YouTube Should Get Down to Business

According to the U.S. Census Bureau,there are nearly six million businesses in the United States. Think about the enormity of that number.That’s billions and billions of dollars in revenue generation every year. That’s also six million businesses that all require the same basic nourishment to survive – marketing and sales.

If you’re one of those six million businesses, there’s no way around one basic fact – if you want sales; you need marketing. There’s simply too much competition in the global marketplace to survive without marketing. Even items like water, a basic life essential that has always been free, is now big business. But water is also heavily marketed. The messages are that it is “the freshest” or the “finest natural spring” water in an attempt to convince consumers to choose a specific brand.

And right now the old (or shall I say, traditional) methods of advertising and marketing are beginning to fade away or take a new shape. For my money, that new shape is online video. However, some of the biggest names in video have yet to fully embrace the medium as a highly effective marketing platform. And, yes, I’m talking about YouTube. You know, that little company owned by the other little company called Google? I target “Goo-Tube” because it’s just not being very innovative these days.

Case in point, Google executives recently came out and said the company doesn’t know how to make money with YouTube. Gasp! Google doesn’t know how to make money? That’s certainly not the innovative company I know.

So here’s my plan for Google to get back some of that innovative spirit it seems to have misplaced – YouTube Business. It’s the innovation YouTube should build if it wants to start making money right away,and at the same time, explicitly lock up almost every business on the planet into a long-term subscription based plan. Sergey, don’t try pretending that the plan isn’t Google global dominance. We all know the score.

There’s no doubt that every company that does marketing in the future is going to find it necessary to have some type of video on its website. Those videos are either going to be commercials or infomercials. Product demonstrations, training guides, video spokespeople and customer testimonials are just a few examples of video elements consumers are beginning to expect from businesses.

Currently, there really isn’t any place for a business to quickly, easily and cost-effectively post their business video content. Companies could invest in third-party hosting, but that requires figuring out how to create a proprietary Flash player to stream videos. But, more importantly, videos hosted on YouTube will definitely benefit from being indexed into Google’s universal search.

The bottom line – even for large companies – is that it’s much easier to have a single site or repository specifically to host business video content. That type of site also solves all the issues associated with the complexities and hurdles of video including streaming, compression, and quality, etc.

It’s All About Subscriptions

But there’s no point in building something that isn’t going to generate a profit. After all, this is business we’re talking about. For the sake of this argument, let’s conservatively estimate there are 1 million businesses ready to sign up today to this new YouTube Business channel (why wouldn’t they?). Let’s say that YouTube Business charged each one of those 1 million businesses $100 per month to host their videos. That’s $1,200 a year per company multiplied by 1 million accounts. That equals $1.2 billion a year. That’s not a bad business model.

So the real question is…would a business pay $100 a month to have its videos hosted at YouTube? I say, yes! They’d pay that in a heartbeat and here’s why:

  • Universal search integration for videos that meet “requirements”
  • The ability to remove the YouTube branded logo on the player allows the business to both stream the video on YouTube, as well as on their website
  • Full HD capability, if wanted
  • Long-form videos (allowing videos up to two hours in length)
  • Maintaining brand equity by segregation from amateurish and inappropriate videos in the general population
  • Unlimited views
  • Trend tracking and analytics
  • Private community
  • Custom-branded business channel pages

I like to think of an innovation as something that is created out of a need. Sure, sometimes innovations “just happen”, but most of the time, someone is trying to solve a problem. In this case, YouTube has a BIG problem. It can’t make money.

It’s time for someone at YouTube to stop worrying about skateboarding videos and start thinking real practical money-making innovations that solve problems for millions of revenue generating, and spending, businesses. It’s time for YouTube Business.

If you’re interested in learning more details or giving me your thoughts, you can read the entire plan at www.JimKukral.com/ytbiz.

Leagues of Their Own

Since the days of the gladiators, sports fans have had an irrational bond with their favorite athletes and teams. Feats of athleticism evoke eruptions of euphoria or a tidal wave of tears as a game’s final play unfolds.These strong emotions create an indelible brand loyalty that remains long after the season ends.

Marketers are learning to exploit these relationships in new ways by expanding the scintillating sights and sounds of sports beyond television highlights to broad online distribution. By enabling fans to personalize their interactions with multimedia content and by bringing the game to their favorite arena – be it a social website or a personalized Web page – sports leagues are creating new online marketing opportunities that are increasing revenue. Typically, online merchandising of memorabilia and apparel is not handled by sports leagues’ online properties and is therefore not addressed in this article.

Sports leagues and their broadcast partners have historically been conservative in granting permission to use video and audio from games online. This idea was based on the belief that making highlights or live broadcasts available dilutes the value of live games and would reduce advertising revenue and attendance. For example, in the late 1990s, local radio affiliates streamed broadcasts of baseball games online for free. But within two years, Major League Baseball ended the process, allowing audio webcasts to be streamed only through the MLB.com website through paid subscription services.

Baseball continues its policy of charging to listen togames online today. Dinn Mann executive vice president of content for major league baseball, says the league listened to fans and for the 2008 season reduced the price of a season audio subscription by $5 to the former price of $14.95. “We tipped our cap to fans who complained,” he says.

Requiring customers to pay for live audio provides an alternative revenue stream, according to Mann. “Having a subscriber base and not relying entirely on advertising is of strategic importance,” says Mann. Subscriptions,which require submitting an email and physical address, provide an avenue for MLB to pursue online and offline direct marketing.

Major League Baseball also charges for video streaming of live games and restricts viewing to any games that are “out of market” from where the customer lives. This protects the lucrative contracts with cable companies and local TV stations that are the bread and butter of their revenue. Baseball game viewing- despite the lengthy 162 game schedule – remains largely a pay-per-view world, Mann says, because “some things are still worth paying for.”

This year is the first time that baseball fans can watch archived broadcasts of full games for free, something that MLB is”experimenting with,” according to Mann. The archived games do not feature advertising, but MLB is “exploring the right relationship,”Mann says.

Growing the Audience

Sports leagues are now taking a page from online marketers’ playbooks by encouraging consumers to personalize their experience in interacting with content. Instead of going the affiliate marketing route, the digital sports media companies are focused on partnering with social networking sites and other media companies that have established audiences of fans. The strategy is to encourage consumers to link to and save content on the sites where they visit on a daily basis, enabling fans to mash-up multimedia content to create something new from existing content. Marketers who join the roster of their online partners will gain a share of the spoils in growing their audience and reaching a new generation of fans.

At the start of the 2008 season, MLB.com announced a partnership allowing Yahoo.com to stream games and highlights.Yahoo will also sell ads against both pay and free content, although thus far the video has been distributed largely without ads. Through this agreement, MLB.com gets access to Yahoo’s large audience and the two companies share revenue from any transactions facilitated through Yahoo.

Professional and collegiate sports leagues have learned that embracing younger audiences on their home turf is the quickest path to rapidly growing an audience. The NCAA, in partnership with CBSSports.com, opened the video streams of its college basketball championship tournament to a wide variety of publishing partners with great success. This enables fans to see the content where they want it delivered.

Just a few years ago, video streams of March Madness games were protected from the majority of the population as if they were enriched uranium. The subscription service generated just $250,000 in revenue annually. But over time online distribution was proven not to be hazardous to the health of television advertising revenue. Subscription fees were replaced with free streams, and then the NCAA/CBSsports.com embraced social networking (See sidebar).

Free live game webcasts have paid huge returns, according to Jason Kint, senior vice president and general manager of CBSSports.com, which manages the online video distribution of the NCAA tourney. CBS Sports created an embeddable media player that contained multiple advertising locations, in-stream ads, and fixed positions sold to sponsors.

Online “consumption is additive and not cannibalistic”of the TV audience of live college basketball, Kint says.The streams were primarily delivered to people who didn’t have access to TV, including office workers. The media player’s “Boss Button,” which instantly hides daytime viewing at the office, was clicked more than 2.5 million times, according to Kint.

People will continue to watch games on TV if they can,he says, as the final championship game was the most watched game on TV and had the smallest proportional share of online viewers. Industry watchers speculate this type of arrangement may lead to new relationships between those who promote other events, such as concerts or entertainment awards shows and affiliates who can deliver a targeted audience.

Content owners looking to maximize their audience for ad-supported content should also spread it far and wide, Kint says. “Don’t expect users to come to a URL – bring the content to them.”

Like its collegiate counterpart, pro basketball also recognizes that working with existing online communities enhances rather than endangers its own digital efforts. For the past two years the NBA has “embraced the idea of distributing content beyond NBA.com” and is partnering with video sharing and social networking sites, according to NBA’s Vice President of Interactive Services, SteveGrimes.

Grimes says working with video sites such as YouTube, Joost and Hulu and social networking sites such as Facebook, Beebo and MySpace has increased fan engagement. The NBA makes highlight videos available to publishers such as Hulu and Joost to strengthen its brand awareness among younger audiences who are consuming a greater majority of their video online.

The NBA is encouraging fans to create their own highlight reels by mashing up content available only on NBA.com and embedding it on their social networking sites. “Fans that love the NBA will come to NBA.com, but those who like it will visit other sites,” Grimes says.Widgets that enable sharing of content are delivering interactivity to sports media. NBA’s widget page (www.nba.com/widgets/) contains embeddable code for showing highlights, up-to-date-scores and photos. The NBA has sponsorship deals with companies including Lenovo and TMobile for some of its widgets to gain revenue from content that sits on other sites, Grimes says. The league has also launched a fan application on Beebo to reach its audience.

“(Sports) sites are starting to realize the power of how content can be aggregated across the Web (using widgets),” says Tad Greenleaf, the media team lead, for Omniture Consulting. Greenleaf, whose company has measured fan engagement for the websites of all of the professional leagues, says that while some leagues have hesitated on widgets and distributing content to other sites, they will do so as long as they can maintain some control.

