Forget YouTube, Ellen DeGeneres now has Her own digital video network, ellentube

This interview with me was originally published by Adam Flomenbaum in Lost Remote.

ellentube-og-1200x630Ellen DeGeneres on her show last week announced the launch of ellentube, her new digital video network (and app) that will host videos that are “fun” and not “mean spirited.” The site will allow users to send videos directly to Ellen – which will be reviewed by Ellen’s team – and ellentube will also host favorite videos, show clips, and exclusive content produced by the woman behind the selfie seen ‘round the world.

ellentube is powered by Kaltura’s open source online video platform, Kaltura, a New-York based company founded in 2006, has secured $100 million in financing and currently has over 300,000 publishers using its platform. ellentube is based on Kaltura’s MediaSpace social video portal, which can be deployed as an out-of-the-box application, with the ability for full customization and branding.

Ellen is no Oprah, but her following is sizeable, and more, she has proven to be more attuned to the digital generation. ellentube is not democratic – her team will carefully curate videos that are all-around positive and are thus good for Ellen’s brand. Using digital platforms for brand building is something that celebrities have already experimented with and will continue to do so. For more on ellentube, how it complements Ellen’s other digital undertakings, and whether this is something we will see more celebrities doing, we spoke with Kaltura product manager Iddo Shai:

Lost Remote: How is this a better experience for fans than YouTube?

Iddo Shai: The site perfectly mirrors the Ellen Show experience, which is always fun, open and positive. Unlike YouTube, ellentube is curated. YouTube has some great content, but it also has some not-so-great content. On ellentube the videos are always great, because there is an editorial team behind the scenes, making sure that only videos that meet the site’s standards are published. This means that fans can spend literally hours watching really fun content.

Curation helps making sure the content is good, and it also helps with content being appropriate for all age groups. This is not the case with YouTube. Let me quote Ellen when launching the site on the show “if you accidentally type in a word wrong, you are not going to stumble upon something that’s… bad or mean or… you know how that can happen. Everything on the site is fun, nothing is mean spirited.’

And finally there’s the interactive aspect. The show didn’t only build a site but also a native app that makes it extremely easy for users to upload their videos. Kaltura also helped make the reviewing process quick and easy. Doing that via the YouTube app would have been challenging and almost impossible”.

LR: How does this complement Ellen’s other digital undertakings. 

Shai: Ellen is really a pioneer when it comes to digital and social media. She holds the world record of the most retweeted picture, and she was also one of the first to interview the Twitter sensation #AlexFromTarget.

So it’s no accident that she is also one of the first celebrities to build their own video centric site, connecting directly with fans, asking them to register to the site and featuring their videos on her show. A few years ago, TV talent didn’t understand why the second screen was important, we heard TV producers worried about building a web entity thinking it would hurt their ratings. The opposite is actually happening. With these videos going viral, Ellen’s ratings will go up. And when people want to watch more content, they will got to ellentube, where the experience is all about ellen and she is not just another contributor in an ocean of videos. From there, the sky is the limit: exclusive content, selling merchandise and more – I am curious myself to see what’s next.

LR: Will this be something we see more celebrities doing to engage fans?

Shai: I believe so. And I believe ellentube will show many of them the way. I think this will make a lot of sense for celebrities that are highly engaged with video content. And now it is easier than ever with tools like our MediaSpace product – an out-of-the-box social video portal, which ellentube is based on. Kaltura MediaSpace can be launched as is very quickly, or further customized to the customer’s liking.

They can create video communities, where users come to watch but also participate. We at Kaltura have seen bands doing live streaming for fans while being on the road, for example. Some of this stuff you can do on free platforms, but not everything. And especially for celebrities that can get a massive audience, splitting the revenue with Google makes very little sense. If you are giving it for free, you can at least ask for your fans’ email address. You can’t do that on YouTube.

LR: Anything else?

Shai: We are seeing a strong trend with user generated content. Remember, this is the selfie generation and there’s huge potential in creating TV shows and also marketing campaigns that ask people to submit their own content. With smartphones and apps it’s easier than ever and it creates an infinite feedback loop. This is what social TV is all about and this is what good marketing campaigns are all about.

