Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

May 03 2011

14:30

PBS plays Google’s word game, transcribing thousands of hours of video into crawler-friendly text

PBS' new video search engine

Blogs and newspaper sites enjoy a built-in advantage when it comes to search-engine optimization. They deal in words. But a whole universe of audio and video content is practically invisible to Google.

Say I want to do research on Osama bin Laden. A web search would return news articles about his assassination, a flurry of tweets, the Wikipedia pageMichael Scheuer’s biography, and an old Frontline documentary, “Hunting Bin Laden.” I might then take my search to Lexis Nexis and academic journals. But I would never find, for example, Frontline’s recent reporting on the Egyptian revolution, where bin Laden makes an appearance, or any number of other video stories in which the name is mentioned.

While video and audio transcripts are rich for Google mining, they’re also time-consuming and expensive. PBS is out to fix that by building a better search engine. The network has transcribed and tagged, automatically, more than 2,000 hours of video using software called MediaCloud.

“Video is now more Google-friendly,” said Jon Brendsel, the network’s vice president of product development. Normally, automatic transcription is laughably bad — Google Voice users know this — but Brendsel is satisfied with the results of PBS’ transcription efforts. He said the accuracy rate is about 80 to 90 percent. That’s “much better than the quality that I normally attribute to closed captioning,” he said. The software can get away with mistakes because the transcripts are being read by computers, not people. (For a hefty fee, the content-optimization platform RAMP will put its humans to work to review and refine the auto-generated transcripts.)

Query “Osama bin Laden” at PBS’ video portal, and the new search engine returns videos in which the phrase appears, including time codes. ”Osama bin Laden found at 33:32,” reads one result. (So that’s where he was?) Mouse over the text to see the keyword in context; click it to be deposited at the precise moment the keyword is spoken. (Notice the text “Osama bin Laden” appears nowhere on the resulting page.)

PBS’ radio cousin, NPR, still relies on humans for transcription, paying a third-party service to capture 51 hours of audio a week. In-house editors do a final sweep to ensure accuracy of proper names and unusual words. It’s expensive, though NPR does not disclose how much, and time-consuming, with a turnaround time of four to six hours.

“We continue to keep an eye on automated solutions, which have gradually improved over time, but are not of sufficiently high quality yet to be suitable for licensing and other public distribution,” said Kinsey Wilson, NPR’s head of digital media.

Despite the expense, NPR decided to make all transcripts available for free when relaunching its website in July 2009. ”Transcripts were once largely the province of librarians and other specialists whose job was to find archival content, often for professional purposes,” Wilson said at the time. “As Web content becomes easier to share and distribute, and search and social media have become important drivers of audience engagement, archival content — whether in the form of stories or transcripts — has an entirely different value than it did in the past.”

Put another way: Readers today (kids today!) are accustomed to search as a shortcut to obtaining information. If Google doesn’t index your content, it might as well not exist. (And there are other emerging platforms in the layering-text-on-video game — Universal Subtitles, for example, which essentially crowdsources captioning efforts.) Brendsel said mass indexing is a much more complicated project for PBS, because PBS does not own its content, unlike NPR. The network has to work out rights with multiple producers. And the transcription software is also expensive, he said. PBS is still working out a financial model for extending this service to local stations.

Brendsel plans to offer human-readable transcripts on story pages soon, when the video portal gets a design refresh. That will be the final step in making PBS video truly Google-friendly, allowing search engines to to crawl its text.

August 10 2010

18:00

To click or not to click: Could tiered data plans water down advertising possibilities for news publishers?

In the good old days (of three months ago) you could surf the web on your iPhone with abandon. Do I want to watch this video? Sure! Do I want to download this huge attachment? Why not? Data plans were unlimited; there was no need to think twice, at least not about cost. And that offered news organizations hope, especially when the iPad came along. Maybe slick smart phones and tablet devices would usher in a new advertising revenue stream more akin to print advertising rates than the standard, abysmal web rates.