By contrast, MLB has not released any widgets as yet because “we haven’t reached the point that the content needs to reside on their (fans) pages,” says MLB.com’s Mann. “… We have taken a long term view and not just rushing to the tool of the day.”

Measuring Success

Most of the sports leagues are more concerned about building traffic and fan engagement than selling tickets or jerseys through their partnerships with publishers, according to Ominture’s Greenleaf. His company built a social networking website for the Indianapolis Colts (www.mycolts.net) that greatly increased traffic to the NFL’s Colts site by enabling fans to comment, share content and create their own blogs. The leagues want to measure views of videos to see how they can be used to retain consumers, Greenleaf says. “How much can a piece of content drive people into the site, or are they hitting and leaving?” He says sites want to see if the relationships have “velocity” and are encouraging users to “dive deep” into the sites.

Greenleaf says another strategic play is for leagues to buy keywords about teams, players or about timely topics in the news because the leagues “don’t want them going to other places on the Web.”

“The key thing is that you need to control [the environment] if you are the owner of the content,” says Robert Tuchman, the President of TSE Sports and Entertainment, which develops corporate marketing programs around sports. Tuchman says those who market sports leagues have yet to capitalize on the legion of diehard fans that follow their sport. “They have to get behind their existing market or other organizations will control their inventory.”

Tuchman says while social networking around video highlights is the hot topic today, it should be part of a larger strategy that integrates all media. “Social networking is just one aspect. You need to sell combined media packages” that include TV, print and outdoor, according to Tuchman.

Scoring With Mobile

The days of learning how your team fared by reading the morning paper are long gone. Now fans want to know about scores, injuries and trades immediately, and the league sites are marketing to this perceived need. Through mobile-device enabled websites (WAP) and SMS and text-messaging services, sports leagues including the NHL, NBA and MLB are generating revenue from on-the-go consumers.

For the 2008 season, MLB.com added video alerts to its text alerts subscription service. The alerts highlight great catches or home runs from a fan’s favorite team that will be sent to handsets within three minutes after a play happens. The NBA’s “mobile to go” service offers team and player text alerts as well as a service customized for fantasy league fans.

Quattro Wireless launched the mobile version of the NFL Draft site for the annual draft, which took place in April. The site, which included photo galleries,articles, draft prospect pages, player analysis, and the full draft order, was updated in real-time as the college players were selected by NFL teams.

“The NFL is trying to continue to give their fans more coverage wherever their fans may be,” Lars Albright, vice president of business development for Quattrosays. “The NFL found that the draft is turning into something of an event … It’s becoming a marketable event.”

Sports leagues and news services originally charged subscriptions for notifications to mobile phones and handhelds, but they are starting to shift to ad-supported services, says Eric Eller, senior vice president of products and marketing for Millennial Media. Eller, whose company operates two mobile advertising networks (CPM and CPC) that aggregates demand, says one of the big trends is in-game mobile marketing.

For example, during a game, fans in attendance can be shown messages on their mobile phones that are linked to messages being shown on the big screens that sit high atop the stadiums, Eller says. Mobile phones “will play an important part of sports marketing around events,” he says.

Sports leagues have learned that by making highlights more widely available and engaging on their favorite online destinations, they can grow both their television audience and put more fans in the seats.

The Changing Digital Landscape

2008 has shaped up to be a crazy year for online advertising – the writers’ strike drove people online and the presidential election and the Olympics are causing advertisers to boost spending in a down market. The timing of these factors has altered media behavior – making the business of online media anything but typical for the year.

How the advertising dollars that moved online in 2008 will be spent is a matter of much debate. Reports indicate that because the digital landscape is changing, advertisers are finding that the tried and true initiatives that performed well a few years ago are now considered passe.

As more and more individuals become their own tastemakers, advertisers need to take into account how users consume information. The days of pushing content have given way to users pulling the content that they want – making it tricky for companies to get a hold of their potential consumers.

At the end of 2007, AdTech and MarketingSherpa surveyed 421 Internet marketers about the tactics they would try out this year and where they plan to spend their budget in 2008.

In terms of the initiatives that marketers plan to increase more than 5 percent of the budget on in 2008, 32 percent of marketers cited PPC, 27 percent of marketers said they’ll increase their spend on behavioral targeting and 26 percent will spend it on rich media.

The survey found that viral marketing and advertising on online video sites, mobile phones and virtual worlds are among the emerging trends that marketers plan to check out this year. Marketers say they are encouraged to try out those tactics for the first time by their agencies.

Ninety-three percent say agencies suggested an increase in spending or begin spending on viral video; 87 percent were urged to spend on viral marketing using networking sites; 60 percent were asked to try wireless ads on mobile networks; and 62 percent said agencies advised advertising in games and virtual worlds.

In March, PQ Media reported that total spending on alternative media – including expenditures on online/mobile, lead generation advertising and consumer-generated media – is predicted to grow 20.2 percent to $88.24 billion in 2008.

Clearly, how companies approach their ad budgeting is going through a major metamorphosis. Of course, online marketing plans and their budgets depend on several factors – including the type of company, product, audience and goals.

The Big Trends

In terms of how advertisers budget their marketing plans, three trends have been shaking up the status quo in 2008 – paid search, social media and ad networks.

The biggest change in the last couple of years is that search ad spending continues to increase – it is expected to rise 32 percent this year to $15.5 billion in the U.S, according to J.P. Morgan Chase.

Some industry watchers call search the greatest advertising medium of all time and many marketers agree. However, Jake Fields, president and creative director of Treeline Interactive, warns that marketers need to be careful because it is easy to waste budgets buying keywords. Fields recommends Spyfu.com, a tool for finding competitors’ keywords.

The rise of social media is one of the dramatic differences between 2007 and 2008. Although a recent Forrester Research report indicates that spending is still relatively small, companies are benefiting from what it offers: consumers contribute brand messaging as opposed to only passively receiving communication from marketers.

There are many ways for new publishers as well as established brands to leverage social media. They could create buzz on a social network before the site launches or do some ad buys on social networks sites, which are cheaper than buys on traditional content like CNN because traditional advertisers are weary of social networks.

The Northern California ski resort, Northstar at Tahoe, has a campaign that encourages customers and staff to post videos and photos with the tags “Northstar, Tahoe” on social media sites such as YouTube and Flickr – with the prospect of being featured on the Northstar site or even the possibility of winning complimentary services. Fields explains that this initiative enabled Northstar at Tahoe to quickly expand its presence within these social media sites from a couple hundred entries to thousands of social media posts that positively represent their brand.

Also gaining traction in 2008 are advertising exchanges, which allow advertisers to bid for impressions on a CPM basis. Cam Balzer, vice president of emerging media at DoubleClick Performics, explains that ad exchanges bring the benefits of search marketing to display advertising – namely, the ability to test a large number of placements (an ad of a particular size on a particular site or even site section) dynamically (no minimum or locked-in budget), to bid more for placements that are driving strong ROI and less for placements that aren’t working.

More and more display inventory of an increasingly high quality is becoming available via advertising exchanges, and this trend should continue as publishers get comfortable with selling inventory in this way.

Balzer says that for a minimal investment, companies can test various approaches to building awareness of their brand. They can secure a large number of impressions at a low CPM to increase reach. If they are also selling advertising on their site, they could sell ad inventory via an exchange to improve the CPM yield of their site.

Regardless of whether companies attempt to leverage one or all of the big online marketing trends for 2008, the ever-evolving interactive space is moving away from cookie cutter campaigns that seem too inflexible to yield results.

To rise above the clutter, companies need to aggressively try the latest tactics like product placement in games and paid ads on networking sites. Mixed approaches are required – recent research finds that when search and display advertising are combined, clicks increase after people see the display ads.

Because there is no silver bullet, marketers need to constantly analyze and optimize their mix. Fields says that campaigns are all a matter of trial and error – it is important to try, pull back, measure, analyze, and then try again.

Lights, Cameras, Action!

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Blendtec. I bet you are familiar with Blendtec and I bet I know how you first heard of their blenders – from their viral video series called “Will it blend?” That series, showing iPods and other unusual items being reduced to powder by a powerful blender, serves a strong branding message: If it can annihilate an iPod, it will make quick work of your smoothie.

Whatever people conclude, the videos are certainly working. Blendtec’s sales have quintupled since the start of the campaign. Total cost of all this marketing: a few thousand dollars for video equipment plus the cost of the objects destroyed. Every video viewed was the result of people passing them to their friends or finding them through search.

Videos provide the richest way to send a message to your customers, and they might cost less than you expect. Online videos can be targeted at far smaller audiences than TV commercials and cost nothing to distribute, unlike mailed DVDs. Online video is especially important to marketers targeting younger audiences – 42 percent of individuals between 18 and 34 watch video online at least once a week.

So how do you go about making your own online video? Here are five tips for making great online videos.

Keep it short. The shortest videos seem to be the most watched, with the highest viewership for clips between one and three minutes. Some popular video podcasts are five minutes long, and many are ten. Don’t make yours 30. Better to do a weekly 10-minute show than a monthly hour.

Use tight shots. Some people will watch your clips on iPods and other small screens, and even those that watch on their computers generally do it in a small window. So, when you shoot your video, use close-ups with your subjects. And forget widescreen mode – stick with standard mode.

Don’t move. Talking heads work best. Many fast-motion sequences will be lost on an iPod’s small screen.

Write big. When you add on-screen titles to your video, remember that text that looks fine while editing your video on your computer could be unreadable on the tiny iPod screen and small computer windows. Use text judiciously and in a large point size.

Watermark it. If your video is well done, people will share it, which is great. But if you don’t identify the site it’s from, people won’t know where to go for more.

