July 5, 2006

Coralling Video Content

So, you’ve decided you’re going to jump on to the Web 2.0 bandwagon and start a company that builds its business model around user-generated video content — good.

You’ve got a sleek interface, you’ve secured financial backing, and you’ve managed to create a viral buzz of activity around your beta version — even better.

But now that you have a community of users uploading and sharing their homespun video creations with the world, how do you ensure that you’ll continue to attract fresh and compelling content that will keep your viewers coming back for more years from now?

The good news is that you’ve made a safe bet that internet users are increasingly comfortable with posting content online. The Pew Internet Project recently reported that 35% of adult internet users, about 48 million people, have posted some kind of content online—whether it’s contributing to a blog, a personal website, sharing artwork, photos, stories or video.

But sharing photos on Flickr and posting daily updates to a blog are altogether different animals when compared with the time it takes to write, direct and edit a short video that millions of people will actually want to watch. Fortunately, much of the popular content on video sites has proved to be neither scripted nor edited; many of the clips are simply captured from everyday life (a cat attacking your laptop screen) or snapped up from television and re-circulated (like SNL’s infamous “Lazy Sunday” video).

Still, you want your site to be more than just a searchable version of America’s Funniest Home Videos or a glaring haven for possible copyright violations. You want to be responsible for launching the next Martin Scorsese. You want to be every user’s first destination for new content, making traditional broadcast viewing an afterthought.

Two recent developments in the online video world offer novel solutions to those trying to corral daily herds of quality content through the gates of video sharing sites. First, for those who are actively trying to build their content offerings, there’s the profit-sharing model popularized by sites like Revver (and now emulated by others), that motivates both novice and professional videomakers alike to contribute content. Users post ad-supported videos which then generate revenue that’s split 50/50 between the poster and the site.

And for the YouTubes of the world, who have already proven the capability to draw massive audiences, there’s the corporate partnership model (see last week’s announcement of a partnership between YouTube and NBC Universal to provide select network content for free ), that will ensure both a steady stream of high-quality content and a steady stream of viewers to the site.

Either way, both give us reason to think that there will never be a shortage of people willing to do things like this for the camera — as long as there are people willing to watch.