But now AT&T has nixed the all-you-can-eat data plans for users of the new iPhone 4 and the iPad. (Some lucky folks have been grandfathered in.) And rumor has it that Verizon will soon follow suit with their smartphone plans. It sounds like the Internet’s trajectory from dial-up pay-by-the-minute plans to unlimited — only in reverse. I can picture my mother now: It’s 1995 and she’s waiving the AOL bill frantically, exasperated. What are you spending all this time online doing? Back then, the Internet was like the worst big box store you can imagine: get in, get what you need, and get out. Quickly. When the billing structure for Internet usage went unlimited, Internet use exploded in our house — and everywhere. It’s a version of Chris Anderson’s “mental transaction costs” — even “very cheap” forces a thought process that “free” does not.

So what happens when we move back to a world where data is scarce? Will we act like I did in the days of my 300-minute cell phone plan? (Wherearewemeeting? OKbye!) With consumers facing an extra $15 per extra 200 MB used (depending on your plan), will news sites — particularly those heavy on video — suffer from user indecision? This New York Times video on New Orleans bounce weighs in at 32.9 MB; our latest video is 216 MB. Mobile versions are smaller when available, but even then, a few videos can send users of the cheapest iPhone plan down the toll road. (AT&T estimates that someone on that plan could watch only 20 minutes of streaming video a month before hitting the cap.)

I spoke with Jeff Whatcott, senior vice president of marketing for the online video platform Brightcove, which provides the video back end for lots of news sites. He said that while the shift may cause some changes in user behavior at the margins, he doesn’t predict a shift away from mobile video. If anything, he says, Brightcove has seen the opposite: The iPad has triggered immense interest among advertisers, who want to get rich media like video ready for mobile.

Whatcott suspects that AT&T wouldn’t set prices in such a way that they’d “kill the golden goose.” If users started seeing their monthly bill skyrocket, they might abandon their devices. But going over, say, ten bucks a month? Abandonment seems less likely. “The people that are buying [mobile devices] have disposable income and unless the cost of these new data plans are just exorbitant, where people are getting bills for hundreds or thousands of dollars, I think the costs are going to be in that reasonable range.” No one likes paying the cable bill, he points out, but most of us do anyway.

But what about just the threat of a higher bill? Could fear water down use? Whatcott says he can imagine that sentiment, it being somewhat like using a costly international data plan, which he does traveling. “I think it’s a real world concern,” he says, “but it hasn’t been an acute thing that has bubbled up to us as a crisis.”

I also reached out to Adobe, which helped Wired build its successful iPad app, which weighs in at a whopping 500 MB. Dave Dickson, product marketing manager for digital publishing at Adobe, said he didn’t think the move away from unlimited data would have a big impact on apps like Wired’s. AT&T already limits the downloading of large (over 20 MB) apps to wifi or desktop connections only, and downloading an entire magazine issue at once eliminates the slow dribble of data that its web equivalent would involve.

Indeed, a shift to wifi is a common prediction for how consumers would react to capped data plans. AT&T has in the past pushed iPhone owners to shift to wifi whenever possible.

Still, smartphones are designed to be mobile devices, and it’s not realistic to expect users to have wifi available anywhere they’d like to consume content. “Should smartphones emerge as the device class of choice,” Dickson emailed, “publishers may need to tailor their content package to the capabilities of the device (for example, streaming video instead of embedding it) so that users can more easily download and view content applications under bandwidth-restricted conditions.”

Mobile Marketer Daily explored this topic when the new data plans were announced, and analysts for the mobile ad industry agreed that the new structure is unlikely to reverse a trend toward an explosion in mobile devices. “I don’t think this move by AT&T will slow the adoption of smartphones and connected devices like the iPad, as enough consumers have experienced first-hand the benefits of how these devices enrich their daily life,” Paul Kultgen, director of mobile media and advertising at Nielsen Online, Chicago told Mobile Marketer Daily.

