Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Conversation with Paul Kontonis, CEO of For Your Imagination on The Power of Branded Entertainment and OmniReliant Holdings' Equity Stake

I recently spoke with Paul Kontonis CEO and Co-Founder of the New York-based online media studio For Your Imagination about the funding they secured from OmniReliant Holdings, Inc. in a bridge capital round two weeks ago. The amount of the funding was undisclosed but it gives OmniReliant an equity stake in FYI and helps fund ongoing operations. In the FYI press release Paul W. Morrison, CEO of OmniReliant said, "For Your Imagination has shown the way for online branded entertainment that not only entertains and engages an audience but also delivers a powerful marketing message. We recognize that brands can use the internet for more than just advertising with publishers – brands can now become the publisher and truly engage their customers and For Your Imagination knows how to do it successfully."

FYI produces The Green House, DadLabs, Break a Leg and many other web shows. Last month Paul spoke on my panel session at Streaming Media West on Updating and Syndicating Your Channels for New Media Distribution and he will be at Digital Hollywood on October 28th.

Larry Kless: How about your big announcement with OmniReliant? Had you been working with them for a while? How did the initial relationship get started?

Paul Kontonis: It was a long time coming but it felt very good to say we came in to a little bit of money. We met OmniReliant through a potential client that we were pitching at the time. Somebody who was on their Board knew the guys at OmniReliant really well and made an introduction and then we took it from there.

We worked with them on a web series together called, A Day with the Hiltons, one of the products that they license and they own is a fragrance called "My Secret" which is Kathy Hilton's fragrance. They had come to us and said, "Hey look we're going to be doing this PR event with a mother and daughter who won this competition in Cleveland to come over to LA to celebrate Mother's Day with Kathy Paris and Nicky Hilton. What would you guys do with that?"

This was a month before Mothers' Day and we developed the concept of A Day With the Hiltons and we went out to LA and shot the while day and released it as a 5-part mini-series. It involved meeting the contestants and meeting Kathy Hilton and going to brunch and getting their hair and nails done at a beautiful salon in Beverly Hills and going shopping on Rodeo drive, and probably the most exciting part about it is the shopping on Rodeo Drive in which the paparazzi are just absolutely insane, and they're like vampires outside a church because you can't go on private property so that when they would duck into a store they would all stay out front and try to shoot through the windows but the minute they went outside they got inundated.

The goal of the web series was to move product. It was to create awareness for Kathy Hilton's fragrance that was being sold at Macy's and they saw a really nice increase in sales, I don't remember exactly how much, but it went up enough that they said WOW, here's a great company that could some really wonderful stuff for us and this idea of branded entertainment is really powerful. So they made the commitment to invest into us.

The series was actually on the TMZ blog, they blogged about it, there was something going on Rodeo Drive with Kathy and her daughters and it showed up in People magazine and not Entertainment tonight, but one of those other kind of celebrity shows, plus we did a distribution deal with TV Guide broadband so it showed up on TV Guide celebrity show and across the TV Guide network.

LK: So what does it mean that OmniReliant gets an equity interested in FYI? Do they have a financial stake now in the company?

PK: Yes, they own a percentage of the equity of the company, like owning shares. So it's not convertible debt. The structure of the investment was not debt it was equity.

LK: What is your goal with this funding? Do you have immediate investment plans?

PK: It's actually the non-sexy working capital answer. Every other month we're in and out of profitability so we wanted to make sure that we had enough money in the bank to insure smooth functioning of the company and also support to new hires.

We just brought on a new VP of Brand and Sponsored Entertainment and we're about to bring on a new distribution person.

(Editors note: See related post, Branded and Sponsored Programming Hits the Big Time - For Your Imagination - For Your Imagination - develops and markets high-quality original web video "As online video programming continues to develop and the pathways to monetization become more evident, branded and sponsored videos are taking center stage. For this reason, For Your Imagination is proud to announce that Kathryn Velvel Jones has joined the team as the Vice President of Branded and Sponsored Entertainment Kathryn will be responsible for matching brands with For Your Imagination's strong line-up of targeted and advertiser friendly content and for developing original branded entertainment that meets messaging and reach needs..." (more)

LK: What do you say to the fact that you've been able to secure funding in the current financial crisis?

PK: Well I think the securing funding thing is kind of significant given the environment but kind of not significant since we started way before the financial problems hit the markets. So it really only needed to close which it did before all the financial hits. I don't know if things would have gone different if it took longer but I'd like to think it wouldn't. A lot of things are still business as usual and there's a lot of business conducted and to be conducted . Everyones knee jerk reaction is "Oh my God things are gong to be terrible now", but it's not really the case. We're seeing some clients pulling budgets and holding off until 2009 but we're also seeing a lot of things moving forward that were already pre-planned. Maybe people are a little more gun shy with the off-the-cuff expenditures but for the planned expenditures for the most part they're still going to move forward.

It helps to have a business plan.

LK: So what's new and sexy with FYI?

