Discovery videos get a bigger boat

January 31, 2009

This article from the New York Times tells a great story about old clips being pulled out of the Discovery channel archives (which, at 1.3 million old episodes, are very large indeed).

Two questions this raised for me:

1. What will they use for their dominant distribution channels?

2. How are they capturing/storing metadata?

The third question, ‘where is the money’, is (partially) answered in the article: embedded advertising. It’s not profitable yet – it’s not even implemented for youtube yet – but they have their fingers crossed, and good luck to them.

(I’d also love to know if and how they were maintaining associations between chunks of disaggregated content, but that’s another story…)

The answer to 1. is ‘youtube’, and ‘from their own page/through the pages of affiliated channels’. Selling to content aggregators couldn’t be too bad an idea, especially as a mechanism for monetising, but wasn’t mentioned. Youtube, though, brings the embedded ad part of the monetising strategy into question – people love to repurpose, and it’s the easiest thing in the world for a user to copy the video and edit the advertising out.

Metadata was not mentioned in the article – it never is. Interesting, though, to consider what information would require recording. The metadata profile here would not (and should not) be stuffy Dublin Core or anything like that, but I would assume that subject & thematic tags (not to mention rights statements) would be a pretty vital part of the content management process. Videos, after all, don’t lend themselves to text-search, and if nothing else, the Discovery employees would need some idea of the content when compiling ‘scariest shark attacks’ or similar. 

It occurs to me that if you were the Discovery channel, you could pull off a great trick here. 

Imagine: You’re Discovery. You put out 50 shark clips out onto you youtube, each with a unique id but without any metadata at all. 

Users find them. If they like one, they do two things: First, vote it up the rankings, and two, tag it. 

You, at Discovery, go back a month later and haul your clips in. You keep the most popular ones and ditch the rest. You assess the tags, and use them as keys from which to create a more sophisticated (and permanent) metadata profile. Ta Da! Your shark collection has now been assessed for quality and marked with useable search/find information in perpetuity.

And you paid peanuts. 

(At least, that’s what I would do…)

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