You can’t expect to reach people with online video as easily as you would with a TV commercial. With TV, you merely choose the show that matches your target market, plunk down your cash, and your commercial runs. On the Web, customers usually find your video through search, so search marketing is crucial to getting your message seen.

The best way to do that is to optimize your videos for search. Google’s Universal Search and other blended search result pages have made it more important then ever to optimize your video clips for search.

The good news is that if you know how to optimize Web pages, you already know a lot about optimizing videos, because search engines don’t see the actual video images and can’t hear the audio soundtrack. So the page containing the video carries a lot of weight with search engines.

Place each video on a separate webpage, so that you can optimize that page with the keywords that best match the clip. As always, use those keywords in the title, the description, and the body (especially in headings). Include a short summary of the video’s contents within the body, or, even better, post a transcript of all the words spoken.

But there’s more. You must get the videos themselves indexed by search engines.Some search engines crawl videos, so place all your videos in the same directory, as close to the root directory as possible. If you’re producing a steady stream of videos, set up a Web feed for them, pinging the search engines each time you add a new clip. You can also use a Video Sitemap (sitemap.org) to get the same treatment for your videos that you get for your Web pages.

And don’t stop there. You can improve your search results further by following these four tips:

Use keyword-rich file names. Name your video files to show the search engine what they are about. If it is a demonstration of a product, name the file after that product, such as ipod-nano-demo.mpg. Don’t drone on with keyword after keyword in the name – keep it short, with just a couple of keywords.

Optimize your metadata. Videos can be encoded with metadata keywords within the “properties” of the video file itself, by tools such as Autodesk Cleaner (www.autodesk.com). Video search engines frequently rely on this information when deciding which videos to show in the search results (and in what order).

Submit your videos. Video sharing sites, such as Google’s YouTube (www.youtube.com), allow you to post your videos right on their site. But you should reach farther than YouTube. Use TubeMogul (www.tubemogul.com) to submit your clips to over a dozen sites simultaneously and to track their viewership. Use keyword-rich titles and descriptions on those sites – they’re just as important as on your Web pages-and tag them with keywords, also. Some video sharing sites allow a linkback to your Web site, so take advantage of that, too.

Publicize your video. If your clip is noteworthy, submit it to social bookmarking sites, email people who would be interested, and link to it from your blog or another Web page.

If you follow this advice, you’re sure to improve the visibility of your online videos.

But it’s not enough to optimize your videos for search, however. Just as getting a #1 ranking for a Web page does not get that page clicked, your video must be watched, not just found. How do you get people to watch what you’ve created? Learn to share. Ensure that videos posted, especially to social networking sites, are marked “public” rather than private.

Give your videos “curb appeal.” Some video sharing sites allow you some control over the image selected as its thumbnail image – the picture shown before the video is played. Select an attractive thumbnail. Emphasize what works. Pay attention to viewership metrics, so you can repeat techniques and themes that have succeeded with your customers in the past.

Video has become a force in Internet marketing. If you produce compelling videos, optimize them for search, and get them watched, the force will be with you.

Video Validation

All of the predictions that 2007 would be the year of online video came true in spades – it rapidly gained in popularity as a medium last year and its momentum continues today.

The long-lasting Hollywood writers’ strike possibly hastened the migration of people to pass their time visiting online video sites due to the lack of television programming. It’s not just old episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” they are watching online, but all sorts of content.

A Horowitz study found that news segments and nonprofessional online videos are among the most viewed programming (see bar chart on page 036).

A December study conducted by BurstMedia, a provider of advertising representation, found that approximately seven out of 10 respondents (72.1 percent) have viewed online video content. Although young people represent the largest segment of video watchers, a majority of all age segments have watched it – including over half (58.6 percent) of respondents 65 years and older.

To capitalize on the opportunity, new video offerings are popping up all the time that provide innovative twists on everything from programming to platforms. In March, FastCompany.TV, an online video network that covers technology trends and products, launched. Renowned blogger Robert Scoble serves as managing director, and his popular daily video series, ScobleTV, is one of its several programs.

Seesmic, a platform that uploads more than 4,000 videos per day, has Flash-based social features aimed to enable conversations between users. Participants record short videos in which they ask a question or express their opinion. Other users then record and upload replies to the videos, facilitating a back-and-forth exchange.

Video Revolution

Online marketers were quick to join the video revolution – eager to try out the best ways to leverage its versatility to enhance their interactive efforts. These marketers are moving quickly with good reason – a February 2007 study by The Kelsey Group found that online video converts well. Of the 501 adults asked about whether they had viewed a video ad on the Internet, among the 59 percent who said yes, 43 percent checked out a website, 22 percent requested information, 18 percent went to a store and 15 percent made a purchase.

Jim Kukral, an online marketing consultant, explains that people watch online video because they want to absorb information in the least taxing format possible.

He believes that the easier things are for consumers, the better conversions will be, which is why he thinks online marketers should not just be taking advantage of video, “they should be leading the charge.” Kukral himself is so bullish on video that he has vowed to only create video or audio content as opposed to text posts for his blog in 2008.

Mark Wielgus, founder of the site 45n5, is another online marketer pleased with his foray into video. Beginning on January 1, 2008, he pledged to create a video every day for 365 days in a row – even weekends – with the intention of gaining a voice and being a personality on the Web. The videos, like his site, offer guidance and chronicle his own quest to make money online.

Wielgus has different theme days; for example, The Road to Affiliate Summit Sundays, and ShowYourAdHere Mondays. Of the approximately 100 videos he has up on YouTube, he gets about 300 to 400 views per day. One of the lessons he has learned is to include an overlay of 45n5.com at the bottom of each of his videos so that he doesn’t miss out on the branding opportunity when they get distributed.

Promoting Products

Buy.com was an early adopter of online video and has seen tremendous results from its video program, BuyTV. The half-hour on-demand weekly show launched in May 2006 on its site and through distribution partners like iTunes and YouTube, and is also available on broadcast television.

BuyTV showcases the latest in high tech gadgets and Buy.com’s most popular shopping categories. While viewers watch a segment, they are able to make a purchase by clicking a button next to the video.

Buy.com’s vice president of marketing, Jeff Wiscot, and Marketing Director Melissa Salas, who is one of BuyTV’s hosts, say video is effective for selling to people who are not particularly tech-savvy – because they can see an explanation of a product’s features and how the product works. Salas notes that it’s a good tool for electronics, which sometimes require longer purchasing decisions.

Although Buy.com can’t release specific metrics, the company says video has helped conversion rates drastically – in some cases up to a multiple of seven. As an example, Wiscot says that if the company were running an MP3 player promotion with a 2 percent conversion, it could go up to 14 percent on the high end if BuyTV put up a video about it.

Last fall, Affiliate Summit co-founders Shawn Collins and Missy Ward launched WeViews.tv, a video reviews site of products and services that range from the Garmin Street Pilot to iTunes.

In addition to making videos for the site, Collins and Ward ask users to be “consumer reporters” and contribute their own video reviews, which Ward thinks enables affiliates to get their feet wet in video without the trouble of building and marketing their own site. If WeViews.tv accepts and publishes the video, the submitter receives $10, a model similar to Nuuvy.com’s.

WeViews.tv videos feature what Collins calls a “subliminal call to action” by including the URL for the product at the bottom of each video. For example, the video that reviews Sirius Stiletto portable satellite radio has the URL, www.weviews.tv/stiletto.

Collins says the overall typical conversion rate for products is about 10 percent. Ward has had good experience with shoes; noting that both the Chinese Laundry and Ugg Slippers videos have been the biggest – converting at nearly 16 percent in December, and the Oakley Thumps sunglasses converted at 12.5 percent the same month.

On the WeViews.tv site, transcriptions of the videos are posted with product specifi cations added to the text to provide more details. Collins explains the text is keyword-rich and therefore gets indexed in Google fairly high.

In the future, WeViews.tv might make the videos clickable, and Collins says he could use a vendor like WebVideoZone or Bubble- PLY to do that. Currently the videos are powered by Revver – a service Collins likes because of the quality and because it syncs in well with WordPress blogs.

Revver’s senior vice president of business development, Brian McCarthy, explains that Collins and Ward upload their reviews to Revver and then post them on the WeViews.tv site. Revver delivers ads within the player and shares that revenue with them. Any revenue WeViews.tv makes through ads on the browser page they keep for themselves. Because the WeViews videos are in the Revver library, they are syndicated out to the Revver network for additional distribution.

Video Is Versatile

A different type of product that Collins promotes through video is the conference he co-founded, The Affiliate Summit. Because conference registration isn’t an impulse purchase, Collins says he works on numerous touch points to sell people.

Users who want to watch sessions from the Affiliate Summit are required to double opt-in to the weekly Affiliate Summit newsletter, where content supplements the videos in an effort to sell the prospects.

Viewers can then watch full sessions from the conference at the Affiliate Summit site, which is hosted by Fliqz.com. Each video includes an Affiliate Summit logo in the bottom right that’s clickable to the registration page. But because there is no indication that the video is clickable, Collins does not have specific conversion information.

Kukral also makes promotional videos. In 2007, he made five simple videos to promote his online marketing consulting business and uploaded them to YouTube. Kukral now gets three to five calls a week from people who say they found the videos by searching for the terms “online marketing” on YouTube.

In January, Kukral launched The Daily Flip, a show about online entrepreneurism and marketing that features tips, tools and reviews of products. Kukral films each show using a Pure Digital Technologies Flip video camera, which he says proves the point that anyone can make good video with inexpensive equipment.

Pure Digital gave Kukral a Flip camera to create a promotion, which Kukral set up for the day of the Super Bowl. During half time, he posted a video on his blog with a phone number and the first person who called won the camera. The promotion’s goal was to drive people to his site and subscribe to his videos.

