If you’re searching for video on the Web, odds you’re getting a lot of results you don’t need. For example: Try 855,000 results for The Office on Blinkx. Or try 3,536 results for The Daily Show on AOL Video. Or try 27,679 results for Heroes on Google Video. That’s a whole lotta videos, most of which aren’t exactly what you’re looking for. In that way, searching for video is sorta like asking your dog to fetch the New York Times from the driveway, and getting several thousand copies of US Weekly instead. Neat trick. Not useful. Stupid dog.
The problems with video search are, of course, manifold. The reasons cited most often are a lack of good metadata and inconsistent tag taxonomy. But these are technology solutions for what, at its root, is an editorial problem. Namely: Presentation.
Enter TVGuide.com, which is currently testing in private beta a video search portal they’ve dubbed “Stingray.” The site will enter public beta on April 16. And it already looks good.
While Google Video only indexes vids on Google or YouTube servers (too narrow) and Blinkx, Yahoo and AOL index the entire Web (too wide), Stingray indexes only about 65 sites, ranging from the major broadcast networks to iTunes and iFilm. But the main benefit of Stingray isn’t search, it’s organization.
Logging onto the main page, Stingray presents four main choices that instantly direct you to your most likely destinations — a top video, four comedy show picks, a featured show, and most popular videos. The nav bar allows you to search for videos, or browse for shows by top videos, top shows and movies, top celebrities, and top networks.
A quick browse through the nav bar shows 339 clips from Apple.com, 168 clips from Brilliant but Canceled, 7,246 clips from BET, and 2,608 clips from CBS, among other “networks.”
The site also provides a “clip collector,” a widget that will allow you to save specific clips to your profile while browsing. RSS feeds, user ratings, sharing and tagging features are coming, too.
Unfortunately, the actual experience of watching the clips can be burdensome at times. Since all the clips exist on external sites, you’re directed off site (in a new tab or window) whenever you choose a video. While that may make the Viacoms of the world happy, it means that you’ll have to watch pre-roll ads (thanks, Motherload) or have your browser automatically resized (thanks, NBC).
The other caveat: Stingray only offers a smattering of user-generated content (SNL’s Lazy Sunday and Dick in a Box being two good examples). Personally, I’m fine with that. I expect TV Guide to let me know what’s going on with professional content, not amateur fare.
All in all, not a perfect experience. But given TVGuide.com’s already impressive traffic, Stingray has a great chance to raise the bar for the video search (and browsing!) experience.