Video Search: Still "Early Days"

Producing video content? There are video search engines that specialize in gathering up your video and making it available to searchers seeking such content.

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference, December 5-8, 2005, Chicago, IL.

Moderated by Chris Sherman, this session featured three executives from video search engines: Suranga Chandratillake, the co-founder and CTO of blinkx, John Thrall, head of Multi-Media Search Engineering at Yahoo Search, and Karen Howe, vice president of AOL Search and General Manager of Singingfish. The session also featured one expert in video search from a full-service interactive agency: Jon Leicht, Senior Project Manager at SiteLab International.

The consensus view of the panelists: While it is still "early days" for the video search, this is the perfect time start creating and optimizing content for this emerging category.

Suranga kicked things off by asking, "What is blinkx.TV?"

He then answered his rhetorical question by saying that blinkx.TV is:

  • a video search engine,
  • a destination and a syndicated service,
  • a video delivery platform, and
  • a monetization platform.

If you go to www.blinkx.tv, you can search over a million hours of TV and video content. This includes entertainment clips from ABC, HBO, and NBC; news footage from CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC; as well as user-generated content. blinkx.TV uses meta data, speech recognition, visual analysis, text on the page, and other factors to determine what content to display when a search is conducted.

Blinkx.TV is constantly enhancing its list of content partners and adding thousands of hours of video content to its index every week. Suranga outlined the two ways of getting video content into blinkx.TV:
Optimize pages and RSS feeds, so video content is found by blinkx.TV spiders
Submit individual files and feeds online at blinkx.TV

Suranga also said there is a blinkx content partner program "open to all, big and small." It is built on their Selfcast platform for video bloggers. It provides free hosting, ad insertion, and source-ping. It provides "directPlay" of partner content immediately on a relevant search, and also works on mobile devices like the new video iPod and PSP system.

Next, John spoke about Yahoo Video Search.

Yahoo Video Search uses a combination of factors to enable consumers to find and view different types of online video, including news footage, movie trailers, television clips and independently produced video. These factors include Yahoo's media crawling and ranking technology, its content and media relationships, as well as its support for Media Really Simple Syndication (Media RSS) - a self-publishing specification for audio and video content.

If you go to http://video.search.yahoo.com, you can search for video content from Yahoo partners including Buena Vista Pictures, CBS News, CMT, Discovery Communications (Discovery Channel, Travel Channel), IFILM, Internet Archive, Internet Broadcasting Systems, MTV, Reuters, Scripps Networks (Home & Garden Television, The Food Network), Stupid Videos, The One Network, TVEyes (Bloomberg news clips), and VH1 as well as movie trailers from Yahoo Movies and exclusive video from The Apprentice and The Contender.

Of course, you can also search for video content like the "Karate Chimp" and "Star Wreck in the Pirkinning" from independent publishers. As John said, "Yahoo Video Search provides consumers with a comprehensive source for video on the Web."

John added that Yahoo Video Search supports open standards in the creation and syndication of content. By supporting Media RSS, an extension to RSS, Yahoo Video Search hopes to foster openness and choice for independent video publishers looking to promote or syndicate their content.

Then, Karen spoke about Singingfish.

Singingfish is an audio video search engine with a large and growing index of streaming media files. It currently has 60 million streams indexed, including Real, Windows Media, QuickTime and MP3 files. And Singingfish finds 300,000 to one million new streams daily.

If you go to www.singingfish.com, you can find a broad range of audio video content, including music, news, sports, movies, radio, TV, and finance. The Singingfish index is also available on 20 web properties, including AOL, Lycos, Excite, metacrawler, and Dogpile. (Karen made her remarks about two weeks before Google agreed to invest $1 billion for a 5% stake in AOL. That agreement's broad range of new features includes "collaborating in video search and showcasing AOL's premium video service within Google Video.")

Karen said, "Metadata makes you visible and thumbnails don't hurt." She added that the most important fields for accurate recall are:

  • Title
  • Author, performer, creator of the content
  • Description
  • Copyright information
  • Creation date
  • Duration
  • Keywords

Karen also said secondary metadata fields - like publisher, notes, and publication location - can add value and boost recall. She said the Sfmedia RSS 2.0 module, a specification for multimedia content description, adds over 30 fields of information. Designed for sites with hundreds of streams, it works for audio, video, podcasts, videoblogs, and flash.

Jon, the final speaker, shared some lessons he had learned at SiteLab optimizing video files for search engines.

Jon said the key is producing meta information. He added that meta information can include keywords, but should be more descriptive for video search. File naming is critical and the page content where a file can be found appears to have an effect on media search. He also recommended producing a transcript of audio for use in Google.

Jon also said that meta information should be added during video encoding. If video is encoded from one format to another (i.e. from mpeg to Windows Media), then meta information must be re-added. And he pointed out that meta information is different for each video format. He said the two most popular encoding programs are Discreet Cleaner for the PC and Media Cleaner for the Mac.

After embedding meta information, Jon said the next step is submitting content to video search engines. Unfortunately, each video search engine has unique submission requirements. He illustrated this by showing a few of the differences in submitting video to Singingfish, Google, blinkx.TV, and Yahoo

Jon closed with some observations about the future for video search engines, saying "Content drives demand." And, he said only thing preventing video owners and creators from submitting even more content to video search engines was finding a way to monetize video search results.

During Q&A, it also became clear that monetization of video depends on developing new "video analytics." If advertisers can't measure the quantity and quality of this emerging audience, then they will be reluctant to do much more than test video search.

Nevertheless, that's what many people thought about regular search until Overture (now Yahoo Search Marketing) and Google AdWords turned web search into a multi-billion dollar business.

Greg Jarboe is the co-founder of SEO-PR, a search engine optimization company and public relations firm that specializes in news search, blog search and vertical search.