Don't look now, but there's been an explosion of video channels populating the Internet to meet our most idiosyncratic interests.
Want to know about "Zardoz," the 1974 science-fiction film? Go onto Revver.com, and you'll find 321 videos that were tagged with the label "Zardoz." Theoretically, those videos should have some relation to Zardoz. If those videos were streamed one after another, so an Internet viewer could watch the videos passively, those video streams would be akin to a channel purely devoted to Zardoz. Revver is just one of the many Internet video sites that have emerged on the Web in the last year.
For those with a broader scope of interest, say, soccer, there is a channel for that too. Nike Inc. (NKE) on Monday unveiled a television channel for soccer-crazed kids. It's an online channel through which Nike will try to use entertaining content to subtly sell its brand and products. It's a form of "marketing entertainment," says Hilmi Ozguc, founder of Maven Networks, a four-year-old startup creating the Internet channel for Nike.
If you want to channel surf through a variety of random topics, try Current.tv. There you can find a show on Google search topics. Yep. Current has a show dedicated to the hottest searches on Google. Or, if you want to take a tour of Dubai with a stand-up comic named Ahmed Ahmed, you can find his work on Current.tv as well.
Want to see the Internet's version of Spike TV? Go to RipeTV.com.
Yes, I know. What will we think of next? I'm writing "we," rather than "they" because on the Internet, as many who're building their lives on it are becoming aware, creation is in the hands of everyone.
What are the implications of such diverse creative bottoms-up endeavors?
General search engines like Google Inc.'s (GOOG), Yahoo Inc.'s (YHOO), Microsoft's (MSFT) MSN, Time Warner Inc.'s (TWX) America Online, and IAC/InterActive Corp.'s (IACI) Ask.com could see their traffic numbers decline, and lag the industry if they don't seriously innovate. Now, you're probably asking, "What do Internet video channels and major search engines have in common?" They both serve different needs. One provides search functions, and the other entertainment. True. But the proliferation of video channels underscores the splintering of the Internet and importantly the sophistication of the Web generation.
If people (particularly this Y generation) are becoming savvy enough to create their own publishing empires, do you really think they'll be satisfied with general search engines? Even my generation - those who spend time on Google and Yahoo vs. MySpace and YouTube - expected more out of Google Finance. It's not a one-sized-fits all Internet world, how can search engines trying to meet the needs of everyone, meet the needs of anyone?
These budding TV channels have to take away time spent on the search giants. Any site, whether it be video or otherwise, that takes away those precious eyeballs from the search engines reduces the search giants' relevance. If you're trading at Google's valuation, you can't lose any relevance whatsoever. News Corp.'s (NWS) MySpace had 36 million unique visitors in March, up 447% from last year. That's about a third of the 95 million unique visitors on Google's properties in the same month, but MySpace's growth rate is multiple times faster than the 24% year-over-year growth Google saw, according Nielsen//NetRatings.
Now here's an interesting data point: Google saw the time spent on its site jump to one hour, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. That's positive for Google. But according to the audience measurement company, the average time spent on MySpace in March was more than two hours, or twice the time spent on Google.
Go Daddy Group Inc., an Internet-domain registration company infamous for its risque television ads, might be an interesting initial public offering. If all these aspiring media publishers and producers start creating their own video channels, they might want to register their own URLs.
Big media will have to let the floodgates open and offer even more free content on the Web. If they don't, those on the Web will find ways to entertain themselves. You know kids tomorrow will be saying, "Have you seen my show lately?" But you certainly don't want kids tomorrow, saying, "ABC? I think that's the old 'TV' channel that my grandmother used to watch."
Forget about shows running for a typical season. That's so old school. We're probably going to see shows with a lifetime of about a day. OK, maybe a month or two. Technorati's 100 top blogs see a lot of churn, according to Technorati Chief Executive David Sifry. Churn? We haven't seen anything yet. Let's see, if we give each show 15 minutes of fame out of the 1,440 minutes in each day, that means 96 shows can be the top show in that day.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist or futurist to see that video channels will become a way to promote every product down to the nuts and bolts, or thread. All you have to do is go to YouTube and watch the video clip starring and produced by a teenage girl who discusses her breakup with her boyfriend. At the same time, she amuses herself and the viewers by showing off some Logitech International SA (LOGI) gear. Anyone who's been following video on the Web has already taken note of this rise in user-generated commercials, such as the Chevy Tahoe ads and even Current.tv's feature, where people can create their own commercials. (Note: The rise of user-generated commercials was one of my predictions made last year for 2006 Internet predictions.)
Finally, everyone will constantly be having Tower-of-Babel moments. A Tower-of-Babel moment is when you find yourself in a group of people speaking passionately about disparate topics. In the Bible, the tower was built to reach the heavens, but through God's hand, those building the tower found themselves speaking disparate languages. The tower is a symbol of overambitious projects ending in confusion. I'm not predicting an end on the Internet as we collectively build this virtual Tower of Babel or tower of knowledge, but definitely confusion.
For instance, a few months ago, my girlfriends and I were having drinks and discussing the latest news. Unfortunately, or fortunately, there was nothing unifying about our conversation. It was as though we lived in different towns. It was a Tower-of-Babel moment for me. It's a moment, I'm sure we'll increasingly find ourselves in such moments as we spend time on sites that are attuned to our personal preferences or idiosyncratic personalities.
So, do you want to know what video channels are popping up on the Web? Here's a small list. Keep in mind that these services are places where you can either watch content produced for the Web, or places that enable you to create your own video production and post it on the Web.
There is MySpace's video channel. It's just getting started and it's already seeing 42,000 videos uploaded daily, I'm told. There is also, of course, the video efforts by Google, Yahoo and MSN. Then there are the ones that aren't readily heard of.
They include Rocketboom.com, a very interesting video blog. I already mentioned Current.tv. Then there is Grouper.com, Dailymotion.com, Vmix.com, Metacafe.com, Vidilife.com, Guba.com, and eBaumsworld.com. There's also Ourmedia.org, Veoh.com, Podzinger.com, Break.com, Tagworld.com, Gorillamask.net, Fireant.tv, Dailysixer.com, iFilm.com, Sloopy.com, Atom Film (and AddictingClips), Extremefunnyhumor.com, Dinkytv.com, Stupidvideos.com, GrindTV.com, Comegetyousome.com, and Livedigital.com