IM and content-sharing platform Meebo has signed an ad-sharing deal with Nielsen Business Media, that will place its Meebo Bar on sites like THR.com. The bar lets users comment on content, and share links and photos with friends without leaving a publisher’s site; ads show up on the bottom left corner of the bar, and Meebo splits the revenue with the publisher. The partnership goes live tonight on THR.com; it will roll out on BackStage, MediaWeek, BrandWeek and AdWeek “in the coming months.”
This is Meebo’s latest high-profile content and ad-sharing deal; its platform is currently running on over 200 sites, including TechCrunch, Mashable, and CrispyGamer. Meebo spent this year upgrading its platform, embedding features like real-time status updates to Facebook and Twitter. CEO Seth Sternberg said the company’s pitch to publishers is that it increases the amount of time spent on their sites, in addition to offering a cut of its ad revenues. Sternberg said Meebo’s revenue grew 40 percent in Q3, bolstered by ad deals from companies like Virgin America.
For advertisers, the pitch is that Meebo can deliver them a targeted audience. The company says it serves demographic and behaviorally-targeted ads (reaching males aged 18-24 that have shown intent to purchase an auto in the past 60 days, for example); it can also target site visitors that are signed into their Meebo accounts more precisely. Sternberg said the company prefers to sell ads on a CPC basis, though it can offer CPMs; average click-through rates (CTRs) are in the 1.2 percent range, well above the 0.02 percent that has become somewhat standard.
Sternberg suggested that the placement of Meebo’s ads was a big factor in driving the higher CTRs. “Instead of a banner at the top of the page that users usually scroll right past, the ads rest where the users’ eyes are, near the content at the bottom,” he said. It’s a unique take on engagement—which sites like CBS and members of the OPA have tried to increase by making their ads bigger, flashier and more intrusive.
Meebo was founded in 2005, but the company first launched its ad platform last September. Sternberg said average RFPs coming in then were around $50,000; they jumped to $100,000 per campaign by December. He wouldn’t disclose whether the company was profitable. Meebo is based in Mountain View. It’s backed by $37.5 million in funding from Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), JAFCO, KTB Ventures, Sequoia Capital and DFJ.
As evening began at the NewTeeVee conference in San Francisco today, some big money movers weighed in on the video industry. Allen Delattre, managing director of Electronics and High Technology at Accenture, moderated a panel discussion featuring a number of heavy-hitters from the venture capital community. They included:
- Bill Gurley, general partner, Benchmark Capital
- Chris Hollenbeck, managing director,Granite Ventures
- David Horowitz, managing director, Comcast Interactive Capital
- Dan Beldy, managing director, Steamboat Ventures
The last event of the day was one of the most interesting, and the VCs were mostly positive about the prospects for online video.
“Five years ago very few people were watching video online,” said Horowitz, in response to a question about why the venture capital community should care about the video space. “Now you’ve got YouTube and billions of streams per month. I think 10 years from now we’ll find other places to watch video.”
Also sounding a positive note, Beldy said that “even in a recession, broadband isn’t what people cut,” and noted that they’ll continue to consume online video despite financial challenges.
“When Hulu and Boxee got together, they woke up all the giants,” noted Benchmark Capital’s Gurley. “Since that day, everyone has been paying attention and people with billions of dollars are starting to march around.” Online video giant Hulu’s content was the most popular format on the open-source media center platform Boxee, when Hulu suddenly asked to have its content removed from Boxee. Since then, Boxee users have employed workarounds to continue to watch it. Gurley also alluded to Hulu possibly being forced toward a subscription-based model for its content, although his comment was vague.
There was a lot of talk about mobile applications focused on video. “One interesting thing about mobility is that I think it creates new viewing hours,” said Hollenbeck from Granite Ventures, which is backing makers of iPhone apps, among others. “That mobile device is with you all the time.”
Gurley also noted that technologies associated with computing are moving rapidly into digital entertainment devices. “Ethernet and some form of OS and a menu stack are being put in every TV, every DVD player, and every game machine,” he said. “Those of us who are old enough remember when that same thing happened on the phone stack. It’s going to be fun to watch. “
PBS isn’t just about Antique Roadshow anymore, PBS Interactive SVP Jason Seiken told the audience at our NewTeeVee Live conference today. But he’s the first to admit that PBS isn’t really the hippest brand around. The average age of PBS television viewers is “pushing 60,” he estimated. Consider that countless Elmo-addicted toddlers actually bring that age way down, and you start to understand that PBS has a bit of an age issue.
That’s a problem that the network wants to solve with an online video platform it launched this spring, and Seiken was happy to report that these efforts are starting to pay off. Forty-eight percent of PBS Video visitors are under 35, he said, and the youngsters seem to dig PBS programming as well. Viewers tune into a stream for 26 minutes on average, which is far longer than many commercial platforms. PBS is clocking 12 million uniques a month for its video site, and video views are growing 80 percent month to month.
One of the more interesting aspects of the site is that it’s also a content repository for PBS’ 357 local member stations. These stations can take shows like Frontline or NOVA and combine them on their own sites with small-town news and other local programming. PBS wants to make this relationship a two-way street next year with the launch of the site’s next version, which will automatically syndicate locally produced content and present it to a national audience.
