About a week ago, the hot topic online was NBC Universal and News Corp launching a joint-venture to provide "the largest Internet video distribution network ever assembled." The joint-venture is still months away from being finalized - and from reading TechCrunch's notes of the conference call, it is obvious a lot of details still need to be worked out.
However, there are currently hundreds of sites that allow you to upload a video and share it with others. While partnerships like NBC Universal/NewsCorp demonstrate that offline video content will be coming online, how those videos are organized and delivered to end-users still is an open question. I believe a new set of companies serving as 'hyperaggregators' will emerge to fill that role.
What is hyperaggregation?
For the purpose of this post, I'm focuing on the lightweight web services that empower users to select videos from the hundreds of video sharing web services and point to them for distribution. Om Malik coined the term 'hyperaggregators' to describe this approach on the web in February's Business 2.0:
"This is one of the hot opportunities in new new media: hyperaggregation. If aggregation is what we've seen so far on YouTube and Flickr, hyperaggregation is aggregating the aggregators. The way of the Web is to go meta - a website is born and covers politics, then another, and another, and that leads inexorably to ... a blog that covers all the websites that tackle politics."
I agree with Om's characterization of hyperaggregation. So for the remainder of this post, I'd like to highlight some web services that are trying to achieve this in the online video industry.
3 Step Process
I'll start with the set of services that I believe offers the most compelling approach for online video hyperaggregation. At a high-level, this approach involves users:1. Selecting videos they find interesting as they surf around the web;
2. Categorizing these videos and adding additional meta-information about the videos;
3. Syndicating the videos they have selected to their 'audience'.
Both Vod:Pod and Dabble have a bookmarklet to automate the process of selecting videos. For example, when clicked Vod:Pod's bookmarklet opens a pop-up window:
Each of the 3 services allows you to add basically the same type of meta-information to videos - e.g. tags, comments, and some type of rating system.
Each of the three services allows users to share the videos they've selected and categorized. However, Vod:Pod and Magnify seem to be focused more on doing this via widgets for your blog or social network. Dabble is focused on letting you share your videos via RSS feeds.
Each of the three services mentioned above has unique features that I found compelling.
Vod:Pod's interface is set up like an RSS Reader. This ends up feeling very intuitive (assuming you've used a feed reader) and provides a great interface to explore other users video feeds.
Magnify seems to be the only one with options for monetizing your channel. See the screenshot below:
The most unique and helpful feature in Dabble is the ability to export playlists as RSS feeds. As Alex Iskold recently observed, RSS is becoming a "very attractive delivery medium for all kinds of content" and this certainly includes the medium of online videos.
At a high-level there are two other approaches a web service could take, which arguably could be described as hyperaggregatin - in the sense that they allow users to select videos from across the web. These approaches are:
- Search Based: where users provide keywords to identify interesting videos;
- Popularity Based: social voting mechanism to identify the most interesting videos for a group of people.
However I would argue that while both have worked great for aggregating and delivering text content, they aren't going to be as effective for video content. Allow me to explain further...
Two months ago another R/WW author, Emre Sokullu, wrote an excellent overview of the entire online video industry. In the post he pointed to seven search engines that help users discover videos. In my own experiments, Google Video Search only turned up videos from Google Video and YouTube, but the others seem to be aggregating content from across a variety of different services.
While search certainly has proven effective for discovering text content, there are significant technical challenges to video search. InformationWeek recently provided a good article that highlights some of these challenges. In addition to the technical challenges, many leaders in the online video space question whether searching for online videos is even going to be a desired use case. Aaron Goldman wrote an interesting post exploring this recently in MediaPost's Insider.
Social News sites have emerged as a great way to aggregate news and blog content from across the web. One of the market leaders, Digg, now provides the same functionality for videos. If this becomes popular enough, I'm sure other social news sites will release competing offerings. However, I don't think it will be as easy to categorize online video content as it has been to categorize areas that social news sites have done well with - e.g. tech and political news.
Last year's YouTube acquisition by Google and the recent NBC Universal/News Corp partnership, show how serious the online media giants are about video. While those leaders certainly have a big advantage in the size of their audiences today, the three start-ups reviewed above all have a unique opportunity to co-op the bigcos as partners. So Vod:Pod, Magnify and Dabble may yet emerge as valuable companies in their own right.
Have I left out any web services for hyperaggregation? If so, please note them in the comments. Also tell us what you think of Vod:Pod, Magnify, and Dabble.