Kukral says there is a number of ways to monetize The Daily Flip, including sponsorships, partnerships with networks, commercials and pre- and post-roll ads in the videos. If the site gets enough traffic, he could become a YouTube Partner and YouTube would sell ads for the site that are contextual and give him a cut.

Like his consulting business, Kukral promotes the program through video-sharing sites. He recommends TubeMogul.com as a quick way to upload videos to several sites at one time. Although there are more than 100 video-sharing sites, Kukral pays the most attention to YouTube because of its 31 percent market share of all video sites on the Web.

Although entertaining videos have been among the most popular ones on the Internet, videos that solve problems are also sought after. For this reason, Kukral recommends VideoJug.com, which is an instructional site that teaches people how to do things such as how to use a Pilates balance ball. Many of the videos featured on VideoJug are professionally made and don’t credit the creators, but there are some user-generated areas on the site that give producers an opportunity to brand themselves.

In February, three ex-Googlers launched Howcast, a site that features both professionally shot and user-generated instructional videos. The video ads are in the form of clickable overlays that pop up in the bottom part of the screen. Each video is tagged by topic and each one has a visible script, which make them searchable. A cookware company could purchase spots in the how-to-fry-an-egg video, for instance, or buy paid links in the list of necessary equipment that is part of the video.

Adding Existing Video

Online marketers don’t need to create video to promote their products; they can add merchant videos to their sites to enhance their site’s content, give it a more professional appearance and potentially push it up in the search engine rankings.

James Nardell, an affiliate manager for AMWSO, an affiliate marketing and affiliate program management company, says that he has seen video help with conversion for programs such as Gaiam, an organic and green-living lifestyles company; and Panda Security SA, an antivirus software company, which has cartoon videos that explain how viruses work.

Nardell, Gaiam’s affiliate manager, says that Gaiam has affiliates who have added videos to their sites and the conversion rates have increased by a staggering 80 percent, according to tracking through LinkShare. Gaiam realized that the affiliate channel was a great way to utilize their extensive inventory of video content.

Dori Schwaiger is a Gaiam affiliate who, with her daughter, runs TopHealthSpot.com, a coupon site that focuses on wellness and health. When she built the site in late 2006, she began integrating video and, with the help of Nardell, designed a “health videos” tab at the top of her site, which she says people go to directly.

Schwaiger attributes the approximately 46 percent improvement in sales of health videos during 2007 to the “health videos” tab as well as to the Gaiam product name – users find her site because they optimize the site for those keywords.

In the “health videos” section, there are previews for each video so people know what they are buying, which Schwaiger believes is important for conversions. Nardell agrees that video works best when it is preselling content – it provides a brief example of why they should buy the product.

Schwaiger uses it as much as she can on her site, including video from Drugstore.com and Mochila. Even though it eats up her bandwidth, she says it’s a wonderful tool.

She says it is easy to add video to her site through the WebVideoZone system. It hosts videos and makes it simple to customize the video files by adding text links to the video player, graphics that get displayed on the video player and URLs that redirect when the video has finished playing.

With WebVideoZone, affiliates add their unique affiliate ID code via a form, and cut and paste the resulting HTML code into their website. Once the code is added, the video is available on demand on the site as a stand-alone video player, all of which is an affiliate link.

Gaiam’s Nardell says that once affiliate managers come up with video creative for their affiliates, they can change the video via the WebVideoZone control panel at any time and the video automatically updates on each affiliate site.

Video Widgets

Qoof, a video commerce platform that matches e-tailer videos with Web publishing channels, enables the affiliate community to leverage video widgets. Qoof offers a rich media video widget that is Flash-based and focuses on on-site sales. Product information is available through the widget, and embedded video shopping functions like price comparisons reduce the chance for a potential buyer to leave the site in search of more information.

Jonathan Stefansky, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Qoof, says that it’s easy for affiliate managers to create different widgets tailored for specific programs. They can make changes on the back end with the latest data, which auto-updates affiliates’ widgets so they can offer the newest promotions. Although he can’t share specific numbers of his clients, he generally sees five to 15x higher clickthrough rates than banners or text-based affiliate links.

Qoof has integrated its widget as a Flex Link in LinkShare, which makes it easier for affiliates to grab the widget code to embed in their websites or blogs the same way they would grab code for banners and text-based links.

Video-Sharing Sites

Another way that publishers can monetize video is to add videos from video-sharing sites like Adotube.com, Blinkx, Magnify.net and Revver to their own site.

For example, affiliates can post a video from Revver on their site or social network page, or promote it through email, sneakernet or peer-to-peer sharing.

Revver earns revenue from selling pre- and post-roll advertisements within videos.

For sharing videos, Revver affiliates earn 20 percent of the advertising revenue – the remaining revenue for each video is split 50/50 between the video creator and Revver. It is made possible by a RevTag, a video file that is promoted by an affiliate that contains information about the video being played and about the affiliate.

In addition to the commission-earning possibilities, adding video from a video-sharing site can help publishers add relevant information to their site. If a publisher has a home improvement site, they could choose video from the Ask- Builder.com channel on YouTube where Tim Carter, a You- Tube partner, offers his videos.

With Google AdSense Video units, affiliates can add video from YouTube Partners to their sites and earn revenue on the ads. The ads are paid on either a CPC or CPM impressions basis. Publishers can choose the type of ads in video units – they can be contextually targeted or they can choose from a list of categories like music or technology, or choose to serve content from a specific YouTube partner.

Affiliates install an AdSense player in their site and customize its size, theme and layout. They can choose to have Google/You- Tube determine the best type of videos to show on their site by analyzing the content, or affiliates can choose individual content providers or select categories of content.

Video’s Future

While 2007 is being called the year of online video, industry watchers say it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Revver’s McCarthy lists some of the reasons he thinks it’s just getting started: bandwidth is coming down in cost, more content is coming online and being indexed well, and video quality and advertising continue to improve.

There’s more than one way to cash in on the video revolution. Online marketers are creating their own video as well as leveraging existing video to enhance their programs and improve conversions. And like all uncharted territory, there is much trial and error. Still, it’s clear that video is not going away and marketers that incorporate the medium are benefiting.

Ad-Supported Nation

There’s no doubt that popular websites such as video clip destination Metacafe continue to be strong players because visitors know that when they come back again and again, they can be treated to fresh content to inform them and tickle their funny bone. They can play the short clips over and over again and send the links to friends without having to pay for visiting the site. Every page of Metacafe has a small, unobtrusive ad that helps support the site financially.

This is nothing new. In a world where Google’s Ad- Sense text ads can be added to any kind of website, the idea of monetizing any and every site on the Internet is a foregone conclusion. What media companies have come to realize is that in the fragile Web environment, your popular digital destination today can be a retread tomorrow if the revenue streams become too thin. Metacafe has to compete with the 800-pound gorilla YouTube, as well as Revver, LiveLeak.com, Dailymotion and a variety of other free video sites.

When AdSense can only do so much in terms of monetization, the notion of seeing, hearing or downloading an advertisement to view free content is gaining incredible momentum. Once afraid of ad backlash before they had even thought of trading ads for content, media companies, artists and even software developers are jumping on the ad-supported bandwagon. So many different kinds of online media and marketing efforts are dipping an ad-supported toe in the water, that it begs the question: Will everything eventually be ad-supported?

The Ad Landscape

In 2007, marketers spent more than they ever had on TV, radio, print, outdoor, movie theater and Internet ads – $175 billion, according to ZenithOptimedia. That number is up 5 percent from 2005. If you add direct mail and other direct-response-type ads into the mix, that’s $269 billion. Also in 2007, companies spent $13 billion on Internet classified, search and display ads, and that is expected to double to $26 billion by 2011.

“In mass media history and as media fragments, the ad model will continue to be popular for eons,” says Jack Smith, senior vice president of strategy at 24/7 Real Media. “Consumers really like free content – they will pay for HBO, but mostly they like free stuff. Bigger media is always ready to play. There’s plenty of supply right now, and demand will have to catch up.” 24/7 Real Media recently integrated its search marketing efforts with Baidu.com, China’s most popular search engine. It specializes in targeted Web advertising globally, with a strong mobile capability.

Smith says that as emerging countries keep seeing an increase in Web users, there will be ad-supported Web services opportunities, especially in places like China, where PCs are not pervasive in the home. Microsoft has made a bid to enter that game by introducing two ad-supported Web services – its popular Windows Live and Office Live. The applications and surrounding services are available from the Web, without having to download the applications themselves.

Microsoft’s plan has both free and paid versions of Windows Live and Office Live with ad-supported basic services. The company then tries to sell add-on services. The ads are served up through its recently developed AdCenter advertising system. Some experts speculate that a completely ad-supported Windows-based operating system that would live on the Web and not on your computer is not that far off from becoming a reality.

In the ad-supported software category, it’s been argued that the first wholesale successes were email-based programs – such as Hotmail and Gmail – that used ads to completely cover the cost of the free, Web-based programs where none of the information, email files or address books are housed on your computer. In the world of systems management, even, there are companies such as Spiceworks, which is a free, ad-supported network monitoring software for network management for small businesses.

“But small businesses should read the fine print,” says Jay Hallberg, co-founder and vice president of marketing at Spiceworks. “The free use of the application is usually a hook to get people to buy,” adding that these are usually “sales gimmicks” and not truly free applications.

Big companies are also experimenting with ads for content. AT&T is testing its “1-800-YellowPages” service in Bakersfield, Calif., Oklahoma City and Columbus, Ohio. It provides free directory assistance for callers who listen to short audio ads. The ads are targeted by the category of the number being asked for. Its technology provider Apptera will do the targeting and ad serving.