In any event, we’ll find out in the coming months whether there’s any real impact for mobile video. If you’re on a newly tiered plan and watching your KBs the way you once watched your minutes, has it affected how you surf the web?

June 07 2010

19:26

Apple’s impact: What Steve Jobs’ WWDC announcements mean for the news industry’s mobile strategy

Apple CEO Steve Jobs just stepped off the stage in San Francisco at this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference. His announcements focused squarely on the new iPhone 4, about which you’ll find no shortage of information at Apple’s site and elsewhere online.

But what do Apple’s announcements mean for the news industry, which increasingly looks to mobile product — Apple’s in particular — as a new delivery mechanism and (fingers crossed) a revenue driver? Here are five takeaways from Jobs’ keynote that will have an impact on news organizations.

Apple’s spate of satire- and morals-related rejections of apps rejected from the App Store appear to be a pretty low priority for the company.

Apple’s come under a lot of criticism from developers for how it manages its App Store, the major platform for reaching iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad owners. An Apple rejection can mean the investment of building an app is rendered worthless, and it’s not always clear why, precisely, an app is being rejected.

Here’s what Jobs had to say about the App Store approval process, paraphrasing from gdgt’s liveblog of the event:

We get about 15k apps submitted every week. They come in up to 30 different languages. Guess what: 95% of the apps submitted are approved within 7 days. What about the 5% that aren’t? Why don’t we approve them? Let me give you the three top reasons.

The number one reason: it doesn’t function as advertised. It doesn’t do what the developer says it does, so we tell the developer to change the app or the description.

The second reason: the developer uses private APIs. … If we upgrade the OS and the app breaks, we won’t have a happy customer.

And the third most frequent reason: they crash. If you were in our shoes, you’d be rejecting apps for the exact same reasons.

I just wanted to give you the facts — sometimes when you read some of these articles, you may think other stuff is going on.

Maybe number four was “violates Apple’s sense of morality,” and number five was “makes fun of powerful people.” But we don’t know that, because Jobs didn’t mention either. News orgs are fine with the technical guidelines he outlined, but App Store rejections based on rude editorial cartoons or an artfully bare nipple are harder for them to take.

Apple still has not done the obvious: state clearly what is allowed and what is not in terms of morals and satire. Not doing so, of course, maximizes Apple’s power because it can decide on a case-by-case basis. But it also means that content producers can’t have any confidence in the system, and open platforms like Android will have increasing appeal.

Apple’s become a big player in the ebook space very quickly — and that’s a space news orgs want to be in.

In the two months since the iPad launched — and with it Apple’s new ebook platform, iBooks — Apple has taken over a remarkable 22 percent of the ebook market. (That’s based on data from five of the six major publishing companies; the sixth, Random House, isn’t on the iPad.)

In one sentence, Jobs revealed more hard data about ebook sales than Amazon has in 2.5 years of the Kindle. (I exaggerate, but only slightly. Amazon still hasn’t unveiled any hard numbers on Kindle device or ebook sales. Maybe this will prompt them.)

Those Apple ebook sales are based on the 2 million iPads sold, which are the only Apple devices that have iBooks. But iBooks is coming to the iPhone and iPod touch later this month — around the same time Jobs said the 100 millionth iPhone OS device will be sold. In other words, iBooks’ momentum is about to get punched up.

I continue to maintain that ebooks are a huge potential opportunity for news organizations. Ebooks favor timeliness and quick turnarounds in a way that traditional print books can’t, and the digital format means that expectations for length are tossed aside. There’s not much of a print business model for a 50-page printed prose book — but there absolutely can be one for a 50-page ebook. And people feel comfortable paying for ebooks, much more so than for anything labeled “news.” A growing ebooks market with dueling distribution systems (Amazon and Apple) fighting over content is a good thing for news organizations.

Better mobile screen quality could be a push away from print.

