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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Google Video's Jennifer Feikin at `Digital Living Room'

BusinessWeek's Stephen Wildstrom, by way of introducing Jennifer Feikin at the Digital Living Room conference in Silicon Valley today, observes that Google is a company unafraid of building products before it has figured out what the revenue model is. (He means that in a good way, I think.) Feikin is the director of Google Video. Previously, she worked at McKinsey, Fox Searchlight, Morgan Creek Productions, and AOL Time Warner.

Some notes:

    - Wildstrom asks, How does this become a money-making product? He observes that a lot of content owners don't want to get involved without a business model.

    Feikin says, "The next step - in the near-term - is to have a service where users can pay to download content. Content owners [can] set the price for their content. That will bring on a whole category of content owners who want to be paid for their content."

    Wildstrom asks if the deal will be a revenue split between the content owner and Google. She says, "Probably."

    - Wildstrom asks about the digital rights management issues involved with selling content on the Net.

    "Suffice to say, we will have a copy protection system in place," she says - but she won't get into details. "Not all content owners," she continues, "are all that hung up about DRM." Some think it's more important for their content to be available - and get discovered by consumers - than to lock it up.

    - Someone in the audience asks about advertising. "It's definitely something we're looking into," she says. Later, she adds, "Anything we do with advertising will be about pleasing the user. It'll be simple, like our homepage." When Google figures out how to place relevant ad spots before a clip of video - as they've done with text ads on Web pages - look out.

    Going forward, some content will be ad-supported, and other content will be paid (she calls this "download-to-own," which I suppose is different from today's all-streaming version of Google Video.) She says that Google will test different price points.

    - Feikin talks a bit about the partnership with UPN (to deliver episodes of "Everybody Hates Chris" after they'd initially aired.
    She says there are other partnerships coming. But she views Google Video as being "different from [the] iTunes [Music Store.] It's not just about the popular entertainment content. We want the MIT Open Courseware lectures - also the travelogues - surgeries." (I'm psyched to hear that. I asked a question during the Q&A period about whether she thinks Big Media companies will worry about having to compete in an open marketplace with indie filmmakers and documentarians. She says the hasn't heard those concerns expressed - at least not yet.)

    - What's popular on Google Video? It's eclectic. A parody of a Backstreet Boys video "almost broke the banks of our servers," she says. Users can click a "send" link to send a video to someone else. "The way that we're finding what is popular is by this send link."

    "First we just had a search box," she says. "But it's hard to figure out what you want to search over." Google Video now has two tabs on its homepage, `random' and `popular' - just put up last week. A browsing-type environment (versus searching) is what users are comfortable with, Feikin says, since it helps users find things they didn't know about.

    Wildstrom observes that Google's famous `page rank' algorithm, which puts your Web search results in a descending list of relevance at, doesn't work so well for video. He asks how Google Video will help users find the stuff they're looking for. "The more metadata [video submitters give us], the better. A time-coded transcript is the best way to index that piece of content. And a lot of people submitting content don't have that today."

    - Feikin says, "We are truly agnostic about where the content lives, as long as we can connect users to it." Content can be on Google's servers, or elswhere - though all current content is hosted on Google Video. "Right now, we're taking in all file formats...[but] some are taking longer to transcode than others."

    - Google does have people who look at the videos, to ensure that there are no blatant copyright violations - or porn.

    - Someone in the audience asks about mobile video. Sounds like Feikin doesn't think it's quite on the verge just yet. "There will definitely be a time at which we get there. Wherever the user wants us to be is where we'd like our search results and our video to be."

    - She gets into some history. The initial motivation behind Google Video: "Wouldn't it be really interesting to be able to search all of the world's video content? The idea was to take a step outside of web content." Started off with still screen shots - and transcripts - because Google didn't have rights to replay videos. Google likes to iterate and get a lot of user feedback (not wait a long time to make Google Video comprehensive.)

    "The next project was user-submitted content - hundreds or thousands of user-submitted videos - home movies, travel, medical, non-profits, museums. The idea is, content owners who are looking for an audience. It's a free streaming model."


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