Has Second Life Cut Its Mullet?

After blasting Second Life, I revisited the virtual world to see what I'd find. The world, which had always been rocking the mullet -- business up front and party in the back -- seems to have grown up and visited the barber.

From Monitor to Monetize: The Evolution of YouTube Content ID

Two years ago, the launch of YouTube’s video fingerprinting scheme was viewed as an overdue attempt to appease copyright holders like Viacom, which had sued the site for more than $1 billion earlier in 2007. Content owners had to upload their entire libraries to YouTube, a company they weren’t sure if they trusted, in order to police its pages for infringing videos. But today, YouTube’s Content ID is a market standard, with every major U.S. network broadcaster, movie studio, and record label using it, including Viacom. More than 1,000 content owners have uploaded more than 1 million reference files to the system, and the majority of partners elect to leave infringing content up and try to monetize it by linking to official content or overlaying it with ads.

YouTube today is announcing it has tied together Content ID with its analytics tool, YouTube Insight. Now, content owners who choose to leave up YouTube user uploads of their content will be able to view stats about each video’s demographics, referrals and engagement. They’ll also be able to view stats about all their videos, official and unofficial, in one place. So for instance, Sony Music could see that the JK Wedding Entrance Dance is its eighth most popular music video on YouTube. No word yet on whether viewers of unofficial videos are demographically different than those who find the official ones — but perhaps the data will be instructive for Sony and UMG’s YouTube-powered Vevo music video site, set to launch in December

How else has Content ID evolved in the last two years? We visited YouTube HQ in San Bruno, Calif. last week, and spoke to Senior Product Manager David King to find out.

First of all, when the Content ID system launched, rights holders weren’t happy that it scanned videos shortly after they were posted to YouTube, not before. The delay was built in to avoid slowing down the upload process more than than necessary — users just want their videos to go live — and also, possibly, to protect YouTube from claims that it pre-screened videos, which could potentially make it more liable if they contained copyrighted content.

But content owners said they wanted all content fingerprinted before it ever got posted. “This was a religious point for some studios,” said King. And so, about nine months after Content ID launched, the entire YouTube infrastructure was migrated into the Google cloud “at great cost,” he said. Now, videos are checked for copyrighted content before they go live.

However, over the last two years, Content ID has been naturally migrating from an anti-piracy tool to a marketing and monetization tool. From the beginning, rights holders had the ability to leave unauthorized uploads up and monetize them with ads. The majority of partners now do so, said King. Those who leave user videos up have seen their overall views more than double.

On the flip side, Content ID is now being used to control videos on a more granular level. Content is increasingly geoblocked, said King, so for instance, something that was uploaded in France could potentially be unavailable there because of local rights issues, but viewable in the rest of world. Gets a little awkward when you were just hoping to show a video to your pals!

The other big infrastructure change YouTube has made is a fast-track reference system. As YouTube has grown, King’s team has actually decreased the amount of time it takes creates to create a match between uploaded content and a reference file. The site also has to constantly do legacy scans of its entire library as it intakes new reference files from rights holders. Where the underlying database used to be rebuilt three times a day, now it’s a RAM-based system instead of hard-disk based, and can be rebuilt entirely in under 30 minutes. That upgrade was done in advance of last year’s Beijing Olympics, when NBC took a particular interest in taking down content that had just aired live so it could drive the U.S. audience to its own site. “We’re continuing to focus on closing that live gap, and we will continue to have more announcements [about it],” said King.

So now that YouTube has put all this work into Content ID, would it want to license it out to other sites? “We’d be interested in opening it up to other people,” said King, but he didn’t have anything to announce yet.

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Yahoo’s $100 Million TV Ad

Don’t say they didn’t warn you: Last week Yahoo (YHOO) formally rolled out its new $100 million-plus marketing campaign. Today, the TV ads begin. Here’s what you’ll be getting if you watch AMC, ESPN, USA, Comedy Central, Bravo or any of the broadcast networks in the US. (Live in the UK or India? You’ll have to wait until October 5):

My armchair ad criticism: Why is Yahoo, which already has enormous reach (as the company never fails to point out, it has a half-billion people hitting its homepage every day), marketing the fact that it has enormous reach? Why not, say, advertise some awesome new products?

That way, if I’m not a Yahoo user, I might have a reason to become one. And if I am a Yahoo user (which I am – I’m at Yahoo finance a dozen times a day or more), I’ll have more reason to stick around and explore.

I ran that one by chief marketing officer Elisa Steele last week when she unveiled the campaign, and to her credit, she didn’t roll her eyes in disgust at my caveman ignorance. In fact, she said, Yahoo has every intention of rolling out awesome new products, and ads that highlight them — down the road.

