Saturday, January 18, 2014

Online Video Conversations: AJ McGowan, Unicorn Media (now Brightcove)

The online video platform leader Brightcove acquired Unicorn Media on January 6, 2014 for $49 million, consisting of approximately 2.9 million shares of Brightcove stock and approximately $9 million in cash. Unicorn Media is a leading video technology platform company specializing in dynamic ad insertion in the cloud. Unicorn Media's key technology is a product called Unicorn Once, that enables dynamic optimization of video content, either live or VOD, across any Internet-connected device through a single URL, and monetize video content by dynamically inserting and analyzing targeted ads through its patented video cloud technology. Unicorn Media was founded in 2007 and made a name for itself within the online video platform space with more than 50 customers in the broadcast TV sector and $5 million in revenue in 2013. Boston-based Brightcove established itself as the first online video platform (OVP), founded by Jeremy Allaire in June 2005, and went public (NASDAQ: BCOV) in February 2012.

I spoke with AJ McGowan, Chief Technical Officer of Unicorn Media at OTTCON 2013, where he discussed Unicorn's product roadmap and customer experience, its perspective on the state of the online video industry, the challenges within the fragmented market, and where Unicorn would be in 2014. With the acquisition,  McGowan will assume of the role of CTO at Brightcove, and Unicorn's video team and its Once technology joins Brightcove's Video Cloud and App Cloud platforms, and Zencoder, a cloud-based encoding platform and open-source HTML5 video player Video.js, acquired by Brightcove on July 26, 2012 for $30 million.

According to McGowan, the online video industry is at a tipping point. "If you were to compare this, for instance, to the conversion from terrestrial broadcast to cable broadcast, we're probably roughly 1978 or maybe the early 80's, so we're definitely in the early days," says McGowan. "There's massive opportunity that's still in front of us and people are experimenting. There's a lot of fragmentation in the marketplace. There's a lot of complex problems, and we solve a lot of those problems."

McGowan admits that all the complexity is actually great for business, and that throughout 2013 we'll continue to see growth. "Particularly now that we're allowing our customers to monetize their content effectively on all platforms," says McGowan. "That spurs those folks forward to actually putting that content on more platforms. I think we'll continue to see lots and lots of organic growth, and I think we're going to see a lot of different models being applied and we're really excited as a back-end technology vendor, because we make it a lot easier for people to experiment and try different things as they build those audiences."

Some of the challenges facing the industry as a whole, as McGowan points out, is in the friction of the monetization process on the business side. A lot of the hard technical problems have been solved, but one of the biggest problems yet to be solved is how to make an optimal experience, from the brands buying the ad all the way out to the consumer and all constituencies in that value chain. But a lot of smart people are working on solutions now that there's real money flowing into the space.

"I think that a big theme that you're going to see in the next 12-18 months, is as more dollars are being added to this business, as it starts to scale up, how do you make it dial tone? There's this expectation from users whether they're paying for content or whether they're consuming it in an ad-supported way, in either case when we're talking about premium content delivered out to massive audiences, it's go to just work," says McGowan.

So looking into the future, it's going to be all about scale. "Scale, scale, scale," McGowan emphasizes. "How do I get to more users in more places in a consistent high-quality broadcast experience."

This interview was recorded at OTTCON March 19-20, 2013.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Klessblog's Top 10 of 2013 (Part 2)

Well, the hangover has finally worn off and with the new year in full swing, I can continue this top 10 Klessblog countdown. I picked this top 10 list based on my best experiences of 2013. The last four covered the first part of the year and these top six will bring things up to date. It was a busy year for everyone, with some upheaval,  lots of change and a lot of things stayed the same.

Online video growth continues to skyrocket, as we've seen more brands shift their advertising dollars into online video, a new wave of short-form video creators arose from people are uploading their Vines and Instagram videos, the majority of marketers are jumping into the waters of online video en masse to tell their stories and sell their brands. According to comScore's most recent data of online video rankings, 188.2 million Americans, watched 52.4 billion online videos in December 2013, and video ad views totaled 35.2 billion. That's means 86.9% of Americans who accessed the Internet last month watched online videos, and the average video duration was 4.2 minutes. The average video ads viewed were 15 seconds and they accounted for 40.2% of all the videos viewed and about 5.7% of all the minutes spent viewing online video.

In addition, according to Pew Research, the percent of online American adult who have either created their own original content for viewing or download has doubled from 14% in 2009 to 31% in 2013, with many hoping their videos will go viral. Additionally, the number of adults who watch or download videos has grown almost 10% since in 2009, from 69% to 78% today, with the growth fueled mainly by rapid increase in the use of mobile devices and the growing popularity of social media sites.

But this isn't news to those of us who've been following these trends over the years. We all knew online video would grow and prosper. I could go on and cite countless sources that covered the trends, but again, I refer you to all the great sources I listed in my last post, on the side bar of this blog, including ReelSEOBeet.TVFierce Online VideoOnlineVideo.netDan Rayburn's The Business Of Online VideoStreamingMedia.comVideoNuze, and many more.

I started this blog in November 2007, to join the voices of the streaming media community as a way to share my knowledge, ideas and analysis of the online video industry. As I said in my 100th blog post and my 600th blog post,  I'm grateful for the support of my family, friends, followers, readers, supporters, community members, colleagues, and to the many of you who have contributed to this blog by sharing your time with me to meet and be interviewed by me, sent me press releases and kept me up to date on the latest news and information. I look forward to an even bigger year in 2014 and look back one more time to wrap up Klessblog's Top 10 of 2013.

6. My Google+ Hangout with Neil Davidson on, "The Core of a Successful Corporate Video"
As I said in my from July 1st,  had the pleasure of joining Neil Davidson, Founder and CEO at MyWebPresenters, in a Google+ Hangout to discuss, "The Core of a Successful Corporate Video". I had a great conversation with Neil and you can see the topics we discussed were focused on what are the commonalities that all of the good corporate videos share (hint: tell a story!), how should a business go about fitting a video production into their marketing strategy (hint: start with a good story and shoot video with what you have, either a prosumer camcorder or mobile phone, and try to get good video and audio quality), which businesses are leading the way in using video as a marketing tool (Zappos), what was the biggest video failure and what did I learn from the experience (always have a back up plan), and what are other opportunities for corporate video in 2013 (shoot live action video and don't rely motion graphics with a witty voice over to tell your story). My thanks again, to Neil Davidson for the great conversation. Watch our Google+ Hangout video here.

5. The Strategic Video Awards and Content Marketing Awards
Over the past four years, I've had both the privilege and honor of being as a judge for the Strategic Video Awards, a video competition "created for everyone who uses video to communicate for corporations, associations, non-profits, public institutions, colleges and universities, PR firms and ad agencies, and custom publishers. The Strategic Video Awards differ from other programs in that we judge the effectiveness of the message versus the technical aspects of the video." The Strategic Video Awards entries range from Flip-cam videos to highly-produced corporate documentaries, lighthearted executive vlogs and serious video news programs. Each year the entires get better and better and the 2013 winners will be announced this month. You can view entries from 2010-2012 on the Strategic Video Awards YouTube Channel and watch my favorite entry from 2010, Nationwide - The Musical, which was also the Grand Prize Winner.

Prior to judging this year's Strategic Video Awards, I was asked to be a judge for the Content Marketing Marketing Awards, presented by the Content Marketing Institute and sponsored by McMurry/TMG. According to Content Marketing founder Joe Pulizzi, "content marketing has gone from hot buzzword to a needed universal strategy for enterprise marketers. The Content Marketing Awards are a combination of two esteemed awards programs, the Magnum Opus Awards, honoring the very best in content projects, and CMI’s Orange Awards, honoring the best people and agencies in the business." Open to all companies, organizations, and institutions, this year's Content Marketing Awards had over 800 entries from all the best content marketers in the business in print, digital, publications, strategy, social media, mobile and of course, video.

My category was "Best Topic Specific Video" which had over 40 entries with a variety of styles and techniques. After viewing all the entries the ones that really stood out for me were real stories with real people shot as live action video productions. Many marketers rely just on animated, motion graphics and voice-overs which end up looking like boring animated Infographics that just leave viewers uninspired. So my advise is to actually shoot video to tell your story. See the winners of the 2013 Content Marketing Awards here. Thanks to Program Chairman David Murray and also Benjamine Knight from McMurry/TMG who did an incredible job organizing the competitions.