PK: I think there's a significance here with Omni getting more involved in a company like ours because they are a direct response company. They are looking at how do you move product off the shelves directly to consumers. They're not a company that sells to stores. So rather directly online or directly over the phone that's what they do. So they're seeing a big opportunity with online video as a mechanism for direct response. Now we've heard a lot about it being a great brand medium and to create brand awareness and that's all great but we haven't heard many case studies about it really coming into play in the direct response arena. So I think this is going to be interesting.

A couple of things are going to cross paths now:
A) Direct response
B) Infomercials and
C) The idea of branded entertainment

So that is more brand building all with the intent of driving sales. They (OmniReliant) have legends in their company of the Harrington Brothers and the Harringtons are probably the biggest names in the infomercial space. If there was a major infomercial series or an infomercial that you remember, Billy Mays, Anthony Sullivan, all those guys were part of the Harringtons. So the Harringtons are part of OmniReliant and are driving OmniReliant's business so for them to look at, they've been innovators in the infomercial space, for them to specifically look at a company like ours and say WOW, this is where we need to start going in and start investing in that space, I think is very interesting. There's no proof points for it yet but everyone recognizes that there could be an incredible opportunity for video to be a direct response vehicle just like everyone thought banner ads, direct emails and online campaigns could be.

LK: How long do you think it will be before you see some results? For that "Wow" to hit?

PK: I don't know. We did one series so far and it seemed to be pretty good. We're probably going to begin production on a new series or at least a couple of videos for one of their products and we'll see how that goes. I think it will be interesting to see it evolve especially when there's a downturn in the economy everyone wants to invest in direct response type of vehicle so if web video can be also seen as a direct response tactic then that is really going to insure that it retains a lot of the money in this downturn.

LK: How will these OmniReliant video be different from your current FYI web series?

PK: We're looking at these from the idea of brand entertainment which is original. So it would be something specifically created for them vs. sponsored entertainment where a brand comes in and says, "I love your network DadLabs I'm going to sponsor it and get my brand out through that." This idea is make us something completely brand new like we did with the Hiltons and then what we bring to the table that a production company can't, because were not a production company is the idea of distribution and insuring that people actually see the videos.

So when we did the Hiltons deal we knew we had a goal of at least 2 million views on those videos and we got about 4 million on them in the end. Whatever series we do next we're going to have goals on the viewership of those videos as well. So part of what we contribute to it is, yeah we can develop an idea, we can write it, we can shoot it we can make it look beautiful but then we can insure that it gets out and is seen by however many people or it gets as many views as we think will meet the needs of the campaign. So we're talking millions of views which is usually the goal so that's an important piece there. Anyone can make a really nice video but not everybody can make sure that it's viewed.

LK: That must make you feel pretty good?
PK: Sure! (laughs)

LK: With the Hiltons campaign, where did all those views take place? On their own web site? Various distribution networks?

PK: Mostly it happened on the distribution networks. There was also views on her web site Kathy Hilton Fragrance. On ForYourImagination.com there is a button that will take you to the series on her web site.

LK: What else is happening with FYI? Through the end of the year? Plans ahead?

PK: The next phase for us is trying to close a Series A round of investment so we can really expand the type of product that we put there but also our sales and marketing efforts. Specifically our sales efforts, that's going to be really critical because with the ability to ensure that we have inventory to sell. It's just a function of our sales. What I mean by that is if we can sell up to 20 million views on DadLabs a month then it's just a function of our sales on how much money we make. If we sell all 20 million great, if we only sell a million okay, if we only sell 100,000 that sucks. So we really need to be able to expand our sales capabilities to make sure we've got dedicated sales people per network or per channel of content that we're putting out there to close the bigger and better deals.

LK: What are your key metrics? What are you looking at each month?

PK: Because of our ability to leverage our distribution and to ramp up our views when we need to it's almost more interesting to say what is our capacity for viewership, that's how we measure it. So we know that for our comedy side of things our network Axis of Comedy our capacity is 60 million views in a month, on DadLabs we're looking at 15 millions view a month and on our Green network GreenHouse our capacity is 20 million views so we're looking at really big opportunities in each of our networks that is just a function of sales on how much money we make from them. So that's how we look at it, what is our capacity? and these are guaranteed views so if somebody came along and said,"I want to sponsor Axis of Comedy and in the month I want get 60 million views" we can deliver 60 million views.

LK: Do you take any time off?

PK: Between Christmas and New Years. That's the only time we're off. But if we're putting out content, content doesn't take a day off. So if it's a holiday on a Monday we still have to put content out and that means working over the weekend to make sure it's distributed and it hits. Our people work all the time.

About For Your Imagination:
New York City based For Your Imagination develops and markets high-quality Internet television and web video series, turning concept into reality for brands and content creators. The company works with creative individuals to develop their show, offering them the opportunity to reach a targeted, advertiser-friendly audience effectively and monetizing quickly. For Your Imagination is built upon the experience of industry veterans whose combined expertise includes web development, major television and movie production, national marketing campaigns and technology. Video networks and shows available now include DadLabs, The Green House, Axis of Comedy and more -- see for yourself, visit www.foryourimagination.com.