So stay tuned. Then again, given the money Carol Bartz and crew are committing to this, it will be very difficult not to see this stuff.

NewBizNews on MPR

I joined Alan Mutter on Minnesota Public Radio this morning talking about new business models for news. Mentions of the project and the discussion at the Knight-Foundation-funded Aspen Institute presentation. Have a listen:

Sina Cancels Agreement To Buy Focus Media Assets For $1 Billion

Ten months after agreeing to purchase some assets from Focus Media (NSDQ: FMCN), including the company’s digital out-of-home ad network, for $1 billion, Chinese portal SINA says it’s calling off the deal, which hadn’t gotten the go ahead from Chinese authorities. “The delayed consummation of the transaction has negatively impacted the business operations of both sides. Consequently, after due consideration, we have decided with Focus’ management that the best course of action from here is allow the current agreement deadline to expire,” said SINA CEO Charles Chao in a statement.

There had been speculation earlier this summer that the deal was falling apart. Key executives had left Focus Media, and the value of the Focus Media assets had fallen sharply because of the weak advertising market.

The NYT, though, suggests in a report that it was delays on the part of Chinese regulatory officials that ultimately doomed the deal, with the Chinese government not responding to the companies’ requests for approval. Both companies say in separate statements that they will continue to cooperate strategically.


Is WebMediaBrands Interest In PaidContent Just A Bluff?

Picture 1Last week WebMediaBrands CEO Alan Meckler had media tongues wagging when he twittered out that his company (formerly Jupiter Media) was “on the prowl for acquisitions” igniting rumors that it might be interested in purchasing PaidContent should that company be for sale (it’s unclear whether it is).

Meckler and WebMediaBrands (then Jupiter) made their spending powers known back in 2007 when they purchased Laurel Touby’s mediabistro.com for $20 million (full disclosure: I used to work for mediabistro.com, as did a number of my current Mediaite co-workers). Just this past summer WebMediaBrands sold off Internet.com for $18 million in cash (this followed the laying off of 60 people at the company in March) and Meckler tells AOL’s Daily Finance that “we have $25 million in the bank and virtually no debt, so we’re looking for sites that media professionals read.” Certainly sounds like WebMediaBrands is positioning itself to become even more of a media and event powerhouse. But is all as it seems?

Lost in the speculation seems to the the fact that on September 16, WebMediaBrands received a Nasdaq notification letter warning them that the company “no longer complies with the requirements of Nasdaq Marketplace Rule 5450(a)(1) for continued listing on the Nasdaq Global Market” and that if they did not raise their stock price above a $1 they risked losing their listing. According to Nasdaq rules the company has “180 calendar days, or until March 15, 2010, in which to regain compliance with the listing requirement.” Yowzer. Being booted off Nasdaq is no small thing. It essentially means that the powers that determine these things have not only lost faith in the company but lost faith that the company will ever pull itself back out of the hole it is currently in. Short version: it would not be a safe bet for investors. So how to raise stock price? How about some well-timed bluffing.

It’s not a secret (less so this last year!) that stock prices have a lot to do with perceived strength. And as we’ve already noted above, Meckler is sure sending out the sort of signals that would encourage people to perceive his company as healthy and strong even if the numbers don’t quite (yet) support that conclusion. So: is his assertion that the company is “actively looking for acquisitions” merely one way to convince people to invest? Only time will really tell, and according to Nasday we have slightly less than 180 days to find out. Meckler himself certainly hasn’t hesitated to invest.

CBS Hires GlobalPost To Supply International News

CBS (NYSE: CBS) will pay international news site startup GlobalPost a monthly fee to provide it with online dispatches as a way to re-energize the network’s foreign news coverage, the NYT reported. Time was when CBS and the other major broadcast nets had far-flung international news bureaus. But cutbacks in the face of dwindling ad revenues and the competition from cable and online ended those days. As for whether this arrangement could suggest any closer tie-up between CBS and GlobalPost, it doesn’t appear that way at this point as CBS rep said there was no equity or investment aspect to the partnership.

GlobalPost, which went live in January, has mainly been supplying newspapers with reports from its roughly 70 correspondents who are stationed in 50 countries. The site has steadily been adding more video over the past few months as its traffic has grown to what co-founder Philip Balboni claims is 400,000 monthly uniques. The CBS deal comes as only one of Boston-based GlobalPost’s three revenue streams has been paying off. The site has so far signed about 25 syndication deals similar to the one with CBS, but display advertising continues to disappoint, while its subscription-based Passport Service, which costs about $100 a year, has only drawn a few hundred paying customers.

The addition of video, along with the higher profile that comes with being attached to CBS, could help GlobalPost attract other major news organizations, who have continued to lay off reporters and editors. GlobalPost’s correspondents tend to work part-time and many of them are casualties of newsroom cuts.