In the video category, viewers have already said they will definitely watch an ad to get to the good stuff. A recent survey by the Associated Press and AOL said that 71 percent prefer to watch an ad for free video. Only 23 percent said they would pay a fee for ad-free video. Currently though, demand for ad-supported video has not provided enough inventory. “As we get more and more people finding video through AOL, we’ll create more inventory through that process,” VP of AOL Video, Fred McIntyre, said to ClickZ News. YouTube is still testing small ad bricks that scroll or pop up over the lower portion of the video window.

Ad Overload?

Worrisome to some big media marketers is that the barrier to creating and posting ad-supported Web content is so low, the ensuing glut will bring down online ad rates and spoil profit margins, leading to the demise of struggling Web ventures. “Free media is a good thing,” offers Dave Morgan, chairman of target marketing firm TACODA Systems. “With off-line media, distribution is expensive – think papers and trucks and postal costs. ” It was a nice model for the media companies, but not for the consumers. Web and Internet distribution of ad-supported publishing means much more free content and more diversity of content for many more people. That is good, not bad.”

Music companies and ventures that offer digital music and ringtones have discovered the benefit of ad-supported freebies. MySpace, for example, as it starts to lose market share, is pushing its music-sharing deals and shifting to free, ad-supported downloads in conjunction with more than a few major recording labels.

Other major music companies that launched ad-supported streaming music recently include Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI. All three use San Francisco’s imeem as their streaming service, which plans to share revenue with the labels. “The music industry needs big ideas because small incremental improvements won’t change anything. For example, nobody has tried some of the crazy revenue shares we are trying on imeem,” says Dalton Caldwell, founder and CEO of imeem.

File-sharing companies that traffic in a good deal of music are trying to monetize their networks by running ad-supported versions. Atlanta company Intent Mediaworks says that 60 percent of its users are willing to endure pop-up ads. Intent Mediaworks has technology that adds advertising to streaming music on file-sharing programs. Other companies such as Qtrax and Nettwerk also aid in the streaming of ad-supported music downloads.

Some critical opinions doubt the ad-supported model will pay for website operations, let alone see profits. “I have yet to see the model that makes me feel good they’ll get enough money out of advertising. The question is, can they get enough mass to lower the royalty?” says David Card, a senior analyst at JupiterResearch. Allan Klepfisz, CEO of Qtrax, says the challenge is to “demonstrate that ad-supported peer-to-peer is lucrative enough that everyone is going to be happy. The real issue for the industry is that right now there are all these people paying nothing for music.”

The artists themselves are getting in the game, not to be left out of the loop by their labels. RCRD LBL, a network of ad-supported online labels, deals in independent bands unaffiliated with the big record labels. Their downloaded MP3s and streaming music both carry ads. Like David Bowie before him, who was early in his use of interactivity and the Web in the ’90s, rock star Peter Gabriel recently launched We7, a free ad-supported music download service. Ads are sent to users based on demographic information they provide on the site that allows for better targeting by advertisers. The ads are heard at the beginning of songs and albums.

Ads on the Move

Mobile marketers are also showing a huge attraction to an ad-supported model. Avot Media launched its mV mobile video service that promises better video quality in conjunction with viewing an ad. Rhythm NewMedia cut a deal with Vodafone in Spain to send ad-supported video to its more than 4 million handset subscribers. Interspot has an SMS service that will provide free text messaging. The text messages come with ads that can be geo-targeted. Mobile coupons will also be offered as part of the service. Start-up Blyk will offer free calling in European countries by listening to ads first. Though Finland-based, the service will start in Britain and spread out to other European countries from there.

CBS television said it will launch a high-speed wireless network in midtown Manhattan that can be connected to by cell phones, laptops and other personal devices by going through the CBS ad-supported landing page. The program also allows voice over the Internet (VoIP) calls. The ad-supported page will include content such as breaking local news and national news. Broadband hotspot platform AnchorFree is just one of the wireless providers that are offering free broadband connections by viewing an ad.

Not to be excluded, the world of gaming upgrades to a mobile platform through Hovr, which is an ad-supported free mobile gaming community. Through the service, consumer websites, mobile portals and carriers can offer users hundreds of free mobile games. The games can be wrapped around a specific brand and still carry Hovr’s ads.

MySpace isn’t going to be left out of the mobile surge either. It has launched a free, ad-supported cell-phone-ready version as its parent, News Corp., rolls out mobile versions of FoxSports.com, gaming site IGN, AskMen and local TV affiliates – most in ad-supported environments.

Instead of being annoyed by the flood of advertising rising from the ad-supported mobile programs, people are proving to have an open mind. “If you ask mobile users if they want ads on phones, 78 percent will say, ‘Not really.’ But if the ad comes with something for free, the survey result flips the other way,” says Brian Suthoff, senior director of business development at Third Screen Media.

Also in gaming, video gaming network G4 is testing video ads in their games. The video ads are delivered by YuMe Networks, specializing in IP-based video ads. YuMe executives have said that the company expects to do more business as user-targeted video ads employed by sites such as BitTorrent sign more “deals with publishers that want to experiment with ad-supported downloads.”

Even in the off-line world, seeing an ad can lead to your daily coffee fix. A company in Japan markets an ad-supported coffee vending machine. If the buyer watches a 30-second ad, he gets a free cup of joe. The cup it comes in has an ad as well.

24/7 Real Media’s Smith believes “we will better understand the consumer with more ad-supported companies.” He says the “gold standard is seeing the measurement that comes in that environment. We will value it more.”

As the final piece of evidence that the ad-supported model may indeed be ubiquitous, Freeload Press has made a deal to send out ad-supported electronic textbooks to students at 38 universities. Perhaps the age of the highlighter pen is truly over.

Video + Twitter = Seesmic

I recently had to stop Twittering. It was awful. The doctors said I would go blind.

Seriously folks, even for as big of an Internet geek as I am, I was completely overwhelmed by the massive flood of 140-character messages from friends and colleagues that bombarded me 24 hours a day. So at the time of this writing, I’m off the Twitter-pipe, for now.

But just when I thought I was out, my friendly editor/publisher of this very magazine suggests that I do my next Innovations piece on another new, hot social tool, called Seesmic. So much for cutting down on my information load.

Talk about brand new – Seesmic only recently opened its doors around the end of November 2007 and proceeded to only invite about 300 users. Luckily, I know people (plus I know how to beg), so I was able to get my hands on an exclusive “pre-alpha” invitation code.

You’re probably wondering what Seesmic even is at this point, and why you should care.

Allen Stern of CenterNetworks. com sums it up nicely: “Seesmic is a video -sharing service just like YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler, etc. The difference is that Seesmic has stripped away much of the ‘extras’ that come with the other services.”

That’s a good start, but I think the best way to describe it is “Twitter plus video.” So instead of writing short text posts about anything you want and sharing it with your friends and followers, you instantly and easily record short videos, which are then shared with the community.

Imagine picking up the phone (you remember those days?) and calling one of your friends with a short thought about something on your mind. Seesmic lets you do that (sans phone), using your webcam, and gives you the option to share that short video message around the globe with your friends and colleagues, in an instant, all at once.

Getting started is easy. If you have an invitation code, you can register and immediately begin recording and sharing videos. You will have to have a webcam attached to your computer, of course. Once your video is recorded, you add a title and description and publish it to the community.

Now your video post is shown to the public, or you can choose to have it just sent to friends. Once published, other users can watch your video and they can reply to your video with their own, and so on “

Browsing the Seesmic site as it stands during pre-alpha is not so great. The Ajax-style community scroller area which shows each user’s video entries is slow and cumbersome at best. However, as mentioned earlier, they are in pre-alpha, so by the time this piece is published it will hopefully be more usable.

Your first video post is up; now what? That’s where the social aspect comes into place. Just like Facebook or MySpace or Twitter, you can choose to “follow” or “friend” other users. By doing so, you’ll be able to “watch” their Seesmic streams specifically.

To explain to you why this is innovative, I asked the exclusive base of testers for Seesmic what they thought. In my first- ever video on Seesmic, I asked the question, “What do you like about Seesmic?”

I recorded the short video (no script) asking for video responses and sat back and waited. A few minutes later, the answers started to pour in. Here are some of them. (Note: These are transcribed from videos in Seesmic.)

“I like Seesmic because it’s an unedited stream of consciousness for people. You get to know the real person.”

“Seesmic is the first application I’ve found that makes video blogging easy. I never really got into video blogging until Seesmic came around; I’m a podcaster.”

“Seesmic is like getting a book from a library with notes from other readers in it. It’s collaborative learning.”

“The reason I like Seesmic is because I don’t have to send you an email. I can send a video reply.”

“I am finding that I am getting to know people better and more quickly. It’s not just me jabbering into the camera. It’s me interacting and listening to others in video form.”

“I’m not sure I love Seesmic. I definitely fancy it. I would definitely sleep with it.”

Although I love to try out new social media technologies and I’m not married to any one, I certainly do enjoy the dating phase. And right now I’m anxious to see where my relationship with Seesmic goes.

Jim Kukral is an online marketing veteran whose most recent project, Scratchback.com, brings the fun back into making money online. Read Jim’s blog at www.jimkukral.com.

.mobi for All

Neil Michel bought .mobi top-level domains as soon as they were available without consulting his bosses. As eMedia Director of Prosper magazine in Sacramento, Calif., he saw it as his duty to claim ownership of the mobile domain names before anyone else could capitalize on the company’s brand name. He managed to snag ProsperMag.mobi and ProsperMagazine.mobi but not Prosper.mobi.

“At the time I registered them, no one knew .mobi existed,” Michel said. “I just did it and told [my bosses] we did.” The .mobi names went on sale on September 26, 2006, but only recently has awareness of the top-level domains become more pervasive. But even as the domains are being registered, there is still some doubt about their relevancy in an iPhone world where the full Web-browsing experience is finally coming to the cell phone.