About Paul Kontonis:
Paul is the Chief Executive and a co-founder of For Your Imagination. As an interactive media veteran, Paul has been a new media pioneer and has developed interactive content practices which reach out and engage an audience. He appears in a number of marketing publications, digital media books including the Documentary Filmmakers Handbook, and is a speaker at several industry conferences and seminars annually. Read Paul's full profile here and his Linkedin profile here.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Qik Releases Alpha Client for Blackberry

Today Qik announced the alpha release of its the popular live mobile streaming client for Blackberry. Within less than a year Qik has broadened its platform across mobile devices since the first release for the Nokia N95.

Read the full press release here and the Qik blog post, Qik now live with alpha release client for BlackBerry by bhaskar » QIK.

Bhaskar Roy says, "One of the most frequent requests we've had from Qik fans has been for a BlackBerry client. Today we are really excited to announce our alpha release clients for the BlackBerry Pearl 8120, BlackBerry Pearl 8130, and BlackBerry Bold. BlackBerry Curve and BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 will follow soon."

"Initially, one of Qik's signature features will be absent from all BlackBerry models: the ability for viewers watching real-time videos to interact via instant messages. Qik tells us that the live chat feature is running into a "text and camera app issue." In Qik, the incoming instant message lays over the video, something that's not built in to the BlackBerry platform." - from Qik announces streaming video for BlackBerry | Webware : Cool Web apps for everyone - CNET

Jason Kincaid says, "This brings Qik to a much broader platform, and also helps cement Qik’s lead in terms of device support well ahead of competitors Kyte and Flixwagon, neither of which support Blackberry. However, Qik will have another competitor on the Blackberry platform: today’s news comes hot on the heels (and may have been prompted by) the launch of Next2Friends, the first streaming video application that supported Blackberries." - from
Qik Finally Brings Its Live Video Streaming To Blackberry - TechCrunch

Earlier this month Qik also added alpha support on mass market J2ME phones "a.k.a feature phones, a.k.a non-smartphones a.k.a non-PDA phones" and you can see that video announcement below. Qik now comes pre-loaded on Nokia's new touchscreen device called the XpressMusic 5800.

MG Seigler says, "Of course, there are two hot devices that the service isn’t available on yet: The Apple iPhone and the G1 (T-Mobile’s Google Android-based phone). The G1 was just launched a few days ago, and only has some 60+ applications that users can download in the Android Market right now. More will come, and you can bet one of those will be Qik... The company’s parent, Visivo Communications raised a $3 million round back in April. Since then, Andreessen and Ben Horowitz have also invested in the company." - from Qik sweetens its mobile streaming video roster with BlackBerry support. iPhone coming soon » VentureBeat

What about the iPhone? Kevin Rose may be right because a few days ago Scoble visited Qiks headquarters and they loaded "a very early version of their iPhone streaming video app onto my iPhone" and he recorded this video. He said, "Note that this is NOT a jailbroken iPhone, but they needed to do some magic to build me an app that’ll only run on my iPhone. I don’t know when it’ll be submitted to Apple as an official application. But for now I’m having fun trying it out."

Bhaskar Roy clarifed that, "We are looking into this, but at present are not sure when and how this will happen." - from Qik on App Store - clarification by bhaskar » QIK

Visit Qik to download the Blackberry application.

Netflix to Make Streaming Available to Macs With Silverlight

Big news from Netflix for Macs users who have a Netflix subscription is they are deploying streaming videos from the "Watch Instantly" feature to Macs through the Silverlight plug-in. There are no details on when this will be rolled out but it's expected by the end of the year and will only run on Intel-based based Macs and not older G3 machines. There is no word on Linux.

This story comes by way of Engadget.

"In a move that seemed like it would never, ever, ever happen, Netflix has finally managed to bring its streaming video technology (and decent library) to Macs everywhere, thanks to Microsoft's Flash-esque also-ran, Silverlight... (more)" - from Netflix finally brings 'Watch Instantly' to Macs via Silverlight - Engadget by Joshua Topolsky

"Since “Watch Instantly” was introduced about two years ago Macintosh and Linux users have been complaining bitterly about Netflix’s failure to offer the service on their browsers of choice. The company has already offered streaming via dedicated hardware and specially programmed home theater and gaming device" - from CrunchGear » Archive » Macs getting Netflix “Watch Instantly” with Silverlight

Full press release below:

Based on Microsoft Silverlight, New Player Features Enhanced Dynamic Streaming, First-Time Use for Macs and Breakthrough Navigation for Fast-Forward and Rewind

LOS GATOS, Calif., October 27, 2008 – Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX), the world’s largest online movie rental service, today announced it has begun the deployment of Microsoft Silverlight to enhance the instant watching component of the Netflix service and to allow subscribers for the first time to watch movies and TV episodes instantly on their Intel-based Apple Macintosh computers. The deployment, which will initially touch a small percentage of new Netflix subscribers, is the first step in an anticipated roll-out of the new platform to all Netflix subscribers by the end of the year.

