Why YouTube Red is the future

YouTubeRedsmI’ve been a subscriber of YouTube Red for the last month, and I’m completely sold on its model and its virtues, so much so that I think this is the one everybody in the content distribution world should be copying. Not only does it provide me with the greatest consumer experience possible, but it actually encourages me to spend even more time with YouTube.

No advertisements. Zero. Zip. Nada. That’s the draw, and it’s one in which everybody wins. The only way in for those wishing to do commerce is to participate as content providers. It is the essential distribution point for content marketing, and some of the best content on YouTube is advertiser content such as movie trailers, celebrity interviews, and much, much more.

And I’m personally thrilled that Google is the one to present this, for these guys figured out a long time ago that a clean and simple product such as free search could open vast doors of wealth in ancillary products and services. Good for them.

YouTube Red overcomes the taxonomy challenge of any publisher who wants people to find their content, whether published today or many yesterdays ago. As David Weinberger has taught us, there is no organizational system that humankind can create that will ever surpass the efficiency of search. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, second only to Google itself.

It also provides the front end for a micropayment service for artists of every stripe, and this thrills me for the future of the arts. The whole thing is what many of us envisioned long ago when we first attempted to understand the magnificence of the network and connectivity. This will continue to evolve, and Google continues to prove that what used to be impossible is actually very doable today. It is a breathtaking time to be alive.

The model of YouTube Red works in ways that I don’t even know yet, and it stands as one of the most important applications for study since the advent of the Web itself. My ability to create an endless stream of music videos that play in the background while I’m doing my work beats any mp3 system anywhere, because the cost to me is just $10 a month. Hell, my time alone is worth vastly more than $10 a month. TV viewing comes without interruptions, assuming the programs I enjoy are available on YouTube, and you’d be surprised at the volume of entertaining videos that exist in its library. In my view, this is where the future of video distribution will take place.

Facebook wants to take some of this away from Google, of course, but Facebook’s big weakness is that so far the ease of distribution of its videos beyond the walled garden of Facebook isn’t nearly what YouTube offers. This will eventually work against Mr. Zuckerberg and his wishes to take over the world. Don’t get me wrong; I love Facebook, but I also love the open Web and the idea that I can provide “my” videos anywhere I wish to make them available, including (at least for now) Facebook.

I’ve written previously that YouTube has reinvented advertising for videos via the Web with its 4-second pre-rolls, but once you experience the same videos without even those, there’s just no going back.

Color me happy and amazed.

Google rewards responsive design

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 8.24.35 AMThe search engine giant (and smart, smart, smart network master) is tweaking its MOBILE search algorithm, and the result could be a disaster of Biblical proportions for all those TV station websites still clinging to the bloated design of popular CMS providers. As I’ve written a billion times, the path to downstream irrelevancy for broadcasters is clinging to old models, and these CMS templates are as old as it gets in web years. According to the AP, Google’s move will take place Tuesday and will “sway where millions of people shop, eat and find information.”

Google’s move will push every online provider to be more “mobile friendly,” and most TV station websites aren’t.

To stay in Google’s good graces, websites must be designed so they load quickly on mobile devices. Content must also be easily accessible by scrolling up and down — without having to also swipe to the left or right. It also helps if all buttons for making purchases or taking other actions on the website can be easily seen and touched on smaller screens.

If a website has been designed only with PC users in mind, the graphics take longer to load on mobile devices and the columns of text don’t all fit on the smaller screens, to the aggravation of someone trying to read it.

Google has been urging websites to cater to mobile device for years, mainly because that is where people are increasingly searching for information.

Go read the whole article via NetNewsCheck, because it’s filled with important stuff.

The essence of the problem is that local broadcasters are still competing with each other online. They’re trying to be TV stations online, because they cannot or will not look beyond their own industry to see what’s really happening in the networked world. TV stations are mass media vehicles and the “broad” in broadcasting is rightly interpreted as one-stop-shops for all entertainment and information. This is ridiculous online, but TV people keep adding content and sections to their sites. And of course when you do this, you feel obligated to provide a doorway to all that precious cargo, so deep navigation becomes an essential part of any page. Moreover, an interrupted television signal is an emergency for broadcast stations, so the same paranoia is applied to their websites, which elevates the importance of stability in their approach to content management. These are the things to which broadcasters cling, and Google is about to shove it all right up their backsides. Why? Because none of it is “mobile friendly.”