The .mobi (also known as dotMobi) company is the informal name of the mTLD Top Level Domain firm appointed and approved by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and is backed by mobile operators, Internet companies and device makers with investment by companies such as Ericsson, Google, GSM Association, Hutchison, Microsoft, Nokia, Orascom Telecom, Samsung, Syniverse, T-Mobile, Telefonica Moviles, TIM, Visa and Vodaphone.

While the idea for .mobi domains was a Nokia brainstorm that dates back to 2000, it wasn’t until March 2004 that 10 companies signed on to a .mobi consortium. In July 2005, ICANN approved the top-level domain and in May 2006, select big brand companies were invited to buy their domains before this was open to the general public.

A typical .mobi website is supposed to be formatted for easy display on a mobile phone. That means, in most cases, simple text, few if any graphics and content that is in an easy-to-read summary form. Ads can be placed in a .mobi environment – sometimes as a page before the content, sometimes placed between pages of content. More image-friendly banner ads for .mobi can be employed, as advertisers CNET, The Disney Channel, Zagat and the wildly popular “High School Musical” have done.

Michel says that buying the domains is “nothing – developing it is another story.” And that seems to be the hang-up right now with the .mobi explosion. While around 700,000 .mobi names have been registered so far, people like Michel are developing them for a very slow rollout. In the case of Prosper magazine, the publication in the last year redesigned its print magazine and its website and went through a hiring spurt before they could even think about their .mobi properties.

Finding Mobile Footing

Their .mobi dilemma is a case study in grappling with a .mobi strategy that fits in with a company’s overall business plan and vision of what they want to deliver to their customers versus what can be monetized over .mobi. “The game is changing under our feet,” Michel says, “because of the new more realistic browser experiences coming from the iPhone and others like it.” He wonders if the iPhone will allow them to do something in a more traditional Web browser environment, or if it would be better to cater to the 200 million handsets in America that may have limited browser capabilities.

Since Prosper is a regional magazine aimed at the Sacramento Valley area at large, Michel wonders what will be valuable to that audience in a mobile environment. It won’t be a 2,000-word article, he says. Plus, Prosper’s main website has a lot of video on it. “In a handheld, the video is a joke,” he says. “We can’t put our video into the .mobi domain.” In terms of mobile advertising, they are focusing on the mobile ad banner for now. “Until advertisers themselves have a .mobi strategy, we don’t have anything.”

Some mobile commerce networks are glad .mobi is around but don’t see a huge impact on their business yet. Dan Wright, CEO of mobile commerce portal mPoria, sees visibility gaining. “If the retailer sees value in .mobi and the customers do, then it does impact our business,” Wright says. He adds that “a good portion of our merchants are using .mobi. If they ask us if they should use it, we say it certainly is good to have. At least you can be found on mobile.”

Wright says that right now mPoria powers m-commerce sites on the mobile Web to help them sell their stuff. They provide the front end and the back end and the hosting for the sites. Medio is their mobile advertising partner. Wright says mPoria has seen 300 percent growth quarter-over-quarter using their current model, and that if .mobi helps their merchants’ marketing, “then that’s good for us.”

On the software side, some companies are still trying to decide what the mobile customer prefers. GoWare, makers of custom software for mobile publishers, perceives a disconnect. Jason Thibeault, CTO and co-founder of GoWare, says that “among mobile software providers that are dedicated to the mobile Web, there is a big disconnect. There are a lot of different Webs right now. The desktop user is very comfortable but the mobile Web user wants quick, efficient access [to content].”

He says that while .mobi is still in its infancy, GoWare is doing its best to integrate coupons and ads into a .mobi platform. “We are getting the targeted marketing messages to your mobile phone,” he notes. Yahoo, he says, is just serving banner ads. He wonders, who wants a banner ad in a .mobi environment? Thibeault believes .mobi is not visible enough right now. “The content sites are not sure they want to commit the research – not to the .mobi bandwagon right now.” He says he knows a lot of sites that are using their main top-level domain to serve up their mobile websites and not conforming to the simplicity of presentation the .mobi Web would seem to promise.

The folks at .mobi itself are proactive in their quest to put a spotlight on the possibilities of the domain. James Pearce, VP of technology at .mobi, thinks that as far as Web relevance, .mobi prevails even now. “A lot of people are not brave enough to type in an arbitrary dot-com Web address because the content will be irrelevant to them when they’re out and about with their phone.” He’s convinced .mobi will be automatically relevant and faster no matter what kind of browser your phone has. His current mission is to make .mobi part of the “consumer vernacular,” because he admits to a certain chicken-and-egg conundrum at the moment where content needs to be built out ahead of the platform but marketing it will be needed too.

Going Mobile

Mobile ad networks such as start-up AdMob are seeing tremendous growth without customizing for .mobi. They showed more than 1 billion mobile ads in just 28 days last summer. Companies such as AOL and Microsoft are acquiring mobile ad companies to add to their offerings. Microsoft is also expanding its mobile search efforts in a partnership with Sprint to allow easier Web searches on mobile phones.

And while developing for the .mobi experience on phones has been seen as a complex ordeal, executives at .mobi have also been proactive in quashing rumors about the new domain. Various blogs have dismissed .mobi as nothing more than a way for .mobi investors to get more money. The rebuttal: Investors are building out platforms and tools but it all takes time because huge companies such as Google don’t turn their product life cycles on a dime, and many initiatives inside these big companies are pretty confidential until launched. New tools are available at the dev.mobi site and they are pushing their mobile phone database and a content directory.

Others complain that .mobi is not releasing their premium brand and generic names to buyers yet so they can drive up the prices. In fact, the first load of premium names went on sale in September and the schedule was always to sell those names on the one-year anniversary of .mobi in bursts from September to January 2008. Some have said that waiting too long to auction those names has hurt the .mobi market, but executives at .mobi state that they always had the “long-term view” in mind, and essentially waited for the good content-making tools to be released. In fact, Google recently announced the launch of AdSense for Mobile, a campaign to encourage ad placement for sites designed specifically for mobile phones. Yahoo and AOL Time Warner have similar mobile- centric ad networks.

As far as the criticism that too many .mobi sites are still dark, it is true that parking pages are out there (the ProsperMag. mobi page is still unfilled), with about half of the .mobi registered names still not hooked up to DNS servers, but real sites are coming live every day. The .mobi people say they also provide free tools to help content get live as easily as possible. They say that there are about 5 million pages indexed on Google with .mobi addresses. They add that big brands such as ESPN, BMW, BusinessWeek, Amtrak, AAA and Fox News, to name just a few, all have .mobi presences.

.mobi’s Pearce indicates that with the high profile of the iPhone, the realities of surfing the Web on your phone look more attractive. But he cautions that it’s the diversity of handsets that is holding developers back. And while the iPhone’s browser is a full browser, the network is slow and won’t get any faster until sometime later in 2008 when the phone is likely to be 3G-ready. Yet the idea of a “cool” Web experience on your phone is largely due to Apple’s product. And while Apple sold 1 million iPhones in its first three months of selling, that’s still a far cry from the 200 million-plus handsets in use in the U.S.

Some detractors have also stated that the need for .mobi is completely unnecessary because sites can detect whether a Web page is being called by a phone (and in some cases what brand of phone), and serve up a more mobile-friendly dotcom landing page especially designed for handsets. The folks at .mobi argue that if dot-com domains fulfilled every surfer’s demands there wouldn’t be any need for .org, .it, .de, .fr or .biz.

For those in a quandary over whether to .mobi or not to .mobi, there is a .mobi Advisory Group that is independent of .mobi the company – financially and agenda-wise. The group gathers feedback and suggests initiatives to .mobi developers. Currently they are looking at such issues as mobile advertising, PPC, mobile commerce, browsing, mobile email and the mobile Net for developing countries.

Pearce says that since operators are beginning to flatten their tariffs and open out the access, the stage is set for the “culture, sites and services” over .mobi to explode. “We’ll look back on this as the time the mobile Web found its feet, like in 1997 when flat tariffs enticed a mass of content onto the fixed Web.”

In the meantime, Prosper magazine’s Michel has until December to ready a .mobi site to be part of an Apple demo, and appreciates the deadline pressure.

Natural Born Storyteller: Q & A with Steve Rosenbaum

Steve Rosenbaum made his name on MTV and doing documentaries. So it’s natural that he’s into Web video. Rosenbaum is the founder and CEO of Magnify.net, which powers user-generated video (UGV) channels for Web publishers, media companies and video bloggers. The Magnify. net platform searches and sorts virtually all video available on the Internet based on a site’s interest (such as hobbies, politics, music) and engages users to discover, share and rate them for relevancy and entertainment value.

Magnify.net came out of closed beta in January 2007 at the DEMO conference and had 20,000 to 30,000 page views a day. It is now averaging 350,000 and was on target to pass 10 million page views in October. Currently there are more than 15,000 channels for users to discover.

Revenue magazine Senior Writer Alexandra Wharton asked Rosenbaum how he got interested in collaborative media production, how users can provide tools to build vibrant video communities and about the impact video will have on marketers and performance marketers

ALEXANDRA WHARTON: Although user-generated content has been all the rage for the past few years, you have been involved in it for much longer. How did you get interested?

STEVE ROSENBAUM: I’ve always loved hearing the authentic sound of a storyteller’s voice. So before video, that meant autobiographies, diary entries or journals – I found the raw and intimate nature of first-person storytelling very compelling.

I have been a filmmaker, and more of a visual storyteller, but there really wasn’t much of a place for first-person media in film or TV. The gear was just too big and expensive.