Silverlight is designed for delivery of cross-platform, cross-browser media experiences inside a Web browser. It is expected that Netflix members who watch movies and TV episodes instantly on their computers will enjoy a faster, easier connection and a more robust viewing experience with Silverlight, due to the quality built directly into the player. Among the viewing enhancements with the new player is a breakthrough in timeline navigation that vastly improves the use of fast-forwarding and rewinding. The new Netflix player takes advantage of Play Ready DRM, which is built into Silverlight, for the playback of protected content on both Windows-based PCs and on Macs. That had not been possible with previous generation technologies.

“Silverlight with Play Ready offers a powerful and secure toolkit for delivery of dynamic streaming, which offers faster start-up, and higher quality video, adapted in real time to users’ connection speeds,” said Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt. “Members who enjoy watching movies and TV episodes from the growing library of choices that can be instantly streamed at Netflix will be thrilled with this next generation improvement of access and quality, on a broader range of platforms, including Intel Macs and Firefox.”


Weekly Review: NY Times Goes HD with Brightcove, Blip.TV and Other Funding Updates, Hulu, CBS, Ooyala, iPhone, G1 Google Phone, Netflix, Qik

Here's another weekly review of some of the significant online video events from this past week. While I don't intend this to be an ongoing feature on this blog and I do think that these stories are of interest. I've only listed a few links to some of the sources to save time and energy. While there was a lot of news of layoffs at companies big and small I didn't cover any of that here.

Beet.TV has a two-part post on the New York Times story below which you see here and here.

NY Times Implements HD video with Brightcove 3

From Reel SEO
"NYTimes.com launched a new video platform today powered by Brightcove 3 (check out our interview with Brightcove) that allows for video content to be more easily integrated into their content sections and provides an overall enhanced user experience. Apart from the complete redesign of the video library page, the new platform offers several other benefits over the previous platform powered by TheFeedRoom."

Here is the company press release.

Funding updates
Online Video News
Gadget news
Stay tuned, I have several draft posts that I'm working on which will be published soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

And now for something completely different... John Cleese on Seesmic

Actor, author, motivational speaker and Monty Python alum John Cleese has joined the video conversation as a member of the Seesmic community. He appeared a two weeks ago on October 8th and answered direct questions from Seesmic members offering candid responses.

Jamie Riddlle wrote on his blog, "So its not everyday you meet someone famous, but tonight we did. In what must be a 'social network' first, John Cleese came onto Seesmic and invited questions. This 'hook up' was made possible by Dean Whitbread, Loic Lemeur [Head Honcho at Seesmic] and the great man himself.

For a bit of fun, my daughter posted a question..."
Re: John Cleese on Seesmic Tuesday 7th at NOON Pacific TimeCan you helpme with my homework...

And she got this response...

Re: Ella /: John Cleese on Seesmic Tuesday 7th at NOON Pacific Time

John Cleese is also on Twitter and Friendfeed and blogs regularly at: http://www.cleeseblog.com/

Seesmic VP of Content Vinvin interviewed him about Alaskan Governor and VP candidate Sarah Palin in this video clip.

John Cleese (part 2): Obama, Biden & Fox News

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Stickam Joins the Fun, Introduces Mobile Application

Last week Stickam joined the ranks of the live mobile streaming services like Qik, Flixwagon and Next2Friends with it's release of Stickam mobile. I had the opportunity to test it out on a Nokia N95 that is on loan to me from Nokia/WOM World. While I couldn't get a connection through my 3G carrier ATT Media Net I was able to connect at home through my Wi-fi and it worked flawlessly. It turned out to be one of those, "Oh, I'm broadcasting?" moments because I didn't know what to expect and it worked right away and really exceeded my expectations.

I included the archived video of the live stream that was recorded and available just minutes after I stopped streaming. While it's not that exciting of a video it does give you an idea of how easy it is to use and the quality. Stickam Mobile seems to be a very stable platform and I plan to use it more. If you have a Stickam account you might want to try it to.

Here's the announcement from the Stickam Blog:

Stickam Blog » Stickam Goes Mobile!
We’ve finally release the beta version of Stickam Mobile, which will be available for all Nokia Series 60 3rd Edition platform phones. Stickam Mobile has been tested on the Nokia N95 and Nokia N80 phones but it should work on any Nokia S60 phone.

Free yourself from the wired and often clunky bondage of computers and Go Live on Stickam from your own mobile phone anywhere!

We’ve finally release the beta version of Stickam Mobile, which will be available for all Nokia Series 60 3rd Edition platform phones. Stickam Mobile has been tested on the Nokia N95 and Nokia N80 phones but it should work on any Nokia S60 phone.