The new iPhone 4 features four times the pixels of its predecessor in the same space, which Jobs promises creates images and text far crisper than ever before. The images on display at the demo looked really impressive. And while the iPhone appears to be in the lead now, undoubtedly its competition will catch up soon enough.

Pro: A better screen means more people will find using mobile devices more pleasant. That could lead to more use of news orgs’ apps and websites on them.

Con: A better screen limits the salience of one of print’s best selling points: higher visual quality. Jobs said 300 dpi is the limit for what the human eye can typically detect. Past iPhones have been at 162 dpi. The new iPhone 4 is 326 dpi — a level Jobs says is indistinguishable from print. (“Text looks like you’ve seen it in a fine printed book, unlike you’ve ever seen in an electronic display,” Jobs said, paraphrasing.) We’ll see about that, but newspapers and magazines are still a lot more effective monetizing print publications than digital ones, so devaluing one of print’s best qualities probably won’t help.

The “mobile” part of mobile video will increasingly mean editing, not just shooting.

Jobs unveiled a version of iMovie for the iPhone; a version for the iPad can’t be too far off, even though the iPad (currently) lacks a camera. There have been editing apps for video on the iPhone and other platforms before, but iMovie looked both powerful and relatively simply. Reporters in the field getting iPhone video will find it easier than ever to do their own edit before shipping it back to headquarters. I wouldn’t want to be Flip right now; the reasons to have a Flip in addition to a smartphone seem fewer now.

Even before launching, iAd is proving to be a big gorilla in the mobile display advertising space.

I’ve written about iAd before. It’s Apple’s new immersive, interactive advertising platform being offered up to iPhone developers to put into their apps. Today Jobs showed off a sample iAd, and the crowd seemed to like it.

But the most stunning datapoint was Jobs’ claim that iAd would take in 48 percent of the U.S. mobile display advertising business in the second half of 2010. Remarkable if true, although it’s derived from some questionable math (dividing Apple’s hard-dollar sales numbers into a JP Morgan estimate from the start of the year — see page 46 of that document for the origin). And mobile display advertising is only a small slice of overall mobile advertising — in the same report, SMS advertising is a $3.2 billion business and mobile search advertising is another $321 million.

But in any event, it’s a sign that Apple is here as a big player in yet another market. For large news organizations that could afford to do their own mobile ad sales, Apple’s probably a competitor. For smaller ones that would have a tough time breaking into the mobile ad game, getting 60 percent of iAd revenues — the share Apple is promising — might not be such a bad deal.

March 24 2010

13:45

Fox Readying "Hulu-Like" Mobile Video Site Called Bitbot

Today, Fox is expected to announce a Hulu-like service for mobile devices that will offer a range of content from Fox, NBC Universal, and Discovery, according to a report in GigaOM

The free application comes with sneak previews, and full content will have a $10 a month subscription fee. It is expected to launch "in several weeks."

Last month in San Francisco, we caught up with Gregg Colvin, VP of Business Development for Fox Interactive to speak about syndication strategy for the network.  He said that micropayments and subscriptions around mobile content is a growing business area for the network.

Gregg was a participant in the online video summit.

Andy Plesser, Executive Producer

February 03 2010

20:07

Three Key Video Trends to Watch This Year, According to Online Video Analyst Will Richmond

Keep an eye on how the growth in online video will shift this year into the mobile world via smartphones like Google's Android and Apple's iPhone, said Will Richmond, the publisher of daily news site VideoNuze.

Will and I host the podcast The VideoNuze Report each week, and I sat down with him at the recent NATPE conference in Las Vegas to get his take on key trends in 2010 in online video.

Other trends to watch this year include TV Everywhere rollouts and the consumer adoption of convergence devices such as Roku, Boxee and Xbox, he said. Richmond also gives his take on the challenges Hulu faces giving the rollouts of TV Everywhere and the Comcast acquisition of Hulu parent NBC Universal

Daisy Whitney, Senior Producer

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl