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Internet Video Still Young, Digital Media Speakers Say

29 Jul, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

Jordan Hoffner delivers the keynote address at the Digital Media Summit.

If you need convincing that random video content on the Internet can be monetized, look no further than Minnesota newlyweds Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz.

After taping their entire wedding party dancing wildly down the aisle, gyrating to Chris Brown’s “Forever,” the couple posted the video to YouTube July 19. As of July 29, the video had more than 11 million views, and thanks to YouTube linking from the video to Amazon.com and iTunes, the song, released back in November, now sits at No. 3 and No. 13, respectively, among top-sold singles. Jordan Hoffner, director of content partnerships for YouTube, said the Google-owned site has found similar success using the same strategy with DVD and Amazon.

“Ultimately, we want to [monetize] these interdependent relationships,” Hoffner said July 29 during the Digital Media Summit at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Five years ago, YouTube was nothing. I wonder where we’re going to be in five years.”

While making the most of user-generated content, and working with the studios to embed their own media players on YouTube to share new release content, Hoffner says Internet video still has a long, long way to go.

“[Internet video] is inconsistent. One day The Dark Knight is there, the next it’s not. Why?” Hoffner said, speaking about studio windows and Internet outlets. “You don’t have this problem with DVDs at the video store.”

It’s not just studio hesitancy to put their content out there, though that plays a part, Hoffner said, adding that content owners often will consider controlling their products as paramount, above making money off of them.

Especially for streaming, ad-supported content, the hesitancy may be found in the numbers: according to Nielsen data, in the first quarter of 2009, 284 million Americans watched regular TV, while 131 million watched Internet video. And while the average American watched 153 hours of TV per month, only 3 hours were spent watching Internet video. Looking at those trends, according to YouTube data, more than $67 billion will be spent on TV advertising in 2010, while Internet videos will garner a paltry $1.5 billion in comparison.

“If [TV and Internet] are going to collide, we’ve got a ways to go,” Hoffner said. “I don’t think it’s going to get any less complex over time … and until the money shows up en masse, it’s going to be a bumpy road and transition.”

The shift in advertising dollars should change, especially from the major brands, according to Andrew Lin, a marketing consultant with Miramax Films. “[User-generated content is] where people are at,” he said. “That’s where people are engaging.”

Joe Marchese, president of social donation site SocialVibe, said major brands may be hesitant to touch user-generated content because it’s still relatively new. “Half of the people think advertising has no place in social media because it’s people connecting with people,” he said. “[But] what’s working is when one person talks to another person, and they spread a marketing message.”

Joerg Bachmaier, SVP of digital media and business development for entertainment programmer Endemol, said major content companies also make the mistake of believing that their product, just because it’s slick and has a big budget, will automatically find success in the online world.

“Quality content comes from anywhere,” said Chris Di Cesare, chief marketing officer for YouTube, pointing out that the YouTube video uploader with the most subscribers (nearly 1.2 million) is a 16-year-old in Oklahoma. Why not have ads on his content, Di Cesare said. “That’s more than Hannah Montana gets for that demographic.”

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