I have been fortunate over the last few months to be able to discuss the present and future of the video search business with some of those executives best positioned to comment on this nascent industry.
The executives who were generous with their time are:
Tim Tuttle, founder and CEO of Truveo senior vice president, AOL.
Suranga Chandratillake, founder and CEO of Blinkx
Jeff Karnes, director of multimedia search at Yahoo!
Chase Norlin, founder & CEO of Pixsy.
Let me share with you their answers to some questions pertaining to video search and its likely future.
Heyman: How does video search differ from traditional web search?
Karnes: There is a big difference. Web pages have lots of data for text search. But there is not sufficient information for video search. The question is, "How do we get more meta-data so we can provide a more relevant user experience?"
Tuttle: There is a lack of published information about video. It is far more difficult than (text) search to find millions of videos. Standards are a mess. There are many different formats of embedded flash players. This will not be resolved soon.
Norlin: At Pixsy, we've realized that half our user activity is browsing, and therefore video search is more about discovery than it is necessarily about algorithmic search and relevance. Relevance is important, but not the Holy Grail.
Heyman: It sounds like there's a different paradigm at work in video search, in that in "enquiry search" users are often looking for purchase information while in video search, users are looking for entertainment. Is that correct?
Karnes: Video certainly has more of an entertainment usage for the mainstream audience. In web search, the users usually know what they are looking for. In video search, like Chase Norlin said, there is more an element of discovery. Yahoo is working with personalized viewing guides featuring channels that get the user started with the discovery process.
Norlin: In regard to "intent to purchase" vs. entertainment, obviously video search is geared towards the latter. But there are many other highly monetizable categories in video search that fall outside of entertainment, like automobiles, health, fitness, travel, et cetera. Ultimately, as I said, video search is really about discovery and keeping users engaged and informed, which of course is an effective tool for advertisers.
Heyman: How is video search likely to be monetized?
Norlin: Video search is currently being monetized through PPC text ads, graphical and in-text ads. Obviously, if the search engine is playing the video, then an opportunity exists for pre/mid/post roll ads. However, there are still a host of unresolved copyright issues associated with resyndication of video content and the area is still gray. The recent Perfect 10 vs. Google thumbnail ruling plays well for companies in the thumbnail category, like Pixsy, who exist to serve as massive thumbnail aggregators so that users can find what they're looking for and go directly to the source to watch it.
Tuttle: We are in an experimentation phase. As an industry, we are trying everything; pre-roll, post-roll, display alongside, overlay, hot spot. There is no favorite yet, but the 5-second spot is becoming an emerging standard.
Karnes: Monetization will evolve going forward. While ads seem most likely to be the prime means of monetization, it is likely there will be room for such models as direct-to-own, rental and subscription.
Chandratillake: Today, the most popular form of advertising is actually banners on the side of the video, which isn't video advertising at all! But, increasingly, we're seeing various forms of in-video advertising (pre, post, inter-roll and also banners that appear in the video stream itself). At Blinkx, because we're able to know what is going on in a specific video at a given point in time, we're working on a contextual video advertising platform. So you could be watching a video about luxury cars, and when the narrator mentions "Lexus," you'd see a small ad appear at the bottom of the screen that would take you to your local Lexus dealership's site. Later, when the narrator says "BMW," the ad will switch.
Next: Does the web need an "I Love Lucy?"