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AppRising delivers insight into new broadband applications, exploring their impact on networks and their implications for public policy.

AppRising is written by Geoff Daily, who covers broadband applications and the business of online video. Based in Washington, DC, Geoff regularly advises applications developers, network operators, community leaders, and public officials on how to maximize adoption and use of the Internet.

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November 2, 2007 2:45 PM

Considering the Challenging Complexity of Online Video

In Boston earlier this week I had the opportunity to meet the CEO of the Culinary Media Network, "the world's first all-food podcast network."

While chatting about my interest in encouraging adoption and use of broadband and the Internet, she lamented the fact that there are a ton of people watching the Food Network every day, but that getting them to turn their attention online to find their food-related video is a big challenge.

From her perspective it's a simple matter of getting people looking at another screen and understanding how much more content is available on-demand online than on broadcast TV.

But I think the challenges of online video are much deeper than that.

Take, for example,

First there's the challenge of finding it as it doesn't have its own domain; the site is set up as a blog under the gildedfork.com domain.

Secondly, when you go to the site it's not immediately obvious how to watch video or that there's even video to watch in the first place. In other words, it's nothing like TV, where you just turn it on and watch.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like the site is poorly constructed or the video's hidden, it's just that in order to start watching the video you need to understand concepts like what a podcast is.

(As an aside, here's how I define a podcast: it's an audio or video file that's most often delivered via RSS or push technology. These files are usually available for on-demand download, but most users subscribe to an RSS feed that pushes the files to an RSS aggregator as soon as new files become available. Podcasts also typically refer to a series of media rather than a one-off affair. Arguably the most popular way to us RSS today is people who subscribe to audio podcasts, which can be anything from books on tape to radio shows, through iTunes and listen to these podcasts on their iPods.)

The aforementioned CEO acknowledged these challenges and alluded to their efforts to phase out the term "podcast" as well as their attempts to simplify the user interface by adding large buttons that encourage users to click on them to start playing video.

But even still I think the issues surrounding interface and user experience are key limiters to the online video space. We can't keep relying on users to understand how to use all these different ways to get the video they want, because ultimately all they want is their video. They really don't care how they get it.

I'd encourage anyone trying to make it in the online video world to realize that if they want to reach out beyond the small circle of early adopters to grow their viewership that in addition to worrying about building brand awareness and implementing sophisticated search technologies, that they need to take whatever steps they can to make their sites as easy to use as TV.

You can always offer additional functionality under the hood for more advanced users, but for most technophobic viewers the key is that less is more when it comes to how much work you require your viewers to do before they can start watching your video.


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