4. Streaming Media Magazine articles Part 1 and Part 2, "Best Practices for Live Events"
Thanks to the encouragement of my friend and Streaming Media Magazine,, and editor Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, I wrote a two-part article for Streaming Media Magazine titled, "No Second Chances: Get Live Events Right the First Time".  Earlier in the year, Eric asked me to write a 2500 to 3000-word overview of production, lighting, audio, stage, talent, capture, and delivery, and by the time I completed my first draft I was well over 5000 words. So Eric suggested I turn it into a two part article for the June/July and August/September 2013 issues. The first part looked at the five core elements of a successful live event in the enterprise setting. It's a culmination of key learnings from years of producing live events and offers battle-tested advice to ensure live enterprise events come off without a hitch. The second installment looked at different ways to make the overall webcast experience engaging for your online audience using a variety of different video production techniques interactive tools.

Thanks again to Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen for the opportunity to write for Streaming Media Magazine, and contributions from Nick Balletta, Harvey Louie, Donn Kanagaki, Casey Wilms, Harvey Woo, Steve Dung and to the many people who I have worked with over the years to help me learn what works best for live events, and what doesn't work so well.

3. The 2013 ReelSEO/Liveclicker Video Summit
In July 2013, my good friend and online video superstar Mark Robertson, founder of  ReelSEO, joined forces with Liveclicker to co-host the first ever video marketing summit, held in tandem with Liveclicker's annual Video Commerce Summit. The sold-out event was Liveclicker's 5th annual and an inaugural event for ReelSEO and drew a cross section of over 300 retailers, brands, and agencies attending either summit. Over the last few years, I've interviewed attendees and speakers at the Liveclicker Video Commerce Summit, and I was there again this catching interviews but this year the tables were turned, when Tim Schmoyer asked me to share a video marketing tip for his weekly ReelSEO Creator's tips. The event was largest and only annual event devoted to all things video marketing and video commerce and it was a huge success and according to @JuliePerry, it's game on for #vsummit in 2014, so stay tuned for more awesomeness! A big thanks to Mark Robertson, Jen Fahey, Justin Foster and Dave Holland for putting on a great show and to Kevin Edwards for the video production support!

2. Online Video Conversations
I've been producing and posting short video interviews with online video publishers, producers, entrepreneurs, industry executives and innovators on this blog over the last number of years. But in November of 2013, I launched, as a new home to my many online video conversations. Over the years, I've shot my videos using the Flip Camera, Kodak Zi8, Canon Vixia FH30, with variety of microphones and edited them with Windows Movie Maker, iMovie and Final Cut 7. But just last month, I took the plunge and bought a new MacBook Pro and Final Cut Pro X (which takes some getting used to after years of editing in Final Cut 7) and I'm settling into a workflow. I already have a handful of new videos there, including Mike Folgner, SnappyTVTom Morgan of Net2TV and AJ McGowan, Unicorn Media (now Brightcove), and I'll be be cross-posting the videos there and here on this blog with more in-depth coverage. Look for more online video conversations soon and throughout the year.

1. Don't be Afraid to Let Them See You Dance!
I sometimes joke that when I write my memoirs, it will be titled, "Don't Be Afraid to Let Them See You Dance", which is my metaphor for believing in yourself without worrying about being embarrassed. I work with so many people at so many levels on a daily basis and it's always come easy for me, because I'm such a people person and I have honed my communication and customer services skills for the last 20 years. My daughter once asked me, how do I meet new people all the time and not be awkward. I told her that even if you're nervous, you can't worry about it and you have to work right through it and be yourself. Even though you may dance like Elaine from Senfield, don't be afraid to let them see you dance. So, thanks to my good friend and ever-faithful video director Dominic "Baby Dom" Bonavolonta, I'm now the star of my own Gangnam Style JibJab music video and you can see me in my natural habitat, working and having fun and of course, dancing... (or not!)

Thanks again to all my loyal readers, followers and supporters. Many thanks as well to Kris Drey at Vidcompare for the years of advertising and all the best to him in this ever-changing industry. As we move into a new year, we'll see continued growth and experimentation as standards and distribution models mature. I know I'll be busy as ever and even more so at both my day job and my own business venture with new clients, new challenges and always new adventures.

My best to everyone all in the new year!

(Editor's note: Sorry for the delay, but the year got away from me. Stay tuned for much more to come)