Online Video: The Sequel
Business Week Online
DECEMBER 29, 2004
Video blogs are proliferating, thanks to improved distribution
technology, and mainstream companies are taking notice
Ryan Hodson  opens her videos with a close-up of herself. Wearing no
makeup and speaking in a deadpan, she narrates two- to five-minute films
that creep in and out of the absurd. In one she tours her house, filming
the trash flung in the corner of the bedroom her roommate seldom leaves.
Hodson, an editor at WGBH, Boston's PBS station, toyed with developing a
show for mainstream TV. In the end she joined a growing throng who meld
blogs with videos. "I have bizarre ideas that might be hard to get on
TV," says Hodson, 25. "Now I'm seeing people respond to them every day."
THE NEXT WAVE. Welcome to the latest Net phenomenon: video blogs, or
what some folks call vlogs. Thousands of ordinary (and some downright
nutty) people have begun posting a cornucopia of video fare online, from
self-indulgent art clips and earnest citizen journalism to sly political
commentary (see BW Online, 12/29/04, "Let a Million Videos Bloom
Online") . Experimentation is the rule, and eccentrics outnumber
But amid the chaos, glimpses of a commercial future are starting to
emerge, including a revival of online video distribution, using vlogs to
sell ads, and corporate sites designed to reach out to customers and
suppliers. "Text doesn't get across all I want to communicate," says
Lenn Pryor, who runs Channel 9  , a vlog that Microsoft set up in
April to communicate more effectively with software developers.
Online video had a brief heyday during the late '90s, when the likes of
Pop.com and Digital Entertainment Network started indie-flick sites with
the aim of developing online movie distribution. Those dreams mostly
ended with the popping of the Net bubble. But thanks to the blog craze
and the proliferation of high-speed broadband, new pioneers are
emerging. "Video on the Internet has been there for a while," says Steve
Rubel, whose blog, Micro Persuasion, talks about publishing trends.
"What vlogging is doing is making it easier to share and find."
LOG AND LOAD. That development is due in large part to the spread of
better distribution technology. Broadband is now in more than 40% of
online U.S. households, meaning roughly 31 million people can now stream
video easily. Another boost has come from the widespread adoption of
blogging software known as really simple syndication, or RSS, which lets
people customize content. With RSS, users can choose the types of video
they want to see and have it sent automatically to their PCs. At the
same time, cheaper digital video gear and better copyright protection is
convincing more folks to put their work online.
The vlog phenomenon has stirred up a wave of creativity at grassroots
groups and companies alike. Online video sites, such as Undergroundfilm,
are adding blogging sections. Ourmedia, an online showcase for digital
content, is expected to launch early this month. It will provide free
storage and blogging room for creative types such as New York indie
musician Sam Bisbee, whose music video will be available for free. "You
see video bubbling up all over the Web," says J.D. Lasica, who runs
Ourmedia. "My thought was to gather it all in one place."
The proliferation of video is prompting commercial entities to take a
second look. On Dec. 16, Yahoo! (YHOO) launched an online search service
that uses RSS tools developed with Ourmedia and indie site AtomFilms to
collect videos from around the Web. Blogs that sell ads, such as
consumer-electronics news site Engadget, are adding video product
reviews. And Microsoft's Channel 9, which attracts 900,000 viewers a
month, dishes up interviews and demos to stay in close contact with its
key software-developer community.
THE RIGHT VIEWERS. For some indie filmmakers who weathered the video
drought online, the Internet is finally starting to live up to its early
promise. Peter John Ross posted short films on a handful of online video
sites before they imploded in 2000. But he kept plugging away, using his
own site and other survivors to promote his videos.
"It's amazing how people will find your work," says Ross. The right kind
of people, too: Ross recently got financial backing for his first
By Heather Green in New York
 Ryan Hodson, Video Editor. http://ryanedit.com/
 "Let a Million Videos Bloom Online", Business Week Online, 12/29/04,
 Microsoft Channel 9 Forums, http://channel9.msdn.com/
Copyright 2000-2004, by The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. All rights reserved.