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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Yahoo's vision for video

Not a lot of truly revolutionary ideas in this piece from today's NY Times, titled "It's Not TV, It's Yahoo." The gist is that Lloyd Braun, formerly of ABC Television (and the creator of "Lost," my current favorite show), thinks Yahoo needs to create some of its own content, to better compete with AOL/Time Warner. They recently hired CNN correspondent Kevin Sites, for instance, and are planning to send him to a succession of wars, natural disasters, and other compelling visual crises, to produce original text, audio, and video dispatches for Yahoo. Braun also believes that new tools will be vital - and Yahoo is developing some - to help people sort through the vast sea of video that will soon be available on the Net.

Some snippets:
    At Yahoo, why not create programs in genres that have worked on TV but not really on the Web? Sitcoms, dramas, talk shows, even a short daily humorous take on the news much like Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" are in the works.

    There will be elaborate attention-grabbing events and video-heavy programs in nearly every category of content Yahoo offers, from sports to health. The first is called "Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone," an audio-video-photo-blog-chat room, run by Mr. Sites, an experienced foreign correspondent, who plans to visit multiple war zones over the next year.

Writer Saul Hansell says that Yahoo's CEO, Terry Semel, has a strategy built on four elements. First is search, to compete with Google.

    Next comes community, as he calls the vast growth of content contributed by everyday users and semiprofessionals like bloggers. Third, is the professionally created content that Mr. Braun oversees, made both by Yahoo and other traditional media providers. And last, is personalization technology to help users sort through vast choices to find what interests them.

The "convergence" word seems to be back in vogue:

    Increasingly, Mr. Semel and others are finding that the long-promised convergence of television and computers is happening not by way of elaborate systems created by cable companies, but from the bottom up as video clips on the Internet become easier to use and more interesting. Already, video search engines, run by Yahoo and others, have indexed more than one million clips, and only now are the big media outlets like Viacom and Time Warner moving to put some of their quality video online.

    "The basis for content on the Internet is now shifting from text to video," said Michael J. Wolf, a partner at McKinsey & Company.

Toward the end, Braun seems to be talking about developing all sorts of cool intelligent recommendation software, to point you to videos related to one you're watching:

    One of Yahoo's secret weapons, Mr. Braun says, is that it can personalize information for the interests of each user, such as its My Yahoo page and the song recommendations provided to users of its music service. Mr. Braun is weaving this technology into a video player Yahoo will introduce near the end of the year.

    "It will almost be like a television set," Mr. Braun said, except as people watch one program, on the center of the player, other areas will offer additional programming choices, based on their past viewing habits. It will let them use Yahoo's video search to find programs from amateur videographers and video bloggers. And it will, of course, promote the glitzy shows Mr. Braun is creating.


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