In the past content meant TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines. I thought this area needed a kind of stocktaking exercise, so three weeks ago I set out to categorise where content is now.
It's taken me all of those three weeks to complete the list of new types of content sites we now have available to us, and to advertisers.
Right now it's just a list – it's worth a read but I hope you'll find it more useful as a reference. Comments are most welcome.
Later today or tomorrow I'll post the whole list, and then over the next few days go on to ask questions about it. These content types are, by and large, unique to the web, so as an example, newspaper online sites don't make it into here but citizen media online newspapers do, podcasts make it but TV programmes on the web don't. To be here a site has to be offering content made possible by the web and where possible be unique to the web.
1. Accidental Content Sites
In the case of eSnips you could see it as storage, at first, but that chance to sell a little bit of your digital life is difficult to resist. Cruxy is more to the point. It's a website built out of your content but it is a marketplace where you can buy and sell that content. Given the corner shop nature of the web nowadays, I expected such sites would proliferate, but they're slow coming.
IPTV needs a little explanation. Television over IP networks usually refers to telecoms companies who are adapting their networks, then using an Internet protocol to distribute audio-visual content. That means a relatively closed network (within the boundaries of the telecom companies' immediate control) as distinct from the vast Internet.
Companies that distribute audio-visual programming over the Internet though also claim to be in the IPTV business. The distinction for many of us is irrelevant until you consider that the telecoms companies will be offering more interactivity around content, for example offering buddy networks, instant messaging, and recording and replay of any content feed.
In Europe, KPN of Holland is experimenting with OPTV, an IPTV system in Limburg, Telekom Austria, France Telecom, Italian and British Telecom, Magnet (Iceland, Ireland, Poland), SMART all have IPTV systems up and running, and ready to roll out beyond their trial base.
The first instinct of the telcos is to bring in Hollywood movies and regular TV channels as their major content offering. Then they realise this does nothing to differentiate them from cable companies. And soon the same will be on offer on the Internet. How to be different? Get close to people, close to individual content producers out on the street and in the back bedroom.
There are plenty of IPTV ready channels out there — I mean the type that will end up on regular TV sets over the next three years. The multi-channel future can’t come soon enough for some of these guys.
Photoshop TV is one of them. They’re now into their 50th broadcast. Three guys with their Apple laptops exploring Photoshop techniques. This kind of stuff is invaluable for anybody doing imaging work.
Then there’s DL.TV (or Digital Life Television, that looks at all kinds of gadgets), technolotics (media, politics, etc from three Dublin students), and as they say on the telly, many, many more.
There are already thousands of small TV channels like these. Critical to their future success will be good aggregation and showcasing. I went over to Akimbo to see what is available there — Akimbo has accumulated 13,000 shows now.
It started out with the ambition of becoming the top IPTV aggregator and has some competition from Roo and of course Brightcove, who seem to be stuck between a strategy that will take them into the corporate TV market and one that will lead them to becoming a partner for the higher end of independent professional video (they work for example with MediaStorm.org and with Tribeca).
Roo seems to have suffered from the YouTube effect and it’s hovering now around the upload market. One big ticket contract they have is aggregating video shorts and movie trailers for Verizon’s entertainment portal and another is for Citysearch (which is a model for how countries can put together their city break tourism offer). Just got to mention Vodeo too, who I think are evolving nicely.
Sadly there is no search function on Akimbo — at least not one I could find. Top shows on Akimbo right now are Anime Network, Ripe TV (girls in bikinis), and the BBC. Ripe TV I could not believe but fully understand — girl TV presenters with few clothes on. On the other hand The History Channel and Discovery Channel are also up there. No sign yet of Photoshop TV.
Whereas Akimbo is programme or show based, these two English initiatives are channel based, with Narrowstep hosting around 100 channels and GDB seemingly many more. Both have a strong line-up of themed and local channels. The latter would seem to be an area for one company to seize as its own territory – be the world's local aggregator – but as yet there is no kind of local a-v content.
3. Personal TV and Citizen TV
All the IPTV operators have as their ambition the development of personalised TV services, and personal TV channels. Arguably all you need to foster that is to offer podcast production and aggregation services (like clickcaster, xolo, pluggd). Rawflow's self-cast service seems to have gone furthest (using a p2p streaming solution that cuts down bandwidth costs).