Then, in 1991 I got an 800 number and had viewers to my TV show call in and record their story ideas. I put their voices on the air. It was amazing. In 1993, Sharp released the first LCD ViewCam and made it possible to shoot yourself on video.

The result was a show I created for MTV called “UNfiltered.” It was a program that literally put the power of TV in the hands of the audience and let them shoot their own stories. People were hungry to express themselves and become part of the conversation. That’s only become truer today. You can see some of the clips here (www.unfiltered.Magnify.net).

AW: Can you explain how a user could use Magnify.net to create a community?

SR: Magnify.net takes the idea that communities want to communicate and gives them the tools and resources to activate video sharing and engagement within their site. Really any site can do it. If you’ve got a site that is up and running, but you don’t have video yet, Magnify.net will let you choose your URL, and pick topics and keywords that you want video around. Then Magnify.net discovers the video and your community can act as the peer-review rating system.

AW: Do users need to be technically savvy?

SR: Magnify.net is built for site creators who are passionate about their content and community – technical skills are not necessary. All the tools are drag-and-drop simple; there are a few bits of code and you’re done. We have great tech support: FAQs, discussion boards and quick responses to our support ticket system. Other community members are supportive as well. It’s easy, fun and is ready to grow as your skills and abilities increase.

AW: You have been credited with creating a new paradigm for community- created video – did you always see the potential to monetize it?

SR: This may sound simplistic but I see the future opportunities for revenue clearly. Currently there is an advertising system that is optimized to reach a mass audience. TV media is designed to be mass media. But if you look at Google, for example, the real future is in aggregating the niches and providing contextual advertising into those verticals. Just look at the readers of this magazine. Many of them have sites that serve extraordinarily narrow audiences. But they have large defined audiences.

So yes – I think there will be an inevitable shift as more systems can target focused audiences. Content creators and community curators who do a good job creating high-quality audiences will be well-positioned to garner revenue as the spend against community-curated UGV increases.

AW: How does Magnify.net help serve those who want to build a community around a very niche site?

SR: There are two models: those who want to start from scratch and build a site, and individuals who have already built a site and want to add video. Two examples of this are PrettyToughTV.com and Radio Controlled Universe, respectively.

Pretty Tough TV [www.prettytough.com/video.php] is a network of Magnify. net sites created on Magnify.net that serve serious female high school athletes. It’s the work of a mom and her two daughters in Los Angeles who have a passion for sports. Magnify.net allowed them to build 14 channels into a sports network that they run out of their den.

On the other hand, there is the site Radio Controlled Universe (www. rcuvideos.com), which had a successful website with 300,000 registered users. When they built their Magnify.net channel, hits on the videos were through the roof. Now they’ve got thousands of video makers and watchers and it is growing every day.

AW: Can you explain Magnify.net’s sites’ different types of advertising, including Google AdSense ads and integrated ads?

SR: We’ve built a solution that has three user configurations: advanced, moderate and hobbiest. The “advanced” users are going to claim their own inventory. That means banners, in-page display, CPC, CPA, text, and click-to-play video space on our pages. They’re going to bring their own ad relationships with CJ, LinkShare, Performics, Google AdSense and Amazon – whoever they want. They’re getting paid directly so there’s no waiting for us to reconcile and no crossed wires over payments. This is ideal for advanced affiliate marketers.

For the “moderate” users who want revenue but don’t want to be spending time on optimization and multiple ad network management, we offer a one-click integration with AdSense – just put in the AdSense ID and Magnify. net will do the rest.

And for the “hobbiest” that is using Magnify.net for the occasional video, you don’t need to claim any ad space at all. Odds are that for the casual user sites, they are not going to be participating in the ad network. Of course if traffic grows, they can claim their 50 percent of the traffic with AdSense.

AW: Can you talk about the AdShare Network that launched in August, which aims to allow site creators the ability to broker more lucrative deals with advertisers?

SR: For Revenue readers, our AdShare network is really the most interesting alternative. It costs nothing to build a video page and gives 50 percent revenue share.

We think that empowering our users to make their own decisions about content curation is smart for all. YouSurfTubes is the world’s largest collection of surfing videos [www.yousurftubes.Magnify.net/]. Its site editor, DC Smitty, knows more about surfing than we could ever hope to. He also knows more about surf products and surf advertising. We think that over time, the more our partners fine-tune their pages to increase revenue, the more we will learn from them and improve the targeting and contextual relevance of our ads on those pages as well. Relevant ads serve everyone – sites look better when all the ads are appropriate and useful.

AW: Can you explain how to create a branded TV channel that pushes content through Facebook?

SR: We think that in some ways, Facebook is the future of network television. It’s the most direct way to plug in to the zeitgeist of what your friends think is cool, valuable and entertaining. We think that Facebook groups could be a launchpad for all kinds of things. Right now we’re learning a lot with our current Facebook application. It allows users to take their Facebook profile and use our technology to discover videos that meet their interests and share them with others on their profile page.

AW: How important is video to the performance marketing model?

SR: First, we believe that video will be ubiquitous on the Web within 24 months. That’s a sea change in the way people will be presented with information. Second, we think that the integration of UGV into content-oriented sites is inevitable and important. It means that publishers that have been marketing themselves as “speakers” will have to rebrand and rethink their offering and transform themselves into conveners of conversation really fast or miss out.

So performance marketing is logical as a partner to UGV because not all UGV is useful or valuable. And not all marketing messages have value. Now, customers get to vote – literally – and support marketing that supports sites they like simply by engaging in commerce within a context they want to support. This could be a powerful shift.

AW: If businesses are not currently using video, how do you suggest they dip their toes in the water?

SR: With both feet. There’s little to lose right now since it’s early. Customers aren’t yet critical and therefore won’t punish you for a misstep or a test. That doesn’t mean you can afford to have inappropriate content on your site, so curation is critical and essential. But it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. It can be as simple as adding video to an editorial product, getting some footage at a trade show or inviting your customers to videotape themselves using your product. But it needs to be interactive and enjoyable.

AW: What does video bring to online marketing that others can’t?

SR: Video is emotional – it can touch you in ways that text and photos cannot. It’s immersive – it can draw you in and take you on a journey. Video is convincing – you can convert people with a compelling pitch. But all of these things mean that you need to strive for authenticity and honesty – and really make an effort to go beyond marketing and into genuine storytelling. The Web is going to bring new tools to the experience as well – you’re going to see branch-and-tree video tools that allow viewers to respond to a story and have the video be responsive to that input.

For example, a company that’s touring a potential buyer through new construction of a high-rise could emphasize the playroom for families, and the neighborhood’s nightlife for 20-somethings. Old, one-size-fits-all video just won’t be enough, and that is what’s going to fuel innovation.

AW: Where do you see online heading in the next two years?

SR: I think the Web is the launchpad, not the destination. I think you’re going to see Web-programmed video on your flat screen [IPTV], and the iPod and iPod devices are going to be huge, and the iPhone will spawn a huge number of imitators.

The Web will be the engagement platform – it will be the place where you interact and “program” your video. I think that you’ll see RSS streams of your favorite Magnify.net channel on your TV within 12 months. That’s huge for marketers and users alike.

From a quality perspective, H.264 [a video compression standard] will mean a major jump up in quality. Not HD yet, but video on your TV that is looking good from the Web. For those of us that suffered through streaming video the last time, this is a major shift that’s been a long time coming.

In terms of revenue, you’re going to see two major changes. First, there are a ton of unhappy TV advertisers just dying to get their ads on the Web. It’s been a chicken/egg scenario – what comes first, the ads or the content to place them around? Now we know: Content is happening, and ads are next.

The second major change is the nature of who uses video for ads. We think of video ads as the realm of the big boys: national advertisers with big budgets. But that was back when making video and editing were expensive. Now with a digital video camera and a Mac with Final Cut Pro, you can whip up a great video ad for a couple hundred bucks or less. So as marketers figure this out, they’re going to jump to video in droves. Will it work for everybody? Certainly not. But for some categories it’s going to be huge fast – it’s a very exciting time to be in this space.

AW: What would you say to CMOs of big brands to convince them that video must be part of their marketing efforts?

SR: Most big-brand CMOs already know video works – they’ve been buying TV for years. The thing they’ve been facing is that there’s been a huge defection of the hard-to-reach consumer from TV to TiVO, DVD, the Web and other mediums that don’t do well using interruption advertising, so CMOs need to rethink how they talk to these customers. We don’t want to have our time wasted; we want to be educated and informed.

Community content is a powerful new tool that is just evolving – and it’s much nuanced, meaning that the line between education and evangelism is hard to walk. I think you’re going to see much more of what Seth Godin years ago called permission marketing – using video to deliver serialized messages to people who opt in. Today what a smart CMO should be doing is experimenting, taking moderate risks in a number of different platforms. The good news about all this is that it’s all measurable, so in the end, the new video-based solutions that will rise to the top will be the ones that work both for users and marketers.

Getting Into the Mashup Mix

It’s become a new art form to combine various existing elements to create something totally new. However, it can also be dangerous creative and legal territory to navigate when particular items are protected by copyright laws.

Some online marketers, eager to leverage new technologies for promotional purposes, are uploading and sharing video creations with copyrighted materials despite concern about potential copyright infringement, because they want to beat others to the punch.

Founder of the site HowToDoVideo.com Jim Kukral explains there is a belief in the first-move advantage – those who get their videos up on YouTube first are the people who will win. Kukral adds, “online video is the wild, wild West ” it is how search engines were in 2000.”

The first mashup to garner significant attention was not a video, but “A Stroke of Genius,” by Freelance Hellraiser in 2001. It combined the vocals of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” with The Strokes’ “Hard to Explain.” In the next few years, a deluge of similar attempts followed. Freelance Hellraiser went on to record a single for Sony, while artist and producer Danger Mouse famously teamed up with musician Cee-Lo to form the group Gnarls Barkley, whose song “Crazy” was one of 2006’s biggest hits.

