Thursday, September 3, 2009

Q&A with VidCompare Founder Kris Drey

I'm pleased to present this interview with Kris Drey, the man behind VidCompare, in which he talks about his background in the online video platform space where he fully discloses, how he came up with the idea of VidCompare and the overall goal of site. Kris has more than 13 years of experience managing and marketing online products from strategy to launch. He was employee number three at and has spent the past three years building and marketing the company. Previously, Kris was director of marketing at, an online cell phone and plan reseller where he helped create the company's content and community plan, including Expert Reviews and Ratings and the PhoneTalk blog. Before LetsTalk, Kris spent six years at CNET Networks as a Senior Product Manager for several online comparison engines, including CNET Wireless,, Internet Services and the Web Host Directory. Now with this exciting new venture Kris hopes to educate users, drive high quality leads to online video platforms and build community within the online video space.

How did the idea of VidCompare come about? Why VidCompare?

The idea came to me to build VidCompare when I was thinking about creative lead gen options. Today, the majority of people looking for online video solutions do so via Google, which I think is a broken model. Entering a search term (usually "video hosting" or "video streaming") and getting an abundance of semi-related results accompanied by paid results usually leads to blind clicking, driving uneducated people to websites who typically bounce within 30 seconds turning only a page or so. Then it occurred to me, this space needs a comparison engine-like service to help educate buyers prior to sending them to providers sites.

There is nowhere else on the Internet today to compare OV platforms side by side. If there were already two or three of them I would not further crowd the space with another, but users need a trusted and unbiased view of the space to help them make smart decisions and the platform providers need a tool to drive high quality leads.

What is your overall goal of VidCompare?

The goal of VidCompare is to drive qualified leads to online video platform providers as well as to educate the first time and even repeat buyers of such services. Online video is still in its infancy yet people are viewing 18 billion videos a month which is astronomical. Every business will have video on their site within two years, they have to if they want to stay competitive. As a result, the platform space is becoming very crowded and very confusing. We hope that VidCompare will be the one-stop-shop for everything related to the platform space making it easier for businesses to find the perfect provider, saving them time and money. Online video is a strategic business decision, not a tactical one. You don't shop for your next auto purchase by typing "Porsche" into Google. You go to a trusted online source like Edmunds or Autobytel to find expert advice, user reviews, and side by side comparisons. VidCompare answers the important questions for buyers and provides the tools necessary to make an educated purchase.

What is your business plan for VidCompare? Will you monetize the site?

Yes, we'd like to be able to make money to support the site. We'll run ads on the site via AdSense as well as the OpenX Market until we can generate enough page views to sell ads ourselves. The site also has sponsorship opportunities whereby the platform providers can enhance their listings with approved content and links on their listings and Service Detail Pages. Hopefully the providers will see enough value in VidCompare to want to support it financially through such sponsorships and advertising.

Since you work for one of the online video platforms and compete in the space, how do you address the issue of conflict of interest?

The bottom line is that I am very passionate about this space. It's been my job for the past three years to watch the competition very closely and as a result I've developed a long list of providers to watch and a solid understanding of the business models, the needs, and the pain points of these businesses. My current role has helped me to understand the online video platforms and as a result recognize the true need for such a solution. Working at CNET building and managing comparison engines helped me realize that everyone could benefit from side by side comparisons, editorial coverage, user reviews, and a real sense of community around the OV space. This is what you'll find at VidCompare, and I'm completely open, transparent, and fair about it. You will see that no singular provider has special treatment, better promotion, or more information than any other provider in the database. This is a 100% vendor-neutral offering, driven by data so if there is bias on the site it's within the data, which can be easily updated.

How detailed is the information in VidCompare? What is the methodology?

We've collected information about the providers that will help first time buyers find the right platform for their needs. This is not an overly technical directory but rather provides all the facts and information to move to the next level in the buying cycle. We've been collecting data on each provider for almost a year using the Internet, white-papers, attending webinars, utilizing sales and marketing materials, and keeping our ears open. Everything on VidCompare is widely available to everyone, we have no secrets or inside information but rather, we've taken the time to comb through it, clean it up, and present it in a clean directory.

I've watched this space grow faster than any other on the Internet and as a result it's become more and more confusing and more difficult to understand especially for marketers who are typically responsible for making online video decisions and purchases for their businesses. I've been waiting for someone to build a directory like this for years to help bring clarity and transparency to the space and smart people like Dan Rayburn, Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen and Joel Unickow at StreamingMedia have done amazing things like publishing the Jan Ozer piece about how to choose a platform provider as well as developing the first ever Online Video Platform Summit (in November 2009). Mark Robertson at ReelSEO also created a fantastic list of video sharing sites which, according to Mark, is the second most highly read piece in the history of ReelSEO.

How many OVPs are part of the launch?

We have 58 providers in the database today, and it's growing. Our directory includes on-demand providers ranging from full-blown, big-media platforms like Brightcove to mom-and-pop, niche providers like open source Panda. We've found that a few providers have closed up shop in the past year like EyeSpot and a few others that we have been unable to reach like FirstStream and LightCast Media.

What's your engagement strategy with OVPs?

We want the providers to feel a deep sense of ownership of VidCompare therefore they will have full access to their profile and features, and the ability to promote themselves uniquely on the site via sponsorships, bylined articles, white-papers, press releases, etc. I hope to eventually have a personal relationship with every provider to ensure that the site remains engaging and fair. At launch they will be able to use our Provider Feedback form to submit updates until we build logins for each of them to update via the web site.

With consumers?

Alex (my co-founder and engineer) and I come from the world of buying advice; expert and user reviews, and customer experience so we plan to keep communication and information open to our user base allowing everyone to post reviews and ratings, and provide feedback at any time via the contact and feedback forms.

There is a lot on the site with search, news, reviews, side-by-side comparisons; Can you talk about some of the features available for searching and comparing OVPs?

Sure, we have over 100 features listed in the database today which are selected per provider and listed on their Service Detail Pages. Experienced users who know what they are looking for can use the Advanced Search to select multiple features to find precisely the platform provider they need. Also, the platform providers themselves will have the opportunity to go through the site and submit updates to their features (and Service Detail Pages) to ensure optimal accuracy on the site. We provide one-click broad searches for users who may not know exactly what they're looking for, where they can then sort, and filter their results until they find what they need.

What sort of features will you be adding that were not part of the initial launch?

We've already begun work on phase II of the site which will include advanced promotional features for the providers such as enhanced listings, and micro-sites as well as new tools for providers to access and edit their data. We'll add user tools and features like player galleries and video demos from providers as well. And we're currently putting the final touches on a OVP Decision Wizard which will walk users through a step by step process of questions leading them to a short-list of providers that match their query.

Where do you see the OVP space in the next 6 months?

In the next six to twelve months I think we'll see the space thin out a bit as some providers will not be able to sustain themselves due to the lack of venture funds. There are several platforms actively looking for B and C rounds who are having a difficult time. If they do not receive funding they'll look for a buyer or to a competitor with whom to do an M & A deal. We've seen some of this already with PixelFish picking up EyeSpot's assets and Kit Digital merging with Narrowstep. Specialization will start to emerge as providers strive to stand out from the competition. Competitive advantages will displace table stakes in product roadmaps, new technologies, and enhanced features such as deeper analytics, SEO, and syndication will dominate engineering time and sales pitches

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