And good luck with those apps of yours, too. If Google’s spiders can’t see it, it means nothing in search.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is an addendum to my essay Time to Revisit Our Mobile Strategy.

Whither Apple: It’s the infrastructure, stupid!

Apple LogoIf you’ve not been following the work of Dave Winer recently, I encourage you to do so. He’s on an impassioned quest, to keep the Web itself open for future developers, and I think he’s onto something terribly important. As Silcon Valley companies like Google, Apple and Facebook continue to develop their business models, they’re doing so by trying to keep us within the confines of their own infrastructures.

That’s because infrastructure is where the money is in a world where we — you and me — are the product being served to a hungry hoard of people with deep pockets: advertisers.

This is a concept that Dave is pounding away at, because when we’re inside someone else’s infrastructure, we’re playing by their rules, and we’re trapped in a universe that will always default to the best interests of the owners. The Web, on the other hand, isn’t owned by a corporation, and it must remain as such, complete with its own infrastructure.

Apple’s odd introduction of OS X “Mountain Lion” to its biggest fanboy writer, John Gruber, yesterday is an example. Apple’s future is built onpushing everybody and everything to iCloud, which it will own and operate. Sounds okay for now, but we’ll see.

Facebook wants you on its servers and inside its infrastructure. Same thing with Google, although Google  is a different iteration of the same theme, because it gives the appearance of growing an independent Web – with Google’s “help.”

I think this is a big story that’s not going away, because Madison Avenue lives in the pipes and stitchery of media infrastructures. Mass marketing’s infrastructures are on the way out, but those offered by Facebook, Apple and Google are alive and well.

I still remember AOL and the remarkable statements made when it was purchased by Time Warner. AOL’s entire value was based on its infrastructure, a captive audience that still needed the Internet training wheels the site provided. As a result, I’m not convinced that anybody has the wherewithal to pull this off completely, because the more the cinch is tightened, the more it will feel like AOL, and the goodies will seem beyond its reach.

Let’s be careful not to give away tomorrow for the sake of today’s convenient experience.


Media companies await Google+ for Business

Facebook launched its “Facebook for Business” subsite this week to take advantage of the tardiness of Google in opening up its new Google+ engine for businesses, Google+ for Business. The Facebook site, however isn’t much more than a primer on how to run a fan page, which is something everybody already knows anyway.

Facebook for Business

Facebook has become a very important tool for media companies, especially as a referral back to our own websites, where we can hopefully monetize the traffic.

But I think Facebook will be child’s play for media downstream compared to the potential of Google+. It’s not that I expect the news conversation to necessarily shift, but Google+ isn’t merely a Google social play; it’s the next version of Google itself, and no company on earth has disrupted the business of media like Google. Media companies look at Google as a competitor for content, but the Web giant is actually a competitor for our revenue, and that’s what makes Google+ for Business both so potentially useful and yet dangerous at the same time.

While we’re thinking that Google+ creates new brand extension opportunities, what it will really do is make it easier for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) to connect with customers and potential customers. It will also help us reach people in the community, although we’re going to have to figure out how to make that really work for us. Google+ for Business will also tilt the balance of search, and while Facebook and Twitter are feeding local news websites, nobody already does that better and more often than Google. The point is that Google+ for Business won’t be an option for media companies.

The real power of Google is that the Web itself is its business world. You don’t have to be within its proprietary framework in order to be influenced by Google. There is no walled garden, per se. Oh, its tools are all within its cloud, but it doesn’t need to “capture” people to make money. Google provides ammunition for the people of the world to help themselves and their enterprises, and it does that very well. Google+ for Business is simply the latest.

An excellent article in PC World outlines reasons why G+ for Business is a game-changer. Looking at this list as a media observer, it’s easy to see why it will be so important.

Search — Google will incorporate the real time stream from G+ into search, as it was doing with Twitter before its contract expired July 4th. This will radically alter news searches, but it will also create great opportunities for smart businesses who learn how to play the game.

Productivity and Communication — Google has 200 million Gmail users and 3 million businesses already using its Apps for Business productivity suite, and these will be incorporated into its social network. As noted above, Google is already a significant driver of traffic to media company websites, and the addition of Google+1 will accelerate that. Facebook has its “like” button, but it has nothing to compete with all that Google can offer.

