So today at the Institute for Contemporary Arts, Amplified hosted a mini-event on the Future of Online Video, which had a virtual table at the event and around 30 people took part in conversations on the issue from a distance. Links to the recording of the event will be announced soon, but in the meantime, if you’re interested in the topic, you can follow the tweets of the event at Twitter Search. I took part from a distance partly due to back injury treatment appointments and partly because I wanted to be able to feed back on the interaction design of the online channel. We have some way to go before there is almost seamless integration between the virtual table and participation at the event, but the experience was possibly better than I thought. So thanks to Phil Campbell and co for the live stream!
One of the ideas that was a focus of the sessions was around monetisation of online video. Once again, like the stories about monetisation of myspace, facebook, twitter and so on, there was a question about what users are comfortable paying for online, and whether they will tolerate advertising. But I’m not sure whether this is the right focus for monetisation of video. One of the clear advantages for instance of the live stream at the event for Amplified was that it was freely available, could be dipped into and out of, and gave users an interactive experience of virtual participation. I can pretty much guarantee that none of the participants would have paid for that live stream, no matter how valuable or interesting it might have been. It was a niche market, and would only ever work as a free channel. However, precisely because it was niche, this was an information gathering and resource rich channel. Monetisation could have been generated through some much more creative solutions. Yes, we could have added an advertising mid-page unit in our live streaming channel, and maybe could even have sold merchandise for Amplified to the participants. But that’s boring. I think we will see the emergence of new business and monetisation models, including live auctioning of access to the the niche thinkers or consumers of the area of the video content. Companies could bid for sponsoring of conversations and extending them, to increase both market research outcomes and resource generation among the participants.
For more traditional media content, micropayments for film and television programming seems a logical choice and the only problem I see arising from this now old-fashioned pay-per-view model is being able to keep up with the demand for content from potential consumers. The success of businesses like LoveFilm.com and other mail-order DVD services are evidence of an increasingly picky consumer base for live content and considering the technologies being used for these businesses are decidely outdated (ie: snail mail), there is an opportunity for organisations with the rights to distribute quality programming to compete against the failing Blockbusters of the world. BT is already offering a version of this kind of programming but there is still a basic requirement to have other services through BT. I for one, would be happy to feed my obsession with historical and scientific documentaries on a pay-per-view basis so long as I don’t have to be locked in to any distribution channels. As I’m essentially watching most of my TV through BBC iPlayer and Channel 4OD anyway, I’m happy enough to get this content online. And as more and more people have the capacity to create as much content as they consume, I am just as willing to consider non-traditional channels for accessing content.
I think the current discussion on monetisation, however, is still too unsophisticated. We need to be a little more creative on how we generate sustainability for online content of all kinds. I still think that in a mass content market, there will be a value in filtration based on quality. I think these content filtration services and audience niches will be where money can and will be made.