Installing the Stickam Mobile application to your Nokia phone is easy and only takes a few minutes. Just follow this link to get started: http://www.stickam.com/member/mobile/signup.do

About Stickam:
"Launched in February of 2006, Stickam.com emerged as the first social networking website that focuses on live video streaming, reaching over a million streams viewed each day. It features embedding and social profile features for your web pages, online auctions, company web sites and blogs. The Stickam’s multimedia player can be embedded onto any website and allows members to personalize their web pages with live stream, video, music, pictures and chat. Stickam site is a destination for exiting live streams and interaction with other members. Thousands of categorized live streams can be found on Stickam 24/7." - from Crunchbase

Related:Update: Added background information on Stickam.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weekly Review: Meet the New Online Video Players - Brightcove 3, Flash Player 10, Joost and Silverlight 2

I had started each of these news items as separate posts last week but I combined them all into this single post as weekly review. We all know the financial situation has put start-ups on shaky ground with a number of them already closing their doors. But the online video world continues to innovate and invest in new technologies for content creation, delivery, syndication and distribution. New online video players were introduced almost every day last week by the major players in the industry. Here's a sort list run down of the significant announcements from the previous week.

On Monday, October 13th Brightcove introduced Brightcove 3, their new online video publishing platform. Andy Plesser shared this video on Beet.TV of Jeremy Allaire, Brightcove Chairman and CEO, who demonstrates the new platform. Andy wrote, "For this interview, we have published the video in the new Brightcove 3 environment. Check out full screen to see how well the player works. It uses a new kind of dynamic delivery which adjusts the bitrate to the viewers' bandwidth." - from Beet.TV: Brightcove Unveils New Video Pubishing Platform with New Service...for Large and Small Video Publishers

"Video has gone from being a consumer-driven entertainment experience on the Web to being a basic feature of any professional website across all media and corporate sectors," said Jeremy Allaire, Brightcove chairman and chief executive officer. "While online video is becoming ubiquitous, one size does not fit all. Built as an extensible SaaS application, Brightcove 3 provides tremendous flexibility to online publishers to meet the needs of the full spectrum of different end-user scenarios." - from Brightcove 3 Transforms the Business of Online Video Brightcove Press Releases

What's significant in the Brightcove 3 release is a scaled offering and tiered pricing structure for small and medium-sized companies, something they've have been criticized for which has been a barrier for by the smaller enterprise customers.

Mark Robertson has a detailed report that outlines the new areas of functionality along with with customer experiences at: Brightcove 3 Online Video Publishing Platform for Media | Reel SEO

More reading:

On Tuesday, October 14, Microsoft made Silverlight 2 available for download to the public and for those who have been using it believe it contains vast improvements. As a competitor to Adobe's Flash Player it's received good press for it's updated interactive functions and customizable interface for big events like the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Democratic National Convention.

The October 13 press release included some interesting statistics, "Silverlight adoption continues to grow rapidly, with penetration in some countries approaching 50 percent and a growing ecosystem that includes more than 150 partners and tens of thousands of applications. During the 17 days of the 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing, NBCOlympics.com, powered by Silverlight, had more than 50 million unique visitors, resulting in 1.3 billion page views, 70 million video streams and 600 million minutes of video watched, increasing the average time on the site (from 3 minutes to 27 minutes) and Silverlight market penetration in the U.S. by more than 30 percent. Broadcasters in France (France Televisions SA), the Netherlands (NOS), Russia (Sportbox.ru) and Italy (RAI) also chose Silverlight to deliver Olympics coverage online."

It was an automatic update for clients who already had Silverlight 1 installed and one of teh key advantages is cross browser support of Microsofts .NET Framework for Rich Internet Applications (RIA) and you can read more on the highlights here along with a technology preview of the Soyatec project, an open source RIA development environment at: http://www.eclipse4sl.org.

Microsoft had recently made headlines last month with the announcements at IBC which included playback of H.264 video and its equity stake in Move Networks.

This video from Streaming Media West features Eric Schmidt, Director of Silverlight Media Evangelism, Microsoft who presents "how Silverlight enables a host of engaging in-stream and rich media advertising scenarios, allowing advertisers to create compelling, best-of-breed brand experiences on the web." You can also download the presentation Integrating Advertising With Microsoft Silverlight.

More reading:

Also on October 14, Joost relaunched with a new Flash-based web browser interface with social tools to navigate through it's enormous library of videos and share with friends. The once dominant player in the online video market has fallen out of favor with stiff competition from Hulu, YouTube, Veoh, DailyMotion and many other sites. While Joost has about 46,000 assets or about 8,000 total hours of video it's unclear whether or not it can successfully compete in the crowded field.

There's been much skepticism like that of Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch who wrote, "The Flash site comes almost exactly a year after I wrote a post pointing out that Joost’s peer-to-peer software approach would not work and that it would have to switch over to Flash-based video, just like every other Web video service. People don’t want to have to launch a new piece of software to watch video on their computers. They want to watch it in their browsers... It took Joost a year, but it has finally realized that the Web is where it’s at." - from Joost Turns On Its All-Flash Website. Is Anybody Watching?