Video — Yes, Facebook has a deal with Skype, but Google owns YouTube and has already advanced the interactive video world with G+ “Hangouts.” KOMU-TV in Columbia, MO has already experimented with using Hangouts on-the-air, and I expect we’ll see a lot more of that downstream.

E-commerce — PC World: “Google already has the Google Checkout payment system and its Products search tapping into all sorts of online merchants. Google could theoretically tie both services into Google+ for businesses, enabling a company to link its payment service to a back end database of products within Google’s ecosystem, rather than sending shoppers off to PayPal.”

Business Websites — Google has its Blogger publishing platform, which has a wide variety of implications for media companies and SMBs in a Google+ environment.

Advertisting and Analytics — Google’s highly successful Adwords system has been around since 2000 and Adsense, which enables people to embed contextual ads on their blogs and websites, has been working since 2003. Google Analytics is far ahead of anything Facebook can offer on deeper traffic and ad performance tools.

Mapping and Location-based Tie-ins — Google will likely integrate the new Google+ pages with Google Places, which appear in its Maps search results. This is a natural for SMBs but even more so as a tool for users, because integration with G+ allows for interaction with those search results. PC World: “Say, for example, that a user is considering several local search results for sushi in his neighborhood. He could theoretically not only compare the local results, but also ask questions about the menu or seating on each restaurant’s Google+ business page before deciding where to eat.”

Mobile Payments — Google has been testing various near field communications (NFC) applications as part of its e-wallet concept through its Android operating system, and they give a hint as to what’s potentially in store downstream. In theory, according to PC World, a Google+ user could be tracked from when she clicked on an ad, how much time she spent on the website, when she checked into the store, and what she bought. Google already has proven models for most of these interactions; there’s no reason not to tie them together.

There’s no official timeline yet on when Google+ for Business will be available to everybody, but now is certainly the time for us to begin thinking about and talking about how we fit into the mix. There has never been a more important time to immerse ourselves in all that Google offers and to appreciate the reality that half a loaf is better than none. Google+ for Business has the potential to be something for us that goes far beyond simple brand extension, and the smart local media manager is one who understands that.

The ultimate success of the modern social network, the PC World article notes, will depend as much on its supportive services—in which Google has an advantage—as it will on its aggregate users. This truth is the essence of Media 2.0.

Close doesn’t count in database advertising

I’m constantly preaching the value of targeted advertising, and here’s a humorous exactly from today’s Web surfing. The image below is from YouTube, owned by Google. A little over a week ago, I did a Google search for “tall nightstands,” because I was in the process of a bedroom remodel. I found what I needed at Amazon, and they’re sitting in the bedroom today.

So YouTube/Google served me an ad today for tall nightstands, which is targeted specifically to that search. It’s very sophisticated, except for one thing: I don’t need them anymore.

So nice try, Googs, ol’ buddy, but close doesn’t count. Of course, I suppose it’s just a matter of time before they get this one right, too. It is, after all, a simple matter of connecting shopping behavior with actual purposes.

The ad I was served this morning via YouTube.

Goodbye, Google; hello, Google+

Google PlusBy now, you most likely have heard about Google+, Google’s new entry into the social networking phenomenon. I was fortunate enough to get an early invite, so I’ve spent the last week playing in the application. I think this has the potential to reshape Google’s entire business in ways that will be very, very hard to ignore. It all begins with the name, Google+. It’s not merely a new application, it represents a complete shift in the company’s strategic thrust. It’s THAT significant.

Check your company’s analytics, and you’ll see that, in 99% of cases, Google is the top referrer of eyeballs to your website. Why is that? It’s all about search, and Google owns search. Everything they do is important in that regard, and while most people are comparing G+ to Facebook and/or Twitter, I think that misses the point. Google+ is far more than “just another social network” or a “Facebook killer” (yeah, right), because it incorporates all that is Google.

My search results, for example, are now personalized and presented within the plus framework. I like this very much, because the first organic result often reveals the website most recently visited by me that addresses the search query. This is incredibly useful for those “I read that somewhere” searches.