4. Channel Aggregators
Akimbo and Brightcove, Narrowstep and GDB, have all been initiators in the field of IPTV whereas Jump TV and Greengrass are aggregators of what's already there while Free Internet TV, and channel chooser are access points for conventional TV on the web. IPTV Boards on the other hand is more of a listings service for true IPTV channels and ought to develop well as an information resource rather than a channel aggregator.
5. Online Newspapers
A fascinating area with a small list so far of initiatives to propagate citizen media. YourHub is an attempt to create citizen media at the local level, run by the Denver News Agency. Backfence does the same for a different region of the USA. Agoravox is a French citizen media project that also runs an English langauge site. Netzeitung, from Germany, is already profitable, Ohmynews of course is the best known CM initiative, and Cent Papiers is trying to do the same for Canada. Associated Content is another initiative though I've made very little use of it.
A special subset of the online newspaper is the type of online magazines that are made up almost entirely from user content. I'm thinking here particularly of travel sites (Yellow Arrow, Hotelchatter, Jaunted, Tripadvisor.
6. Content Re-use
Digg, Newsvine, Kick, Netscape are all sites that encourage their users to refer articles from other sources. These sites are so well known I won't say much more, except to point out that niche products are now emerging, such as Hugg for environmental news, and local versions like Kick (Ireland).
7. Social Bookmarking
I've been slow to realise the value of social bookmarking as a form of discovery and as a unique content category. Yes, it should have been obvious but sorry, I am still learning. I recently became a deli.cio.us browser, haven't had much time for Magnolia or the many others out there.
8. User Content TV
Digital Magic is one of the few examples I've seen of industrial strength user content TV. Plenty of TV channels want to do it but these guys have succeeded and often by taking web content and making it T-viewable.
9. Corporate and Political TV
Corporations like Budweiser, Land Rover, The State of Massachusetts, the Spanish Socialist Party, and many more are setting up their own TV channels. London and Glasgow have also done it. Running a TV channel is going to become a must-do for those types of organisataions.
10. New Search Engines
Dabble is an example of what search engines will become, strong on content that evolves when people co-discover and recommend audio-visual content. John Battelle is experimenting with a similar concept, aggregating the searches of users to drive content on his blog. Clusty by way of contrast has what I think is a great content concept – group search results and present them as clouds – visual content from search. What Clusty does for visualisation, Eurekster does for communities, adding your social network to the search mix.
11. Live Performance
Fab Channel comes to the web from the Clubs of Amsterdam. It's not always live but it is always an on-demand version of a live performance. More lively still is Karaoke TV, though to date it's been a favourite in Korea rather than Kingston. TV stations have increasingly taken to broadcasting events via the web (horse racing, music), but real live performance web is an original product adding original elements to the performance. Underground TV nearly gets there, though as yet you can't say it is using the medium to innovation in the performance. We can expect many more experiments going foward.
13. Games and Virtuality
Games would not be my strong point so I'm filching here. Massively Multiplayer Online Games seem to be the big category for future development, taking players ever deeper into a virtual life. Of note for content fans is Second Life's inner world where people make content In World (gigs, cafe performances, art ,and no doubt soon, games). Of the talked about developments are deeper characterisation and greater freedom to combine the features of character sets.
Yes, the very very last category — classifieds. Of late web commentators have been waking up to the truth that classifieds are deeply engaging. I used to find myself forever browsing through newspaper job classifieds, particularly when I was out of work. I can see the compulsion. Craigslist is the biggest classifieds community and Craig Newmark often talks about the company's success in terms of talking with their users. It's a community that's grown together and to some extent determines what Craigslist can charge for.
That's it — it's done. A first draft of the list of new content types. Will be back later to compile it into one big list and then starting next week trying some commentary.
But I forgot —
Adult sites are something I might want to by-pass for the sake of decency and I will. Except to say I think and hope it may be possible for sites to evolve that take a mature view of adult sexuality and are not hardcore porn. One area is female sexuality and in particular yaoi literature and art. Here is a genre where women can create sexually adventurous content without giving any offence and it seems to me a model for what might evolve in other attempts to create sexual content that's free to air.
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