Mashup is a loose term that means to remix more than one source of data to form a new combination of information. But music is not the only type of mashup – there are also video and Web mashups. John Musser, founder of the website ProgrammableWeb, which catalogs mashups, says that the goal is “to create something new that is unique and greater than the sum of its parts.”

The mashup movement has exploded over the past three years, taking many by surprise. Many industry watchers consider the emergence of mashups as a proof point of Web 2.0 – because it involves widespread sharing and mixing of online content, many of the basic Web 2.0 tenants.

Video mashups also are becoming increasingly popular – users are mixing their amateur video with copyrighted video or audio and adding these new creations to their own sites, uploading them to video-sharing sites, or sharing them through social networks.

Affiliate Summit co-founder Shawn Collins says that when he creates a mashup, he makes sure the sources of data are not copyrighted. He uses royalty-free music from sites such as Stock20.com and royalty-free video from sites like iStockPhoto. com and FreeStockFootage.com. For a recent mashup Collins made, he grabbed a laugh sound effect that comes with the Sony Vegas video-editing software program. He got the audio from a podcast that he understood to be open for use, as he didn’t see any claims to the contrary.

Beth Kanter, a trainer, coach and consultant to nonprofits regarding technology, uses Web tools such as video blogging, screencasting and virtual worlds. When Kanter creates a mashup, if she finds something she thinks is absolutely perfect and it is all rights reserved, she asks for permission. She also looks for materials that have been resourced under Creative Commons – its tagline is “some rights reserved.” Creative Commons’ licenses enable copyright holders to grant some or all of their rights to the public while retaining others through various licensing and contract schemes, including dedication to the public domain. Creative Commons is a nonprofit founded in 2001 by a group of U.S. copyright experts who became concerned that the default copyright laws were restricting creativity in the digital environment by preventing people from accessing, remixing and distributing copyright material online.

The ease by which any song or film can be pirated onto the Internet caused an intellectual property rights debate that picked up momentum with music-sharing site Napster eight years ago. As sampling and sharing online becomes more widespread, intellectual property and technology lawyer Denise Howell wonders if copyright rules are out of sync with the values of the day – she calls current copyright law “quite Draconian concerning infringing and sampling.”

The DMCA

In 1998, Congress passed The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which made major changes to copyright law and attempts to address copyright in the digitally networked environment. The DMCA Act shields Internet companies from liability for copyright infringements if they act promptly to remove the clips.

YouTube.com constantly receives DMCA Takedown Notices from copyright owners – asking it to take down videos that claim to infringe copyrights. In March, Viacom sued YouTube for $1 billion, accusing the video-sharing site of “massive intentional copyright infringement” based on 160,000 unauthorized Viacom clips that were uploaded onto YouTube.

In August, eight more parties, including the Rugby Football League, charged that YouTube encourages copyright infringement to generate public attention and boost traffic to its site.

This fall, YouTube plans to deploy a system to filter out copyrighted content by using digital fingerprinting technology to compare user-submitted videos to copyrighted materials, but critics say that this technology has not come fast enough.

The DMCA has been criticized for making it too easy for copyright owners to demand that website owners take down infringing content when it may not in fact be infringing. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) senior intellectual property attorney Fred von Lohmann claims the DMCA is unfair because some copyright users are misusing it for censorship purposes.

Copyright holders have to consider the provisions of Fair Use, which is a doctrine in the U.S. copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders. It can be invoked when the value to the public outweighs the cost to the owner of the copyright. Under Fair Use, copyrighted material can be sampled – it is what allows short clips of copyrighted material to be included in documentaries under the name of scholarship and parody.

So the big question many are asking is, can mashup creators sample from copyrighted material and be protected under the provisions of Fair Use? Howell says that if a sample is used noncommercially and has a strong parody or commentary component, “the Fair Use odds improve but there are no guarantees.”

Von Lohmann says the consequences of sampling copyrighted materials for mashups is unpredictable. He calls it a “gray area” because there has never been a court case about mashups. Von Lohmann explains that sampling under the protection of Fair Use depends on the creation’s purpose, how much copyrighted material the user took, the nature of the work (factual or creative) and the effect it has on the original. “Most mashups are creative and noncommercial, so those things favor Fair Use,” von Lohmann says.

But if a marketer were sampling copyrighted material to promote her own product, it could be argued that it is not covered under Fair Use. “If the work is commercial and promotional, then it will be harder to defend,” von Lohmann says, adding the warning that if marketers are going to be using other people’s copyrighted materials, they need to understand the pitfalls and they should consult an attorney.

Legal Changes Afoot

There is evidence that the way copyright law is enforced on the Internet could change eventually. At a session on copyright and social media at June’s SuperNova conference in San Francisco, one of the panelists, Viacom lawyer Mark Morrill, said that Viacom is only interested in pursuing infringement of Viacom material on YouTube for nontransformative, verbatim use. Viacom is not pursuing transformative uses – which is the description that mashups and remixing fall under. That means if you are using copyrighted material without altering it, you may be in legal trouble. However, if you are transforming that copyrighted material (adding other elements, etc.), Viacom is not coming after you.

Regarding all of the amateur videos using various clips of The Rolling Stones songs that have been uploaded to YouTube, attorney Howell explains that YouTube has had great success convincing the major record labels to adopt strategies for approving works for this kind of use, “thus hopefully making the takedown issue for mashups and sampling irrelevant,” she says. YouTube has deals with Warner, Sony BMG, EMI and Universal Music Group that enable people to legitimately incorporate works from these record labels’ artists into their user-generated content on YouTube.

And in August, online video-sharing site, Veoh Networks, preemptively sued Universal Music Group, asking a judge to prevent the music company from filing its own copyright infringement action – even if users upload videos to the Veoh site that contain unauthorized music from Universal artists. Veoh argues that it is protected under the safe harbors provisions of copyright law because it does not encourage its users to infringe copyrights and actively investigates and takes down infringing material.

Creating these mashups is getting easier with the tools that let users overlay images and text on top of copyrighted video. This can be useful to marketers and affiliates who want to add their own promotional content (see sidebar above).

Yoni Silberberg, CEO of PLYmedia, claims his company is not worried about infringing copyrights because its services are overlays – the original content is always kept intact. Experts agree that because services from Cuts, PLYmedia and others like AffiliateVideoBrander don’t host or store the video, they are not liable for copyright infringement.

Howell says PLYmedia’s BubblePLY gets around copyright infringement issues because they rely on the commentary component of fair use, and the fact that it does not copy or host the commented-upon works. Howell says it’s the same for Cuts – it’s a commentary addon, with no copying or redistribution of the original work.

Mapping Out a Course for Mashups

The most common type of mashup is a Web one. ProgrammableWeb’s Musser says that in the past, mashups were only accessible to programmers because they involved writing some code, but that has changed due to the advent of new tools. To date, ProgrammableWeb. com lists 2,100 Web mashups, “but that’s only a fraction of the mashups out there,” says Programmable Web’s Musser.

Types of Web mashups include mixing data from different sites like one that shows data about the musician Beck and combines that with audio snippets from a music site, videos from YouTube and Beck’s album covers from Amazon.com. But the most common type of Web mashup is mixing data with a map. As of July 2007, 42 percent of Web mashups were maps.

There are thousands of personal map mashups that plot text, links and data over the digital globe. In the past two years, map providers like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have created tools that let users layer their own geographic interests on top of maps and satellite images. With certain restrictions, map providers offer mapping software to users through feeds, called APIs (application programming interface), which can be combined with data from other sources.

In April, Google launched its own mashup software, My Maps, which allows users to personalize their Google maps by attaching images, text and video without writing any code. Greg Sterling, founder of Sterling Market Intelligence, says that currently Google is giving the maps away – users just have to have the Google logo on the map in the lower-left corner.

Musser says Google is investing in maps because half of all ad dollars are local – it leads to contextually based local advertising and it can run AdSense as well. It is also a way for Google to build its brand.

U.S. general manager for Clicks2Customers Sam Harrelson says that mapping is one of the areas of tremendous opportunity for affiliate marketing because it is relationship- based and reliant on the element of trust. When deciding on an entertainment venue, people rely on recommendations. With reviews of particular places introduced into Google Maps, Harrelson sees further growth potential for affiliates looking to monetize their communities in a relationship- based paradigm.

Visualization tools developer IDELIX Software offers Lat49, a map-based advertising model targeted at online, Ajax-based map applications. In addition to using the map APIs from Google, Yahoo and others, publishers can use a JavaScript API from Lat49 to drive contextually relevant ads – as users drag maps around, the ads can dynamically change based upon their zoom level.

Experts say that today’s media companies seem to understand that the times are a changin’ when it comes to enforcing copyrights on the Internet.

Mary Hodder, founder of Dabble, a video search site, predicts that media companies are going to be more flexible about their copyrights than the record companies were in the 20th century. “These music companies are keen to believe that they own everything forever ” but I don’t think the rest of the entertainment business will do that,” she says.

Demonstrated by the popularity of Creative Common licenses, the current zeitgeist is that users don’t agree with restrictive copyright laws, and believe in the benefits of sharing, repurposing and remixing. Like the repealing of prohibition in the ’30s, laws change when they no longer are in step with the ideals of the people.

Attorney Howell says that for media companies, enforcing copyrights is a question of business reality. In terms of sampling for commercial use, media companies will continue to take a hard line because the courts have said they can and there’s a sufficient financial payoff. When it comes to pursing a similar strategy for noncommercial mashups and sampling, Howell says the math doesn’t add up. “What makes sense instead is adopting fine-grained ways to both authorize and benefit from creative reuses of copyrighted works.”