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I have a general thesis that free video on the Web is going to put a serious crimp not just in the commercial TV programming we know now, but also the wannabe Web-only equivalents, the sorts of folks who count on paying for their Web video shows by making money fromĀ  advertising (such as the 100 projects Google has green-lighted and the ones NetFlix and Amazon are also backing).

The links here are fairly broad — a couple of music clips, a seminar, some crazy stunts — but they’re what I ended up watching the past few days instead of cable TV. I think this sort of free programming still has lots of room to grow. SmartPhones are still getting better in terms of video and audio, and they’re still spreading into every corner of the globe. There are now hundreds of thousands of folks using DSLRs and high-end point-and-shoots to shoot better-quality video, and folks like GoPro, with their affordable cameras aimed at extreme sports enthusiasts, have shown that a key requirement for participants is the ability to show your friends what insane stuff you did. Oh yeah — Google Glass goes on sale this year and if it’s wearable video cameras get any serious traction, it will add millions more cameras out there capturing everyday life in all its humor and pathos — for free.

So tell me what you watched on the Web this week… Are you watching more or less cable TV?

Enough talk — here are the links:
Two gutsy/foolhardy guys jump out of ultralights over Rio at 5:45 a.m. wearing those flexible wingsuits that allow them to sort of fall/glide to the ground — right through two towers of an office building. Free content from extreme sports enthusiasts.

Love baby seals? A guy in Seattle mounted a camera on an old surfboard and watched what happened. Free content from an amateur videographer with some imagination, and luck.
http://www.viralviralvideos.com/tag/gopro/

I didn’t watch all of this (yet), but in the first 20 minutes I learned a lot about how National Geographic photographers get those great photos. On average, they shoot 1,900 for every one that appears in the magazine. I teach photojournalism and that’s a key point for students to learn — no matter what your technical settings, you need to keep shooting to get the very best photos. The seminar was sponsored by Samsung at B&H Photo in New York, which is another point. Remember that incredible balloon jump last year by Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner? It was sponsored by Red Bull. Remember that theme — advertisers don’t need to put their ad on your video product. They can create THEIR video product and bypass your cable network.
http://www.petapixel.com/2013/03/16/storytelling-made-easy-capturing-photos-that-tell-a-compelling-story/

This one is more technical — two guys use a bunch of GoPro video cameras mounted on an arc-shaped metal bar to recreate those “Matrix”-style videos where the image freezes but then the camera moves around within the frozen image. But that’s another point — As a photography nut, this is niche info I can’t find anywhere on cable TV and there are thousands of similar niches, from knitters to mandolin players to folks who want to learn to swing dance or program C++.
http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2013/03/16/homemade-gopro-camera-array-creates-stunning-matrix-style-bullet-time-visuals/

Chris Thieles is one of the best mandolin players in the world today, though you wouldn’t know that from watching this entertaining clip of his group, The Punch Brothers, cover a song by The Cars. Again, the clip was done by a Web site for promotional purposes, so I don’t have to watch a 30-second ad before the clip.

This one is from an art exhibit — a fascinating (and highly edited) slow-motion drive through New York City. Yep, this time it is a non-profit that is giving us the free video.
http://www.petapixel.com/2013/03/17/street-a-mezmerizing-slow-motion-drive-down-the-streets-of-nyc/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PetaPixel+%28PetaPixel%29

PS – I started putting the actual links in because this WordPress template doesn’t do a good job of highlighting linked text. It adds a faint gray underline that is easy to miss.

That’s it for now, but I’ll add more on occasion, whenever I see stuff that proves my point: The Web isn’t just disrupting traditional media. By offering a huge amount of free content and allowing advertisers to create content themselves, it is completely destroying the traditional model where someone produces content to attract eyeballs and then sells those viewers to an advertiser to finance the costs of producing the content.

An item last week in the always-excellent 10,000 Words blog outlined why Reuters and the Wall Street Journal were parting company with YouTube. You may remember that — only a year ago — both companies trumpeted their selection to produce content for a YouTube channel, one of 100 premium channels the Google-owned web video giant spent $150 million to launch last year.

YouTubeSo what went wrong? One place to start, 10,000 Words points out, is the money that YouTube pays for traffic to its channels. They cite an article by Peter Kafka in All Things D, that claims YouTube takes 45% of all ad revenue as its cut, leaving the content producers with revenue of only about $2.50 for every thousand viewers. Yep, that would be $2,500 if your video gets one million views.

Or, to parse the data another way, assume a staffer makes $65,000 a year, which translates neatly to $1,200 per week or $250 per day. Just to earn back their daily salary, that video producer is going to need to produce content every day that reaches 100,000 eyeballs (at YouTube’s rate of $2.50 per thousand eyeballs). Assuming you have multiple staffers on your team, EVERY ONE OF THEM is going to need to produce a video that hits that 100,000 views mark every day.

How likely is that? 10,000 Words points out that a recent highly-trafficked New York Times video netted 330,000 viewers — not per day, but in total.

We’re off here by a factor of at least 10 and that’s what keeps me worried about the future of commercially successful video on the web. And that’s now — before the floodgates open and we see a surge of user-generated streaming video from the likes of UStream and Google Glasses, all free and all competing for those same limited eyeballs.

I don’t want to end on a dour note, so in fairness, I should point out this story about a spiffy new video production facility YouTube just launched in Los Angeles called “Space.” It’s state-of-the-art with green screens and cool camera and editing gear — and it is available for free to folks YouTube allows in to produce premium video content. The goal, according to YouTube, is to give new producers access to better gear so their productions will look more polished. If the cost of producing content were the major roadblock to producing commercially successful content on the Web, I’d say this is a great idea. But it’s not. A couple of HD cameras and a laptop with editing software are within the reach of most wannabe producers, particularly if a few friends pool their resources.

Nope, the enemy of commercial web content is free web content. And who is the biggest purveyor of that in the land? Ironically, in light of this latest venture, it’s the folks at YouTube.

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