the year – I hope not, but in case it is I thought I would finish on a few recent reports on the most significant thing to happen to media in the last year (decade?), user generated video content. Whether you call it vlogging, amateur tv or community video it is starting to nibble at the feet of the broadcasting giants. The trend continues right to the end of the last remarkable 6 months of 2005 where the tide really did begin turn and the democratisation of personal video distribution started in earnest. Blinkx TV (BTW love their moving mosaic on their main web page) have (like TiVo) started to bring their 1 million hours of user video to the portable screen (iPod and PSP etc) with one click

Over the past several months, video blogging has exploded on the Internet, suggesting that many consumers are eager for an alternative to commercial broadcasts. However, this kind of independent content is not widely available at traditional download sites, such as iTunes.com, and what there is, can be difficult to find. With its new blinkx.tv To Go service, blinkx is throwing open the doors to a wide variety of new, user-generated video and making it fully searchable and portable with one quick click. blinkx.tv To Go enables users to enter a search of video blogs, and with one click, either upload specific results to their iPod or portable video player, or save the search as a “channel”, which is automatically and perpetually updated and fed to their devices, where it can then be viewed as a single media stream. blinkx takes care of all the formatting, regardless of the original file type.

Interesting how the “to go” term seems to permeate everything at the moment in relation to media on your ‘portable’ – some things never change. Another very recent report from MediaWeek refers to our old friend Current TV who with the backing of Al Gore and many VC’s are now in 20 million homes in the US. This is the service if you recall from a previous post is a service that pulls in internet content, of the user generated kind and re-broadcasts it in the traditional way. From the article a good upsum of why UGC is particularly compelling in the reporting genre…

There is an intimacy and authenticity to the reporting that is not often seen on TV, but it is sometimes accompanied by the shaky camera work of novice documentarians. “I like the idea of bringing in viewers to participate, but I question whether they can keep going in that direction when some of the stuff is of questionable production quality,” noted Aaron Cohen, executive vp, director of broadcast, Horizon Media. Others see it in a different light. “As far as the audience is concerned, it might be seen as a positive,” said MediaVest’s Gentner. “It might seem more authentic, less formulaic.” Overall, advertisers have responded favorably to Current, said Anne Zehren, president of sales and marketing: “Every couple of weeks we pick up a new advertiser.” To further differentiate Current from other news media, Zehren’s team offers advertisers what she calls solutions to today’s changing media landscape where commercials can be skipped, or ignored entirely, with a push of a button.

The best barometer of a successful new medium is advertisers realising that eyeballs are shifting and moving their ad dollar, even if they can be skipped. Perhaps the penny has dropped in that they also realise that skipping an ad shows some discrimination on the part of the viewer and that discrimination also means they will watch ads relevant to them. The thing though that connects the three articles in this post is the urge for current, blinkx and the final vlog overview link to push user content into portable devices. It almost seems that personal video content created by ‘normal’ people (that may be stretching it a bit!), exists best on personalized portable devices – as if the more real it is the more it finds a home on peoples ‘life’ devices.

Looking into Current’s future, Neuman said he thinks more than 50 percent of the network’s programming will come from viewers. Hyatt also said he’s in the midst of several broadband deals that will likely distribute Current to cell phones, PSPs and iPods. “I believe Current five years from now will be a global company supplying viewer-created content on multiple platforms,” Hyatt said. “In fact, it will happen before then.”

Australia’s Ninemsn.com reports on this new thing called vlogging and “citizen journalism” – I am not sure whether the article is slightly tongue-in-cheek given that these things have been around for a year or more!. Still there are some good points in the article which highlights Rocketboom again (I posted about this last week)…

It draws on the utopian dreams of pioneers who envisage a network of citizen journalists across the globe, liberated from the “we know what’s best for you” patronage of established media firms. “People are interested in seeing more of real people — they are kind of getting sick of the very flashy content and want something more down to Earth,” said Amanda Congdon, co-writer and anchor of “Rocketboom”, a wildly successful New York-based vlog.

The really exciting thing now is that these vlogging sites are now starting to look like respectable community TV stations in terms of audience reach – and therefore are becoming ripe for traditional business models, signalled as soon as the advertisers start knocking on the door.

The site, which debuted in 2004, now has 100,000 downloads a day and is alerting advertisers to the potential of vlog entrepreneurs. Those 100,000 pairs of eyes from the United States, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands and even Tanzania and Nigeria bring Rocketboom within shouting distance of some of the lower-rated US cable talk shows. An operation like Rocketboom, with its basic set of a table and a map, does not need millions of dollars to go on the air — unlike TV stations.

Unlike TV stations indeed.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005