The two things I find most intriguing for news are both found in the service’s Android app (an iPhone app is coming, but I don’t know if it contains the same abilities as the Android app). One, I can set it so that any picture I take is immediately and automatically uploaded to a folder on my G+ account. This type of application — where a picture I take on earth is automatically distributed to the cloud — is game-changing for the real-time news industry, and I fully expect to see similar applications applied more broadly to the news business. However, G+ is first out-of-the-box with this, and it is powerful. Next will be video. You can count on it. Try to imagine online news with this feature. It will be amazing.

The second Android function involves the information stream of Google+ itself. Since every one you “follow,” gets placed immediately into a circle of your choice (friends, family, coworkers, etc.), you can choose what stream to follow at any given time. It’s a great way to use connectivity, and the infrastructure is all drag-and-drop simple. You can deliver posts to any group as well, including making them “public,” where anybody can see them. This is significant, for it mimics Twitter in that sense.

The mobile app allows you to make your location known to Google (it’s off by default) and then read a stream of posts “nearby.” This has staggering implications for spot news coverage, where geolocation is important. Want witnesses, photos, video? No hashtags necessary, if you’re on location, for if everybody’s using G+ (a big question), a simple swipe of your Android phone gives you everything automatically. This is another innovation that will expand beyond Google, but the reality is that it is Google that brought this to the table.

Jeff Jarvis admitted yesterday that his school, City University of New York (CUNY), is going to have to begin teaching Google+ in its journalism program, and I certainly agree. His views of G+ include many thoughts about its application for news, and I recommend reading this piece.

But the most important thing to note is that Google has the clout to actually force businesses (of their own free will) into its “plus” cavern, and that is a big game-changer. Firstly, Google has announced that Google+ for business is coming, and I’m sure it will incorporate everything of Google’s already stout toolkit for businesses. Secondly, everybody will need a Google profile in order to be fairly “seen” by the search engine. What business would turn that down? It’s free.

And if businesses will use it, we need to know everything about it.

Social media consultant Jay Baer wrote this week that Google’s history is entirely built around the ranking of “Pages” on the Web. It developed PageRank to provide searchers with the best possible results. However, personal publishing via social media has changed everything.

Philosophically, Pages with more and better other Pages linking to them must be better content, and each link counts as a “vote” for that Page. But when the dominant form of expression became something smaller than a Page, and our votes of content confidence became expressed by social sharing and other behaviors that differ from “I’m going to link to this website from my website,” Google found itself trying to play web page ranking poker with less than a full deck of cards. It was trying to do a very difficult job with incomplete information.

This explains, in part, why Google had to make a move like this. The world of information is simply changing, but Baer adds that it is the integration of G+ content into its search algorithms that makes it so potent, especially for businesses. Remember, he points out, Google owns the top two search engines in the world. YouTube is number two.

Google has inserted so many tentacles into so many crevices of our digital lives, that they can compel us to use Plus via integrations and reminders in (just a starter list):

  • Gmail
  • YouTube
  • Picasa
  • Maps
  • Android (the app for Plus is fantastic)
  • Chrome
  • Analytics
  • Blogger

…Here’s the scenario I see unfolding before the end of 2011, and possibly before Labor Day. Google opens up business pages on Plus to Adwords customers. Any clicks and +1 (Google’s version of Facebook “like”) your business content receives on Plus has a direct impact on your organic search engine rankings, while your Facebook activity continues to have no impact.

Go read Jay’s article, for it’s really quite good. Then, if you don’t already have one, create a Gmail account, which will lead to a Google profile, which will lead to Plus. The company has announced that the service will be completely open to everyone by July 29th.

Most observers are writing about how Google+ will impact the news industry, and that’s important. I think its greater shock to the media ecosystem, however, is its potential to once again influence advertising, and that this is what should interest us most. It’s true that the two have always gone together for media companies, but they are increasingly disconnecting, and we must pay very close attention to what’s happening in this space.

This is why my best advice for any media company is still this: don’t leave to geeks what rightly belongs to upper management, especially sales. There’s still far too much ignorance about all of this stuff at the upper management level. Google+ will be a critical element in local advertising downstream. Will people shift from Facebook or Twitter? That’s the wrong question, for in the end, it really doesn’t matter.

Like a great many other things, it’s all about the money. Money doesn’t require mass anymore, and nobody knows that better than Google.