Thoughts On Online Video

Remember back in 2006, I used to write about online video and youtube all the time. I used to embed a lot of video in the blog. I invested personally in Wallstrip and leaned a lot about online video with that.

YouTube was sold to Google, Wallstrip was sold to CBS, and I kind of lost my enthusiasm for online video. Union Square Ventures has not yet invested in online video and at this time it’s not clear when we will.

I mention all of this because I read my friend (and Wallstrip founder) Howard’s post about online video on Silicon Alley Insider this morning. It’s a slightly edited version of something Howard posted on his blog last week.

Here is the essential point:

hundreds of new online video companies have launched with thousands of
programs, business models, tools and services. The result…it has never
been cheaper to make, distribute and analyze video content, BUT, never
been harder to get attention.

We learned at Wallstrip that you cannot get potential viewers to come to your site to watch video, you have to go where the audience already is. From the very start, Wallstrip posted its daily video to something like a dozen video services. I remember how time consuming the posting and the tracking was and I believe I posted a couple years ago that someone needed to solve that problem. Someone did, it’s called Tubemogul, and Howard is an investor in that company.

What’s interesting to me is that in the ensuing year or so since online video left the front of my brain, not much has changed. In fact, YouTube appears to be even more dominant than it was when Google bought it. YouTube serves almost 50% of all the video on the web.

If the best way to reach potential viewers is to be on YouTube, and it is today, that’s not a great thing. It makes the attention problem even worse.

Howard has a suggestion in his post(s):

If I was a video entrepreneur (again) or producer, director etc… and
knew the tools of the web trade, I would approach the fast growing
internet brands like Etsy, Yelp.com, Zillow.com – that have the traffic
– and help them build more community and brand loyalty through a web
show.

That makes sense, but how do you build your own equity in the show if you do that? If Wallstrip was built for TheStreet.com, it could not have been sold to CBS.

I think online video continues to be a very difficult place to be an entrepreneur and that’s why we have avoided it so far at Union Square Ventures. That could change, and I hope it will, but we need some inspiration and I certainly don’t have it right now.

But I will leave you with something from my favorite online video service, blogotheque.