Also according to Pete Wylie, "Joost's player is a straight Hulu rip, no matter what anyone says. It may have one or two features that Hulu doesn't have, but it doesn't have the level of content or real community viewership to touch them there. It got off to a head start and now finds itself behind the game and running out of original ideas. Copying a winning idea after the original one failed is far from exciting or groundbreaking." - from Three new video players, but different results - FierceOnlineVideo

More reading:

On Wednesday, October 15, Adobe released Flash Player 10, it's ubiquitous online video player for download. With new features and visual performance improvements like native 3D transformation, animation, advanced audio processing, custom filters and effect, advanced text layout and GPU hardware acceleration. The most notable improvement for online video is dynamic streaming which will automatically adjust bitrates of streaming media depending on changing network conditions. It also extends capabilities of its CS4 software suite and an upcoming release of Adobe Media Server will implement dynamic streaming. Read more detailed information in the release notes here.Additionally this update addresses security vulnerabilities.

This video from Mike Downey, Principal Evangelist for Platform Business Development at Adobe Systems was published in May 2008 when the first public Adobe Flash Player 10 "Astro" beta had just been released. This video gives a quick overview of some of the big new features.

Liz Gaines of NewTeeVee says, "Despite new competition from Microsoft’s Silverlight, Adobe appears to be adding to its market share. Some 86 percent of online videos viewed in the U.S. in August used Adobe Flash, according to comScore. That’s up from 66 percent in November 2007. Adobe attributes its own growth to the expanding market and to new deals with power sites LIKE? DirectTV, MySpace Music, Disney, and Sunday Night Football. Meanwhile, when you combine its Windows Media and Silverlight products, Microsoft has apparently lost market share. It had 24 percent U.S. market share last November and now has 13 percent." - from Adobe Adds Dynamic Streaming and More to Flash Player « NewTeeVee.

More reading:

Streaming Media West on Pixel Heads Network EXPOzed Show

Pixel Heads Network was at Streaming Media West last month conducting interviews in the exhibit hall and produced a series of videos on their EXPOzed show hosted by Marcelo Lewin, aka The Digital Media Dude. Lewin started Pixel Heads Network as the The Digital Media Dude in late 2006 as a new media blog, and created his first podcast, called The Digital Media Dude Daily Tip (now known as Digital Media Quick Tips) which was which soon found its way into iTunes Top 25.

Lewin says, "From there, slowly, the “blog” starting becoming more of a podcast network, and that’s how it became “Pixel Heads Network.” According to his web site, ""Pixel Heads Network is dedicated to providing the best shows for digital media creators to entertain you, inform you and teach you in the areas of web, video, digital photography, podcasting, blogging and eMarketing!"

Check out Pixel Head Networks for their variety of weekly shows which include: Digital Media Quick Tips - The How-To For Digital Media Creators, Mac 411 - The How-To For Mac Users, Meet the Experts - In-Depth Interviews With New Media Experts, Tame The Tube - The Video Producer's YouTube Help Souce, and depending on what expo that are at you can watch EXPOzed - Bringing Technology Expo Show Floors To You.

In this episode of EXPOzed, "Deeje Cooley, from the Adobe Media Player division tells us all about their new media player. Learn why as a video producer you want your show on it, how to syndicate it, how to monetize your content through it, plus much more!" - from Episode description.

Streaming Media West 2008 Episodes:
For more great videos see their Blip channel at http://pixelheadsnetwork.blip.tv/

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Streaming Media West: Best Practices in Enterprise Streaming for Communications and Learning

This is an interesting session from Streaming Media West that was led by Mike Newman, CEO of Accordent Technologies which focused on the enterprise streaming environment. I've been in the corporate video sector myself for the last 18 years and I'm challenged every day on how to provide streaming services in a large corporation that has no centralized enterprise streaming service. Many companies have numerous divergent ad hoc solutions that are either bought or built through partnerships with external service providers or internal skunkworks projects.

With the constant need for cost-cutting measures organizations have looked to network based conferencing and e-learning solutions to stretch their budget dollars. But in most corporations physical media is still widely consumed in the form of DVD and CD media but it will eventually follow the course of VHS and become obsolete as next generation networks become more capable of handling the video bandwidth. Also clients will see the value of reporting metrics that are available from online solutions along with better version control.

There are a variety of live and on-demand suites available in hardware and software as service models and that industry continues to evolve. While there's always a need for face to face communication in many situations it's clear that streaming media will play more of a key role within the enterprise.

