digital reporter

Online, mobile video ready to mature in '07

If 2006 was the year of the apology ? Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, Ted Haggard, take a bow ? the credit goes to online video, which allowed us to repeatedly watch those mealymouthed mea culpas. There's no telling what the gods of schadenfreude will bring us next year as far as online content goes, but this year I've seen several trends worth studying so you can be ready for 2007.

First, of course, is that genesis of all things free: advertising. About $225 million in video advertising was spent this year, a number that is expected to triple in 2007, according to research firm eMarketer. And as online video grows in popularity, so does the angst over how best to convert those eyeballs into ad dollars.

The favored method in 2006 was the preroll ad, a 15- or 30-second ad that plays before the video clip. Although the preroll is used on such major sites as AOL Video and ABC.com, the format frustrates the user by distracting them from their goal. An analogous experience is car shopping: If you wanted to take a Beemer for a test drive but the salesman kept tricking you into sitting in a Peugeot for 15 to 30 seconds, you'd test drive fewer cars, wouldn't you?

Publishers and advertisers are experimenting with several types of video ads, but I'm most excited about interactive advertisements that appear onscreen while the video is playing, much like a network's logo appears in the lower right-hand corner of the screen during a show. When users click on the ad's animation, the ad plays directly in the video player. When the ad is over, users are returned to where they left off. Some advertisers are reporting click rates up to 7% with these types of ads.

Another trend to watch is video search, which is difficult because people who publish video don't often publish good descriptions of what is in that video. Search engines rely on the latter to correctly index the video file. AOL Video is making strides in this area, as is a small company named Podzinger, which converts audio and video files into searchable text. Also making moves is Google, which recently signed a partnership with British satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting to test video search services.

Next year also will be a big year for mobile video. Revenue for the mobile market for video was $62 million in 2005, but it is expected to grow to $500 million by 2010, according to JupiterResearch. Just recently we saw Verizon hook up with Revver and YouTube to offer videos on Verizon's VCast service. Several Google executives, including CEO Eric Schmidt, have said they want to offer mobile applications that will help sell carrier data plans. That sounds like mobile video ? and mobile video advertising ? is ramping up.

The last two trends on my radar for 2007 are video specialization and video editing. The former is obvious: As the amount of video on the Web grows, and as the idea of "most viewed" becomes less novel, users are beginning to look for video specific to their interests. That means lesser-known sites that specialize in specific content (daredevil stunts, college sports, etc.) will curry favor.

The latter trend is almost as obvious, but much more powerful. Consumers are becoming fluent with editing tools, and their desire to interact with and mash up content will only increase. That's why Yahoo! Inc. ? which joined the online photo and social networking boom by acquiring Flickr in early 2005 ? acquired video-editing site Jumpcut in September. In 2007, we still will have a glut of shaky handcam videos, but expect to see the average quality of amateur videography increase.

When I was in short pants, I had no idea what a cutaway or a cross-fade was. But today's tweens and teens are intimately familiar with the language of the screen, which has major implications for how the online video market will evolve in the coming years.
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