Video Curators

The New York Times reports today on a new Internet start-up.

Next New NetworksNext New Networks, a New York-based Internet start-up run and backed by former executives of MTV and Nickelodeon, will announce plans today to begin a series of video-oriented Web sites — what the company calls micro-networks — on niche topics like do-it-yourself fashion, comic books, car racing and cartoons.

The company has notable founders, credible investors, and is targeted at online video, all aspects to give it that buzz juice every new company wants when it launches. What interests me about the company is the kind of shows it plans to offer:

Next New Networks plans to blend elements of old and new media into a type of hybrid entertainment that is different from traditional television and user-generated sites like YouTube. Its various Web properties will revolve around professionally produced videos of three to eight minutes, which it plans to pitch to sponsors as safe and predictable places to advertise online.

Many of the programs will solicit contributions from their audiences, but the company will screen submissions before they approved as final product. The company plans to generate some programming itself while also identifying talented video contributors and bringing them into the Next New Networks fold.

The article leads us to believe that this format is mainly driven by the need to find a real revenue model from short Internet video. With YouTube only pulling in $15mm in 2006, it’s pretty clear that the right model hasn’t been developed yet. Advertisers are worried about associating their brands with the free-for-all that is consumer generated video. They’re happy to support the best of it, run away screaming from the worst of it, and right now there’s no way to know if the best or the worst will follow their ad. With this “curator” model, Next New hopes to deliver consistent quality which should allow advertisers to buy space with much greater confidence in the product.

Another reality, however, is the fact that we all know deep down that to be really valuable, online video needs to be curated. That is, we need someone to root through the mass of stuff and separate the wheat from the chaff. Not because we can’t decide for ourselves, but because we don’t have the time.

Remember chat rooms? In the early and mid 90s, people flocked to them for the sheer novelty of telling absolute strangers what was wrong with the world and how to fix it, all while using this cool new technology. There were specific community oriented chat rooms, but the wide open general subject rooms were most popular. Soon, though, we realized that it was all a bit like walking down the street and asking the first person you saw what he thought of US foreign policy. Turns out you really don’t care all that much what he thinks. You care what people you respect think, whether they are friends, family, or experts.

Consumer generated video is a bit like chat rooms were. Neat technology, a chance to express yourself, and some hidden gems among the generally boring or idiotic mass. Just as we found a way to connect with those people with whom we really wanted to talk, we’ll find a way to watch those videos that really interest us. That, I think, is what Next New Networks is really about.

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