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Will real-time mobile digital video be a cash guzzler or a cash geyser? Enthusiasts uploading their vids to online sharing services could profitably be joined by entrepreneurs and businesses.

The arrival of the iPhone led to a flood of images being uploaded to Flickr and other photo sharing services. Now the iPhone 3GS and LG (Lucky Goldstar) devices, among other gadgets, make capturing an acceptable digital video easy.

Digital video files are far larger than text files. Traditionally digital video has been expensive and limited to those with deep pockets.

Once in the device, a new breed of network services have made uploading, optimising, storing and distributing these mobile videos a one or two-click operation.

A service that has captured a loyal following is Twitvid. To see its remarkable range of content, navigate to Twitvid (www.twitvid.com) and browse the videos. Be prepared for some that are excellent, some that are pointless. Navigate to www.twitvid.com/919F7, and you will see my rescue boxer dog Tess looking confused.

One of the most successful of the image and video utilities is operated by two brothers: Jack and Alexander Levin, one an ex-Google engineer and the other a student entrepreneur. You can visit the image side of the business at www.imageshack.com. The company runs on the same infrastructure as Yfrog, which is also popular with Twitter users. You can locate Yfrog users' videos at www.twitter.com/yfrog.

These services fill a gap that YouTube has not yet been able to monopolise. Sequoia, the same high-profile US venture capital firm that has backed Google and MarkLogic, has invested about $10m in Imageshack and Yfrog. With backing from Sequoia, Imageshack is poised to expand its market share in images and the fast-growing real-time video sector. The real-time mobile video sector is beginning to flex its muscles. A gentleman named Rick Bayless captured a mobile video in Mexico City--see it at http:// img36.yfrog. com/i/5ql.mp4/. Bayless shared his passion for blue corn tlacoyas, while I saw an opportunity for vendors to post real-time videos as a marketing tool. Bayless is a busy videographer and posted a rousing endorsement of Churreria el Moro's two-item menu: hot chocolate and churros.

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Solicitors are likely to find real-time mobile video a potential opportunity or a problem. As an example, navigate to http://img190.yfrog.com/i/n0i.mp4/: the video was made by Casey Wright and shows an example of road rage. Stopping a vehicle on a busy highway and then approaching another stopped car in anger introduces a new dimension in evidence.

AS SEEN ON TV

A final example is the use of mobile real-time video in commercial TV. Kris Reyes, onscreen talent for Breakfast Television and CityNews, uses Apple's iPhone to shoot short mobile video segments that go to the station's website. You can explore them at www.citytv.com/toronto/tvshows_breakfasttelevision. aspx.

If mobile video makes inroads into traditional broadcasting, the result will be more immediacy. And if it gets traction on new services such as Twitter, the ensuing disruption could rework the landscape for television.

Let's step back and think about how mobile video raises the stakes in real-time search.

Real-time search services are adapting quickly to the growing appetite for real-time video. One service that has been quick to add support for Twitter content is Collecta, which has been described as adding a multimedia twist to real-time search.

Microsoft's new real-time social media service is called Bing Tweets (at www.bingtweets.com). The service works well for hot topics, although certain queries don't update the Twitter results.

Google, on the other hand, remains on the sidelines in the real-time search derby. Its YouTube and Google Video search services make it difficult to track real-time videos in Collecta's seamless way.

My view is that real-time, mobile video search is a wide open opportunity. Collecta may emerge as the front runner. Yidio, on the other hand, offers links as well. You can explore video blogs. Some of my tests returned no results, but I found some unusual real-time video posts. Vidio seems to be working out the kinks in its video search system.

You can spend an interesting hour or two exploring sites that offer "real-time video search". My query using this string on video returned more than 3,200 hits, although most pointed to services I have already mentioned here or to articles written about the explosion of interest in real-time video.

Twitmatic (www.twitmatic.com) is useful as well. When you visit the site, a Google-style search box appears. If you do not key a specific query, the system repaints the screen and display video results for an undefined query. My test queries returned some results that were spot on and others that were wide of the mark.

Twitmatic, like other real-time video search engines, tries to index videos using the metadata attached to each. Some of those submitting videos do a good job with their metadata and the terms in their tweets about a video. Others do not. Give the service a spin with a query for puppymatic.

The service works best for popular culture topics: celebrities, music and some unusual videos from the more questionable elements of the online community. The real-time video world contains quite a lot of noise, and the search systems do not make it easy to filter for the type of signals I crave.

Twitter itself may step up its efforts in real-time video search and established video search services like Blinkx.com will also become more active in the market. Because of the volume of content uploaded from mobile devices, new entrants will see opportunity but may be able to move more quickly than larger, more resource-rich companies. Sequoia must share a similar view. Why else pump $10m into a company with fewer than a dozen employees and mostly unknown outside the Twitter and iPhone communities?

HIGH VALUE PROSPECTS

Looking ahead, I think businesses will be able to tap into the real-time, digital video sector in a number of useful and potentially high-value ways. Real-time digital video is ideal for capturing testimonials from satisfied customers. Retail outlets can post videos of employees showing specific products that are on sale or newly arrived. Restaurants can post real-time videos of their chef's latest culinary wonder. Individuals can shoot events and post them, beating local news outlets to the punch. Everyone with a mobile phone or device with embedded video like a spy pen with a video capability can generate content. For more information about this device, navigate to www.securitysystems.com/spypen.htm.

So is digital video a cash guzzler or a cash geyser? With the shift to cloud computing and new business models, real-time digital video is starting to make noises that indicate a cash cow is approaching.

Stephen Arnold is an analyst
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Title Annotation:SOCIAL MEDIA
Author:Arnold, Stephen
Publication:Information World Review
Date:Sep 1, 2009
Words:1117
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