Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mr Angry - Unsafe for children

Some video news in this post. The first item is now that I've posted more than 30 videos on YouTube I've realised that it might not be such a good idea to have all my eggs in one video-hosting basket. I'm going to keep posting videos via YouTube because it has the biggest user base by far so there's a better chance of spreading the angry meme that way. But last night I started looking for a backup and decided to look into Revver as lots of people are talking about it.

The first thing I noticed about Revver was that they integrate advertising into videos you post giving the opportunity to be paid for making videos. So far as I can tell, a single ad is pasted onto the end of your video and if someone clicks on it you get paid. A possible "shock, horror" moment for anti-advertising purists, but an interesting idea. They extend this quite well because wherever the video is embedded using their code (e.g. this blog) the ad is included, so no matter who posts the video in whatever form (including as an email attachment) the ad is included and could generate revenue.

From my first glance, there are a few shortcomings with Revver. Obviously, the incorporation of advertising directly into my videos is a debasement and prostitution of my pure art. In other words, I like the idea (how many times do I have to say I'm a whore?) The site seems harder to use and navigate generally than YouTube but maybe it just takes getting used to. I haven't seen yet how you build "community" the way YouTube promotes - getting people to subscribe to your videos and suchlike. This being my number one reason for posting videos, it's something I need to work out and I think Revver should make this aspect easier and/or more obvious.

Also, YouTube posts your videos as Flash files (pretty much universal) and Revver posts them as QuickTime files (not nearly as universal). For instance, I can't watch Revver videos at work (in my lunch hour - heaven forbid I'd skive off work) because they don't include QuickTime on the PCs and I'm not allowed to install any applications. I don't know if there was any deal with Apple that led them to use QuickTime but I'd have to say the decision was a mistake - anything that limits your market penetration is a bad idea.

I don't even know if I can embed Revver videos into Wordpress yet, that's something I will have to experiment with. Obviously, that would be deal-breaker. But even if I was able to post them and some people had trouble viewing them - that would be a deal-breaker. The one thing I have always tried to do with my blog is limit the barriers to readers and commenters. I recently had to do the text "captcha" thingie on Blogger because I was being barraged with about 50 spams at a time by the same wanker. I'm going to experiment with taking that off again and see if the same problem recurs. I haven't had to do that with WordPress because of the 99.9% effectiveness of Akismet anti-spam. But there's no way I would want to force users to download specific software to watch my videos (apart from Flash - seriously, if you don't have that installed get your shit together already).

Another interesting thing I noticed about Revver is they have an "age appropriate" rating system. When you post a video they ask you to rate it voluntarily. You get to choose from G, PG13, PG13 (parents strongly cautioned), R (recommended for adults) and R (definitely not for anyone under 17). I decided to go for PG13 (parents strongly cautioned). The interesting thing is, the rating was changed to R before the video was posted. This required manual intervention from somebody at Revver. I actually agree with their revised rating but their method of manually reviewing ratings won't scale well if they end up with a lot of videos being posted like YouTube.

YouTube relies on users flagging content as inappropriate, something that seems to work very quickly. Any stories you hear about YouTube being flooded with porn are grossly exaggerated. If you think you can find any porn on YouTube, send me the URL. Purely in the interests of investigative blogging. What I suspect with Revver is either the volume of contributions are so low they can afford to check all of them at the moment or they only check ones that have been voluntarily given a higher than G rating (or even higher than PG). Either way, if their popularity increases they won't be able to keep it up.

I'm going to test this theory by posting something G rated and see if it stays rated G (maybe my user name is flagged R now). If it stays G then I'm going to post one of my potty mouthed rants with a G rating and see what happens. Hmmm, it will probably get me banned from Revver.

One interesting facet of the "making money" element of Revver is that it's making some users get pissed off at YouTube. The talented ZeFrank is one person who makes money from Revver and tells people not to post his videos to YouTube. I can see the short term reasoning behind this - "I'm making money from Revver and not from YouTube. YouTube is potentially making money from me and I don't see a cent of it, plus, it's potentially stealing viewers from Revver and therefore depriving me of ad revenue."

I think this approach is short-sighted. Ultimately, the more people that see your work, the better. You might miss out on some money short term but, assuming your work is of sufficient quality and you're not a one trick pony, you'll make more money longer term from a bigger audience overall. A lot of the users of these online tools (video sharing, blogging, Digg etc.) are grossly exaggerating their importance. The best that 99.9999% of users can hope for is that they are a stepping stone to something bigger - they aren't the end point of any quest for fame and fortune.

YouTube is far and away the dominant video sharing site and in terms of real population (YouTube has potential world-wide reach after all) practically nobody watches it. They can hype their 100 million views a day as much as they like (personally I suspect that figure is greatly inflated) but compared to TV and cinemas they're doing diddly-squat on the world stage. The most viewed video of all time on YouTube has apparently been watched more than 30 million times which is pretty damn good and they list around 100 videos as being watched more than 1.5 million times.

My quick and unscientific analysis of their top videos is that less than 10% of them are original works - they're mostly lip-synching and clips from TV shows and movies. This doesn't mean that they're not creative but they're not original material which means that the people who made them would have a hard time parlaying this into a commercial return. Essentially, if you seek to make money by using someone else's copyrighted material then you're asking for trouble. Besides which, as much as I would love my videos to be watched more than a million times, it's a pretty inconsequential number.

Any TV show that had a total of a few million viewers world-wide would be cancelled in an eye blink. Any song that was heard a million times IN TOTAL around the world would be a dismal commercial failure. And Tom Cruise would flat out kill himself if only a few million people had ever seen him in a movie. We can always hope.

What was my point again? Oh yeah, limiting where your videos can be shown. In the world of microcelebrity, attention is the currency. Actual money is slowly becoming the currency for a few people but mostly it's attention that matters. ZeFrank puts his videos on Revver and his owns site and tries to stop them being put on YouTube or other places because (presumably) he thinks it limits his financial returns. I think he's wrong - the more people who see/hear/read your works, the more chance you have of developing a long term career.

We'll see if I maintain this open-minded attitude if I ever start making some actual money. I reserve the right to be a total hypocrite on this topic. Much as I reserve that right for any topic. In fact never trust anything I say. Especially when I tell you not to trust me.

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