Best Practices in Enterprise Streaming for Communications and Learning
Track B: (B102) September 23, 2008 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Use of online video in the enterprise has evolved well beyond the special occasion, rudimentary talking-head videos that characterized early adoption. Whether webcasting executive briefings across the globe or capturing and archiving rich media presentations for training, marketing, sales, and compliance, a growing number of organizations are capitalizing on the capabilities of Web 2.0 technologies. This session will show examples from Fortune 500 organizations of best practices in integrated online video for communications and learning.
Moderator:Mike Newman, CEO, Accordent Technologies
Presenters:Dan Pryor, VP, Corporate Communications, Safeway
Andy Aronson, Visual Media Group, Worldwide Marketing and Sales, National Semiconductor
Doug Wells, Manager, Streaming Communications, Applied Materials
Eric Armstrong, Kontiki, Inc.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Online Video Publishing and Marketing Strategies: Streaming Media West Q&A with Christina Cece, Glam Media

In preparation for moderating the Streaming Media West panel session, Online Video Publishing and Marketing Strategies, I spoke with Christina Cece, Sr. Product Manager, Glam Media to discuss Glam Media's content distribution, publishing and marketing strategies. Christina was one of the speakers who participated in the panel discussion and the video is available here.

The following is a Q&A session with Christina conducted prior to the conference. My thanks to her for taking the time to share this information.

Christina Cece, Sr. Product Manager, Glam Media
Christina manages all Glam Media Products. She manages Glam.com, Glam’s owned and operated properties, Glam’s publisher products and internal tools and our flagship video product – GlamTV.

She held senior positions at IBM, MarkLogic Corp (Sequoia-funded xml content server company), Deloitte, and a year as a senior engineer at CafePress. She has a degree in Econ and Computer Science from Duke University.

About Glam Media:
Glam Media has built a vertical content network made up of over 650 sites, reaching 75 million unique women worldwide (comscore). Most of our sites are mid- and long-tail content sites: high quality niche content producers. By bringing these sites together we’ve harnessed a highly-engaged and highly-targetable audience. Glam Media leverages the increasing fragmentation of the Internet —bringing together owned-and-operated websites, including flagship Glam.com, with the Glam Publisher Network of more than 600 popular lifestyle websites and blogs and syndicated content from leading media companies. Glam Media’s distributed media network model effectively bridges hundreds of unique digital “voices” representing the best content in each category relevant to women, and offers advertisers truly unprecedented quality reach through a single brand advertising platform: Glam Evolution.

LK: What drives publishing and marketing strategies? (big idea or fill the niche?)

CC: Our business model of distributed content drives our publishing and video strategies. For Glam TV, Glam Media has negotiated content deals with premier video producers such as E! Entertainment, Sony Music, TVGuide, CelebTV, VidCat, SomaGirls, and Chic.TV. The GlamTV platform gives our network of 650 publishers access to this exclusive and relevant video content. Our publishers can also use the platform to publish and distribute their own professionally produced videos.

Glam monetizes all of this video content so that our content partners, publishers, and Glam all earn revenue. All of our video publishing and marketing efforts are aimed at building and fostering this ecosystem.

LK: Define distribution vs. syndication.

CC: GlamTV is primarily concerned with distribution of content for video publishers- we don’t produce our own video content.

LK: Who are your customers? (viewers, producers, advertisers?)

CC: Our GlamTV customers are our publishers, end users, content partners, and advertisers.

The GlamTV platform gives our publishers access to premium video content by virtue of the Glam brand, size, and reach. This content is highly relevant to publisher end users; as such, GlamTV videos drive user engagement (and thus pageviews and revenue) on publisher sites.

We are able to offer content partners a rights-managed, quality-branded platform on which to syndicate and distribute their videos. The GlamTV platform enables monetization of our distributed video content, which earns revenue for our content partners.

The platform offers brand advertisers an effective, one-stop partner for delivering video brand advertising on the Web to a highly targeted network of sites.

LK: How do you get started? in online video publishing?

CC: The first step is to create a well defined audience. You then have the information needed to aggregate and deliver compelling video content.

The next step is to build a platform that is flexible (player and ad-delivery agnostic) with robust API access. Many videos have a short shelf life, so it is important that videos are delivered in a timely manner. Finally, it’s critical that your platform supports rich video metadata, such as keywords, description, and related topics.

Video publishing is interesting from an aggregation and distribution perspective because partners who may see you as competition from an article content perspective often see you as a valuable distribution partner for video.

LK: How do you find your niche and establish brand? Build audience? Build ecosystem?

CC: Glam has an established brand in the marketplace and proven track record with our advertisers. We were fortunate enough to begin our video efforts with strong brand recognition and loyal audience.

LK: What's the key to producing and programming compelling content? (original series, uploads, UGC)

CC: For Glam, compelling content is content that is professionally produced, highly relevant to our audience, and timely.

Examples of some of our most successful content are exclusive, professionally produced videos covering events such as Fashion Week, and various entertainment awards shows. Glam is able to distribute this content within 24 hours of the event.

LK: How important is advertising?

CC: Advertising is cornerstone to our video strategy. The GlamTV ecosystem is powered by the ability to deliver highly targeted brand advertising to users. This targeting is accomplished by Glam Evolution.

LK: How do you create sustainable model for monetizing content?