So what’s the secret of the site’s success? Failure, actually. Seiken said that performance reviews at PBS Interactive now track the times an employee failed at their job, with the goal being not to punish, but to reward failed experiments. “Our engineers actually really love this,” said Seiken.
Roku in the next few weeks will roll out a new marketplace for video channels, enabling users to pick and choose the content that appears on the home screen of their broadband-connected set-top boxes. At NewTeeVee Live, Roku vice president of marketing Chuck Seiber showed off a preview of the new Roku user interface, which included an icon for the device’s new Channel Store and icons for video channels from new content partners Revision 3 and Blip.tv. Seiber said that the company is also adding channels for unnamed photo-sharing and video-sharing services.
The marketplace is one part of Roku’s plan to create an open platform on which any content provider could create their own video channels with a software development kit that the company freely released earlier this year. “We’re trying to turn our product into an open platform, and giving our users all the choice they could want,” Seiber said.
The introduction of multiple new channels brings up questions as to how Roku will change the user interface (UI). “It’s a tough balancing act,” Seiber said. “We started out as a Netflix player, so we had that simplicity and you don’t need a manual to navigate this. We will try to keep this as subtle and as clean as possible, but there’s no doubt our UI will have to evolve.”
Despite the fact that Roku faces increasing competition from consumer electronics device manufacturers that are building over-the-top services natively into HDTVs, Blu-ray players and other broadband-connected devices, Seiber said the company continues to do well.
At the same time, he said that the introduction of higher-priced connected products actually help to educate consumers about the availability of Netflix streaming and Amazon On-Demand services available on the device. He noted that on the same day that the availability of Netflix streaming was announced on the PlayStation 3, Roku had one of its best sales days ever, as consumers researched and chose its relatively low-cost solution. “In the short term, what we have is a really inexpensive product. It’s a very simple value proposition that someone can wrap their heads around. It’s a cheap and low-risk purchase,” Seiber said.
Despite tackling a diverse set of web video projects, the 10 companies chosen for our “NewTeeVee’s Next Big Thing” list all have one thing in common: They are rapidly gaining traction in emerging and increasingly important aspects of the business. And so we’ve put our trust in them to see into the future.
Here’s what our second five presenters had to say about what to expect from the video market.
Summary: The ads from the Super Bowl spread across 6,000 online video clips and led to a similar number of viewers as the broadcast garnered. Online, about 30 percent of the brand views of an ad online came from social activities such as referrals and mashups. However, the top 10 campaigns captured 45 percent of all online views. So we tell our brand advertising clients that they need to figure into the top 10.
The Next Big Thing: The leaders already in social advertising will press their advantage in 2010, and the followers who are still in experimentation mode will realize how far behind they are.
Summary: We’re looking for the fully immersive experience. We do high-budget, new cross-platform projects or “make cool shit.” The goal has been to create a convergence between video games and television. For our first project, After World, we produced 130 episodes. But it was really hard to monetize, at least in the U.S. The idea of a destination site just didn’t catch on. Our foreign distributor, Sony, offered it overseas in modular bites, web sites with bells and whistles, and mobile content. Back here in the U.S., we used the same model that we used for After World, but didn’t build an integrated destination web site. Sending the viewers on a “digital schlep” was counterintuitive to create immersion. Now we’re returning to the After World model to spend the money on a destination site. But going forward it’ll likely be branded, probably by a network, and it will be monetized. Through the traditional networks we’re getting bigger marketing budget and leveraging the strengths of the media fence. The site will not be a walled garden-type site, and will be much more dynamic 3-D environments. This will create a level of entertainment that is attractive to the whole ecosystem and will transcend the 3- to 5-minute spot online.
The Next Big Thing:
Summary: There are a bunch of TV makers launching 3-D televisions next year as well as some device makers that will make products that will play 3-D. The next opportunity for 3-D will be intelligent advertisements and products that know when you are there. That’s five years out. And now we take a 3-D TV break.
The Next Big Thing: (See video, preferably with 3-D glasses.)
Summary: Ooyala is a comprehensive online video platform with analytics, transcoding and ads — who, what and how people are sharing video on the web.
The Next Big Thing: As we look at 2010 we think that web sites won’t be focused on the licensing relationships with the content partner, but the relationship with the individual user. We will also be able to authenticate and identify each end user to understand what they watch and have access to. Mobile will play a big role in that process.
Summary: The next big thing is “little” — short video that people are interested in that have a none ROI. We’ve been profitable since day one. We have a network of media sites, and we have Demand Studios, which is a content creation freelance community. When we built the company we wanted to create high-quality content, but do it at scale, and with voice that serves our community. Brands want useful, actionable content, but there’s a major disconnect between advertisers’ needs and costs to serve that. We’re all struggling with video monetization, and we look at it with a cost we can afford. Marketing today is stuff like search and YouTube — what are those people looking for and how to we create what they want. We’re dealing with very diverse spaces like humor, health and DIY space. We focused our attention on the headline, design and title. We built an algorithm that determines audience and ability to place high on search. After we developed this tool we created this freelance community. What we found is that we attracted filmmakers, which had associated with big brands, had won awards, and had spread out across the U.S.
The Next Big Thing: Next big thing is trying to understand there is an imbalance between supply, need and cost. You need to understand the ROI before you greenlight content. Is it quality and relevant to a community? And increasing the competitiveness — in a search world is a social world.