We have seen one good examples of that when one of our customers called Visalus did a weight loss challenge and had people document themselves every step of the way and then others voted for them to win a nice prize. Creating truly unique interactive video experiences for communities with common interests is difficult to do well on a mega-site like YouTube, where one size fits all.

New Technology Promises to Unify a Fragmented Video Ad Market

This article was originally published via The Guardian Media Network.

onlinr video adsA few weeks ago I stumbled upon an article titled Why the Pipes Are Broken in Mobile Advertising. If you are an advertiser or a publisher dealing with online video, the challenges the article mentions would sound all too familiar: fragmentation of mobile devices, a dearth of good analytics, a lack of ad format standards and too many isolated solutions that only work for specific devices or streaming method. But guess what? That article was actually written in 2011 – before all the great devices such as connected TVs, tablets and Chromecast had caught on.

Is it really possible that no advancements have been made in almost three years? In reality, much has changed.

Specifications such as VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) and VPAID (Video Player-Ad API definition) have set the standard for online video ad types as pre-rolls, video pods and overlays. As a result, it’s much easier to integrate with multiple ad networks and maximise one’s ad inventory. Cost per thousand page impressions (CPMs) and real-time targeting are also far better than they used to be, thanks to improved cookies and real-time bidding.

All of these factors have made online video advertising smarter. Online video ads are far more effective than banners because user engagement can be tracked, allowing advertisers to know if the skip button was clicked or if the ads were muted by the viewer. In many ways, online video ad tools are much smarter than those used to track viewing of traditional TV commercials.

And while online video advertising is clearly a great way to monetise content online, we are not out of the woods yet. In some ways, the landscape is more challenging than it was back in 2011 – mainly due to increasing device fragmentation.

While online viewing is booming, an increasing number of viewers are using “closed” devices such as connected TVs and games consoles that are notoriously hard for publishers and advertisers to target. For example, on some of these devices, a pre-roll can be run pretty easily, but a mid-roll (i.e. a video ad that runs in the middle of the video) throws up challenges. As a result, the classic TV ad experience (2-3 ad breaks per programme) can’t be offered by online content providers.

Fortunately, a combination of two ad serving technologies that reduce the challenges posed by device fragmentation are starting to make an impact: native player ad delivery and server-side ad stitching.

Native player ad delivery (or “smart ads”)

These are used today on desktops, browsers on Apple devices, and native applications on iOS and new versions of Android. With this technology, once the user clicks the “Play” button, the player calls for an ad.

By using the native player, the ad is much “smarter” and advertisers have more options: the ad can be configured to be skippable or non-skippable and can include a strong call to action and an option to click on it. This approach also allows improved targeting based on the age, geo-location and the context of the ad environment (eg website, article) and improved analytics.

Server side ad stitching (or “dumb ads”)

These let publishers reach pretty much any device that can be used to stream video – almost all Android browsers, connected TVs, Xbox, video aggregation mobile apps and Chromecast. It even helps with some ad blockers. This approach “stitches” the ad to the video file, removing much of the work that would otherwise need to be done to specifically integrate with a device’s native player. If the device can play the video, it can play the ad. Ad stitching is consequently a good option for campaigns focused on reaching a broad audience and can help to significantly drive fill rate.

That said, it does have a few limitations. Stitched ads don’t have easy-to-set-up skip buttons. Some stitched ads are very easy to skip, by simply skipping forward using the scrubber but in most cases the advertisers will not even know the ad was skipped. In addition, user targeting is limited and publishers have much less intelligence about how the ads perform.

Online video monetisation – whether via smart/dumb ads or via other payment models – is a hot topic this year. And while we have yet to solve some of the critical online advertising pain points that were present back in 2011, significant progress is being made. Dumb ads are a good tool – albeit perhaps a temporary one. The future will probably see more smart ads coming to the fore, regardless of how they are delivered to the device.

As we move into a more personalised web, the ability to get maximum insight into end users’ viewing habits and interests is key. It’s essential to keep that top of mind when approaching today’s monetisation challenges.