CC: Create an ecosystem where everyone benefits and where advertisers see results. It is paramount that monetization clearly demonstrates value, engagement, and brand recognition to advertisers.

LK: What works? What doesn't?

CC: The GlamTV platform was launched about 3 months ago; as such, we are still in the discovery phase.

We are in the midst of building several new players and new ways for publishers to integrate video on their sites. What works for some publishers, won’t work for others, so fast development cycles and flexible platform are key.

A critical aspect of integrating video with web content is the quality of metadata that you are able to collect and use. This is important for suggesting related videos, and for integrating video with related article content.

LK: What are your key metrics?

CC: Displays, plays, 100% play-through, hours played, unique users

LK: What about the multi-screen strategy? (TV, web, mobile)

CC: For now Glam Media is focused on video distribution on the web. We do distribute some of the syndicated TV content.

LK: What about other social media tool integration? (video comments, Twitter updates)

CC: The GlamTV platform enables users to rate and sort our video content by the following metrics: Most popular, Most viewed, Editorially featured, sharing.

GlamTV is actually part of the Glam Developer platform, which will be released this fall. The developer platform will enable 3rd party developers to build applications that feature Glam content, including video.

LK: What do you see in the short and long term for online video publishing and marketing strategies?

CC: Publishing strategies that will win are those where all parties’ incentives are strategically aligned and everyone wins.

The Power of Distributed Media Model

Relevant Glam Media press releases:
Recent news:

Glam Media contact information: (650)-244-4000 info@Glam.com

UPDATE (10/16/08): Slight copy edits

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Streaming Media West - New Media Production: Building an Independent Media Brand

Following yesterdays post on the power personal media, this post is about the Streaming Media West session on New Media Production: Building an Independent Media Brand. Over the last few years I've seen a growing trend of more online video content producers at Streaming Media West. This year with more panel sessions focusing on original and personal media production, online video publishing strategies, video blogging and with the LG15 creators presenting one of the Keynotes, it's proof that original content and independent media brands are becoming a mainstay within the industry.

With online video stars like Gary Vaynerchuk competing in the same space as Hulu, this "middle ground" as Brian Steinberg describes it in his Advertising Age post It Surely Isn't 'Lost,' but Online Video Finds Ad Niche:Programs Not Ready for Prime Time Still Prime for Marketing Dollars is safe but not ready for prime time yet. Steinberg said, "The theory starting to emerge is that more advertisers will find themselves associating with characters such as Mr. Vaynerchuk, even though their shows look little like ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" or NBC's "Heroes."
Gary Vee says, "All the pizzazz, the cameras, the lighting and the miking, I think for lack of a better word, it's a lot of bull crap in the social-media world... When people are consuming information online, there is definitely a charisma and a charm to the bare-bones approach."
Steinberg spoke with Andy Forrsell, senior VP-content and distribution at Hulu, who said, "I think this is going to be an interesting chunk of audience that is passionate... Does Gary have slightly lesser production values? Absolutely," he said, but "these are people that pay a lot of money" for high-quality wine, and "this is an audience that people want to get to."

But even with an original brand how do you build your audience and fund your work?

One option is to create your brand and join a "niche video network" as Dan Rayburn calls them in his blog post, Niche Video Networks: Can Content Owners Make Money? He says, "In the past 12-18 months, niche video networks or micro video networks as some call them, such as For Your Imagination and Next New Networks have ramped up their offerings for small content producers trying to gain their business. At the same time, video platforms like Babelgum and Brightcove are also competing for these same content owners and the differences between a network and a platform continue to confuse people. These types of aggregators and networks offer content creators a promising new vehicle for syndicating and monetizing content that would be hard to do on their own, but many of those content owners keep asking what exactly the niche video networks offer and how the business relationship works?"

Here's the video from the Streaming Media West panel session that featured a panel of producers, entrepreneurs and new media analysts who discussed their strategies for building an independent media brand.

New Media Production: Building an Independent Media Brand
Track A: (A104) 2:45 PM - 3:45 PM

IP distribution has enabled the development of a new, small-scale professional video production model, and democratized media has been described as effectively enabling a “middle class” of independent professional video producers. But as the industry develops, access and marketing have proven critical factors to the ultimate success of a series. Can a new media producer achieve success without forging the kind of high-level relationships necessary to secure prominent placement on established entertainment websites? Hear how new media producers navigate this landscape from concept development to distribution, licensing, and marketing.

Moderator:Jamison Tilsner, Founder/Blogger, Tilzy.TV
Presenters:Will Coghlan, Co-Founder, Senior Producer, Hudson Street Media
Yuri Baranovsky, Creator, Producer, Break a Leg
Sarah Szalavitz, Co-Founder & CEO, 7 Robot
Adriana Gascoigne, Director of Corporate Communications, hi5

See my interview with Adriana that I posted a few weeks ago, Streaming Media West Interview with Adriana Gascoigne | Larry Kless's Weblog, that I recorded after the session. She offered advise to video and new media students recommending that they learn new media tools and engage in distribution networks.