Search Engine Land

Nielsen Research came out with interesting statistics on overall video consumption last week indicating that total TV consumption reached record levels when considering traditional broadcast video, time shifted video, web video and mobile video. This seems to fly in the face of the predictions that online video is cannibalizing the traditional business model. The web and mobile “screens” as incremental is a critical piece of the landscape if big media is to weather the transition from traditional consumption models to new models.

The Nielsen report echoes what ESPN also found in a study they commissioned with the Center for Media Design at Ball State University which found that there was a strong correlation between the time spent online with a media brand and time spent consuming traditional media, suggesting that multiple screens strengthened the relationship with the viewer. However, digging deeper into these reports indicates that there is also a marked difference in viewing behavior which is age-dependent. Not surprisingly, younger viewers skew sharply towards online viewing, which suggests increased pressure in the future on traditional business models including DVD sales, broadcast television, and movies.

Elsewhere on the web in the past few weeks, online TV and movie provider Hulu announced that it was pulling its content from Boxee due to pressure from its content partners. There is growing concern that the younger generations are “cord cutting” and relying solely on a fast Internet connection and online content, which of course Hulu (via Boxee in this case) is a big enabler.

Interestingly, scrolling through the comments on the Hulu blogs one finds a high level of outrage at this decision, with many voicing bewilderment. Yet at the same time the comments carry some confirmation of the very problem the content owners face, in that many commenters are lamenting the fact that they have cancelled their cable subscriptions in lieu of Boxee and are now left without their content.

The big win for professional broadcasters is the clear evidence that high quality content can translate into revenue. Hulu represents a small fraction of YouTube in terms of users and streams, but monetizes its audience at a far superior level. The challenge then for traditional broadcasters continues to be how to ensure that while the revenue per episode is likely to fall, a growth in total consumption can offset a large part of the risk to the shift in viewer habits. How to achieve this?

One critical need for the new multi-screen reality is a new metaphor for programming, and this is where search can play a vital role. In a world where users are increasingly in control of the content they consume, search is the perfect approach to delivering individualized content discovery and programming which will extend users’ consumption and contribute to a successful transition in business models for professional media producers. To achieve this, publishers need to be acutely aware of how their content is discovered and organized across the three screen reality (four if you count IPTV and time shifted television viewing).

This discovery begins with having a rich set of metadata around each content object that is produced, and having an adequate set of transcoded versions of each object to ensure ubiquitous consumption capabilities. With structured data surrounding unstructured audio and video clips, search engines are able to index the content more successfully, and directories are able to effectively categorize (i.e. “channelize”) the content. This in turn means the end user can find what they are looking for quickly and therefore consume more. Compare the search experience on Hulu for professional content with the search experience on YouTube and you can quickly see the power of good search as a “virtual” programming tool.

Robust content indexing also allows for features such as automatic and dynamic playlisting, so users are not only discovering content today but describing what content they want to discover in the future. There is simply no analog for this in the traditional broadcast environment and suggest one of many ways that search will yield more total consumption of media. In addition, proper metadata and indexing approaches mean that users are in a position not only to discover their desired content quickly but also consume only the portions of the content that they are interested in. Finally, great search means users are more likely to share content they have consumed with their social graph via clipping and commenting. The Web has shown that the more users are in control of their content experience, the more they will consume.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the author, and not necessarily Search Engine Land.


Tom Wilde is the CEO of EveryZing, a Cambridge-based company specializing in next-generation Universal Search and video search engine optimization (video SEO).

See more articles by Tom Wilde >