@Beet.TV: News Video Is a Different Beast

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We know that news video is huge online, but it’s not just another vertical amid masses of TV clips, virals and personal video. That was one major takeaway from the Beet.TV roundtable I helped moderate this morning in San Francisco. Here are some quotes and notes:

A good line about growth in news from Charlie Tillinghast, president and publisher of MSNBC.com (s GE): “These times have caused people to realize what you don’t know could hurt you.”

Olivia Ma, news manager at YouTube (s GOOG), said the site’s news and politics video views grew 600 percent in 2008 compared to the previous year. That’s in an election year and amid overall YouTube and web wide video-viewing growth (for which she didn’t have a comparable stat), but still, it’s huge.

“News is fundamentally a shared experience,” Ma said. She advocated the value of providing a social forum to discuss the news. She also noted that YouTube fosters a different sort of behavior for news consumption than news portals, because people don’t come to the site to browse the day’s headlines. Instead, they arrive with a story already in mind, and search to find clips or additional footage and commentary. (Recall YouTube is now the second-biggest U.S. search site beating out Yahoo.)

Added Blaise Zerega, CEO of Fora.tv, “The web has become the TiVo for news — no one TiVos news, you don’t have to.” Zerega said Fora.tv’s niche of “smart content” has found its audience within YouTube. Some 75 percent of its YouTube channel viewers are 35 years and older.

But meanwhile, nobody quite knows how to make news video valuable. News is by definition timely, so in this on-demand age it’s fostered a whole new industry of live online event streaming — and Ustream CEO John Ham was there to talk up his company’s new white-label live-streaming offering. The latest value-adding trend seems to be making video archives accessible. Zerega has told us Fora.tv gets traffic bursts when breaking news relates to archived speeches on his site. More interesting is what MSNBC is doing for political video with speech analysis software from Nexidia and what TED.com is doing for its conference speeches with the transcription framework dotSub — increasing the value of video by essentially turning it into text so viewers can pinpoint exactly what they want to watch and advertisers can better target as well.

So what’s next for news video? Reuters (s TRI) announced today its stab at a news video monetization scheme: a video-on-demand portal for its paywalls financial services clients. As part of the massive effort, which will start to be available in June and come fully out by the end of the year, the company also investing in multiple production studios, said Ric Camacho, VP of Reuters Digital Syndication. Paywalls are so retro — but as for making content “premium”? — most of the roundtable agreed that that’s where it’s at.

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