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Posted: September 13, 2008 6:11 PM
Scoble scrutinizes the future of web TV

scoble.jpg(Photo by Ashleigh Bennett, ONA08 Student Newsroom)

Keynote speaker Robert Scoble is not only a prominent blogger with his blog Scobleizer, but also managing director of Fast Company TV, a business video network. After Saturday morning's speech, Scoble fielded questions from the student newsroom about video on the web.

Q: Fast Company TV is described as "TV solely for the Internet." Why did you choose to do it that way?

A: It frees me of all sorts of constraints. If you're creating something for CNN, you have to put it into a very specific format and you also have to be much more entertaining and it's also much more expensive. I was on Donny Deutsch's show, during the consumer electronics show, and they didn't even want me to talk about gadgets. They said, "You're here to entertain. Be alive and wild and make grandiose statements." To me, that's not making anyone smarter, it's just entertainment.

I grew out of the Internet. I'm not an old school media guy. My goal in life is not to carry around 50-pound cameras and have editors and producers and a lot of machinery. My goal is to have conversations with people to make me and my audience smarter.

It's more fun to innovate. I wanted to push the boundaries of what this stuff lets you do: having a chat room, having Twitter, a cell phone that people can interact with, all that stuff lets me do media that I just couldn't do any other way.

The difference between sticking a cell phone in someone's face and sticking a 50-pound camera in someone's face is it changes the subject, changes how they react to you. It also means you're spending a lot of resources to do this, so you approach it differently.

I'm playing with some of that professional media too now. I have a studio show with three professional cameras, and a director and a producer and a camera guy. But that's very expensive. The other thing is that audience sizes on the Internet are not big enough to support really expensive media yet. When you get on TV, you get millions of people viewing, but online if you do a video show, you can have 500 or a thousand people.

Q: How fast do you think the online audience is growing?

A: Online video clearly is going pretty crazy because more and more people are getting broadband, more and more people are figuring out, "Oh, you can actually watch video on your computer or hook your computer up to your HD set."

I was just at a consumer electronics show in Berlin. Now Panasonic is bringing out TVs with the Internet in the TV, so you can watch YouTube videos on TV without hooking anything else up to it.

Q: With the rush to monetize online content, how do you think ads going to be incorporated with web TV?

A: I think it'll depend on the show and the way you're distributing it. Some of the ways I've seen include product placement, like Diggnation will hold up a product and talk about it, or video overlays, like YouTube now puts overlays on top of videos, and that seems pretty interesting. Lost actually has an interruptive experience, that forces you to play a game or sit there for 30 seconds and watch a video, and you can tell that came from the old school monetizing way. I'm sponsored, so I really don't have advertising other than "Seagate sponsors this show and I appreciate that."

That's pretty much the big stuff. I've seen a lot of ad networks playing with clickable areas in the video, so you see a Coke can in the corner, you click on it, and it puts up a contest or something like that.

Q: There's a lot of noise on the Internet. How do you make your productions stand out from the crowd?

A: Get something that other people don't have. I was a believer in long videos long before anybody else was, so I always went for that conversation style of learning something, where other people were going for the entertainment style of one-minute videos for mass distribution. But I wanted to be different. Going with the mass always seemed to be the non-profitable approach, and the non-interesting approach and I wanted to have something different.

Putting good headlines on your video, putting good metadata, that's all the standard stuff.

Being timely, understanding what the market conversation is, and bringing media that feeds that market conversation. So if everyone is talking about the new iPhone today, have a video that matches that so people can get the information about a topic they're already interested in.

Getting news, and interesting people that you want to hear about. If you get Steve Jobs to answer something and nobody else does, then all of a sudden you'll get a million views.

Q: Did social networking sites like Twitter and FriendFeed help you build an audience?

A: I look at that as distribution. On Twitter 34,000 people are watching me, and on FriendFeed almost 19,000 people are watching me. Anytime I twitter, it goes to both of those groups, and automatically it gets an audience. It might only be a couple hundred people, but those couple hundred people are also very influential, very talkative. They'll pass along that video to other people.

Q: What's your vision for the future of web TV?

A: That's a tough one. We've had so much change. I think people are still not really understanding the power of the interactivity of it. I do my cell phone show and I get to see having an interactive audience via phoning is very different than standard TV where you sit at home with a beer and watch.

I think you're going to see more interactivity. Seesmic came out in the last year, and that's interactive video where you can post a video on it and someone else can answer back, and you have this video conversation. It's very different than TV.

I think the cell phones are going to get a little more interesting and have a system that normal people can use. Right now it's geeky, and not many people know that they can do video on a cell phone. So I think as more people see that that's possible, they'll film concerts and their babies and stuff like that.

I think the big money's starting to come in, and that's raising the bar in terms of production costs. Getting an audience means you have to be interesting and professional, and that is different than it was five years ago where you could put up just any video and get an audience.

--Jackie Hai

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