Can Social Video Honor Copyright & Compensate Artists?


Please comment here on my latest MediaPost opinion column, where I do a Q&A with Oliver Luckett, SVP and co-founder of Revver, an online social-video syndication platform.


Can Social Video Honor Copyright & Compensate The Artist?
by Max Kalehoff, September 8, 2006

Like many, I’m fascinated with explosion of online video. For better or worse, YouTube has become the mega-brand most often associated with consumer-generated video. Indeed, comScore Media Metrix reported in August that the YouTube portal broke into the Top 50 U.S. reach ranking for the first time–number 40, with 16 million visitors. (Disclosure: I worked as a marketing exec and analyst for Media Metrix and comScore from the late ’90s through 2003.)

But for all the positive attention YouTube brings to consumer-generated video, I’m skeptical of it. First, it’s Napster for video; piracy is common and that’s not sustainable for any business. Second, it does little to nurture content creators, and seemingly nothing to compensate them or share revenues. Third, YouTube’s success thus far is built largely on a big social-media portal model. If the last decade has proven anything, it’s that highly concentrated social-media storms tend to peak, if not dissipate. Attention is limited and crowds shift as centers of gravity shift. Remember Geocities?

But I’m not here to instill gloom on YouTube! It deserves credit for innovating, democratizing and fueling critical mass. Still, in light of my skepticism, advertisers, publishers and content creators should consider Revver. Revver claims it “helps earn money and distribute their work widely. By attaching an ad to a video, creators track their content anywhere online and make money every time a user clicks on the ad. Revver benefits creators, advertisers and viewers by enabling content to be free and accessible while still rewarding creators.”

I met Oliver Luckett, Revver’s co-founder, senior vice president of network development, on a panel I co-moderated at June’s Supernova Conference. I asked him to share a few thoughts about Revver and the democratization of online video:

Max Kalehoff: What differentiates Revver from other online video platforms? 

Luckett: We’re not a portal, but instead we have embraced the distribution and monetization of content through very powerful tools. With that comes responsibility for screening, and ensuring no copyright infringement. Humans watch over the network, and request more information on ownership of content, or refuse it. We simply don’t run ads against pirated content. Everyone knows that’s wrong, but everyone’s skirting around the game and it makes studios and creatives angry. It’s important to build and nurture the relationship with the creator. We’re building a legitimate business to allow people to maintain their individual creator identity, and still have a revenue and sponsorship model that is attached to it. As a media buyer on Revver, you’re supporting real original artists, not YouTube. That’s a huge emotional connection.

Kalehoff: Who are your stakeholders?

Luckett: First is the content creator, then the sponsors and affiliates. We’re opening up our API [application programming interface] so big brands and affiliates can be Revver clones. We’ll give you a video portal in a box to manage and host, just like an instant business. The positioning of the Revver brand is: if it’s Revver-enabled, it’s a trusted platform. We’re democratizing the distribution and monetization of media. Revver is a trusted resource, similar to PayPal, and an ad-serving network combined in one. We’re not unlike an Ebay-enabled store.

Kalehoff: Revver empowers semi-professional and serious amateur content creators, like the show with zefrank or Ask A Ninja. What about serious professionals?

Luckett: We’re moving toward the professional spectrum, but online video itself is becoming a new art form in Hollywood. Consider Invisible Engine or It’s All In Your Hands, where the audience chooses where the story will go next. It’s professionally done, and emerging into a new form of serial programming, a new form of entertainment. 

Kalehoff: Why do so many content creators still use other platforms that don’t compensate or protect their work? 

Luckett: I don’t think they know about Revver, but they’re learning quickly. Many of the biggest YouTube creators are moving to Revver. Many big creators also leave social-media portals like YouTube because the community is rough…comments become a place for spam and hatred. Even on the innocuous Firefox promotion, we had to take comments down because of spam and inappropriate feedback. But community is still important with Revver, particularly among content creators who educate one another about how to make money.

Kalehoff: Is Revver a friend or foe of online publishers?

Luckett: We’re a huge friend of online publishers. We give them control, a call for action, a way to monetize content. Your audience is your best distributor if you’re a big media brand. And if your audience can be your programmer, why not make money off of it? The value of the content is in the audience embracing it.

The big portals and search engines are a different story, however. Independent creators often get sucked into big companies like Google and Yahoo through exclusives, in an attempt to lock in their content. Google is not indexing the world’s video, but trying to control it. That’s not resonating with creators, who must ask themselves: am I part of a video community, or being pulled into a giant, faceless, soulless engine?

From a viewer perspective, discovery doesn’t happen on search engines and mega portals with exclusives. Exclusives limit reach. Think of what happened to JibJab. Video discovery happens on affiliates, which serve as curators of content. We need MySpace, blogs and specialized niche portals. Your audience is your best promoter.

Kalehoff: A lot of media planners and buyers read this column. So, how do you sell advertising?

Luckett: We sell advertising on a cost-per-click basis, and we’re now exploring CPM and sponsorship models. We view the video as an ad container. The player and the ads are dynamic and interchangeable–an automated, programmable file. We rely on keywords, authors, ratings and channels, powered by a human review process, to ensure the content is contextually relevant to advertising. In terms of audience ratings and metrics, 89 percent of views occur through syndication. We will use third-party solutions–like DART and ATLAS–and will open our API to other ad-serving systems. We’ll allow people to create campaigns through other platforms.

MediaPost community: What do you think?

Join the debate on the MediaPost blog here.


Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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