Two news items popped up this week that I’m liking and that indicate some interesting crossover not only in platforms but in online and offline audiences thanks to some new tools and some big name companies embracing user generated content.
While YouTube is moving away from the user generated content and organic discovery that made it so interesting (as is Cisco, with its closing of the Flip cam division that we discussed earlier this week), and that made it the powerhouse it is today in favor of commercial, channeled content paid for by corporations and syndicates, Apple, Netflix and Google are thinking far ahead of branded channels and embracing the user. Apple in particular is rumored to be building a video based model designed to compete with both YouTube and Google’s Google TV efforts [full article in Forbes].
One key comment in the article, that Agencies want curated channels, stands out for me. Agencies may want it, but users are crying out on social sites for a la carte TV and web video where THEY are in charge of what they watch, and where it is truly affordable, not some outdated Nielsen rating system or brand. Because of this, I think users will continue to flock to solutions that let them choose their own content, and that whatever company can pull it off well, and make it easy for them (as opposed to the high learning curve involved in creating your own a la carte television and video experience as it stands now with tools like Boxee and others) will win. This makes me excited to see Apple jumping into this arena – they are well known for making fabulous user interfaces and focusing on usable design – the geek in me can’t wait to see what they do with TV once they leave behind the idea of Apple TV, etc as a “hobby”.
With Netflix adding in a user generated component, the user could have some exciting choices coming up. Netflix has a bit more clunky interface than Apple and as yet no way to divide your account into family members so your ratings and recently viewed don’t get contaminated with other people’s tastes, but it has the advantage of currently being integrated into more places like PlayStation 3, etc. This could bring some interesting options to the table for the content generators that are willing to create semi branded content as opposed to full on content channels.
As someone with one foot in marketing, I know why brands want their own branded channels, but as a user as well, I think that is taking the easy way out. I’d be much more intrigued to see the brands that find a way to conquer the market with great content without having to hold the users hostage to one channel to do it. What is your favorite brand creating video successfully without holding users hostage to a branded channel right now? Can you think of any?