YouTube, with millions of single-click unlinked video fragments, is not the future of broadband entertainment. iTunes, with a closed business model focused exclusively on selling iPods, also is not the future. The future, says PodShow CEO Ron Bloom and his partner, original MTV VJ Adam Curry, is "serialized episodic content that bridges the gap between TV networks and YouTube. On-demand content delivered fresh to audiences who are waiting for it is the new model."
"Having been part of MTV when it exploded, I can feel the same thing happening now," Curry shared in an exclusive interview.
Broadband audio and video is transitioning from single-clip to episodic content in response to audience interest, and advertisers will follow quickly, Bloom believes. "There are no 'legs' for brand marketers in single clip video and audio content," he points out. "People hated spam and instant messaging was the solution because it's by invitation only. They accept Google advertising because it's relevant to their needs. But the Internet enables anyone to sell and Google enables any seller to advertise. It's not a relevant model for major brand marketers. Now people hate pre-roll video advertising, but advertising can become a delight when it's relevant to content they've invited in."
Curry left MTV in 1994 after seven years, joining with Bloom to launch their first venture, On Ramp, an early online entertainment company that went public in 1996. They reconnected in 2004 and launched PodShow a year later, building one of the most heavily trafficked entertainment websites featuring nearly 200 professionally produced episodic video and audio programs.
"There's a revolution being created by a swell of creative people who can't get through the traditional distribution bottleneck," says Curry, "and there's an audience trying to connect with these people. There's an incredible wave coming of professional episodic content delivered on any platform audiences want." While Bloom believes mainstream networks will produce episodic broadband content, he expects they will run into rights conflicts with producers who realize they don't need the networks' traditional distribution model to gain access to audiences. Similarly, he anticipates single-click video sites like YouTube will create themed video content channels, but believes the content will not be well suited for building repeat audiences.
Broadband and VOD ventures like Ripe Media and Heavy target focused demographic groups, while Bloom boasts PodShow.com serves all demos with a wide array of content, although he applauds similar broadband audio and video ventures.
Audience demand for audio and video, says Curry, has forced the Internet to move more quickly to broadband. "The Internet was not created in response to audience demand. But now broadband is driving consumer demand for video and audio content and advertisers are following right behind. It's happening exponentially. Advertisers need to take notice that audiences are looking past single videos and attaching themselves to new media properties."
Programming today is competing with the desktop… with online chat, text messaging, social networks, and other new distractions. Traditional models of programming length and formats, promotion, channels, audience attention, screen size, and advertising integration all need to be completely rethought and configured for an audience that wants its content of choice delivered on-demand on multiple platforms. Content needs to be reformatted dynamically for each space it occupies in the media palate. Users need the ability to modify, manage and distribute their content of choice to any platform.
Bloom points out "the audience is driving the new model but not programming it. YouTube is an audience programmed website and it's hard to differentiate programming from noise. For brand marketers, it's about relevance and predictability." PodShow's approach is professionally produced episodic content enabled for delivery to any device. The home run, Bloom adds, is the integration of social context, enabling viewers and listeners to network with other fans and with program producers and talent through chat, SMS, IM and social communities.
With this model, PodShow now claims to be moving past 100 million download requests per quarter with 10 to 20 million downloads per month for its top shows. The company recently hired Andrew Budkofsky to expand its New York ad sales presence, and is focusing on custom program development in association with key marketers. "There's no engagement with pre-roll advertising," explains Bloom. "We believe programming needs to be episodic, invited in by audiences, and must provide a trusted environment for marketers. Messages can be integrated in a relevant and engaging way that audiences embrace."
In Curry's and Bloom's vision of the future, there is no channel changing and no commercial skipping. "Generations of audiences are already consuming media differently than the 50+ executives who are making decisions," Bloom says. "Broadband audio and video requires different programming models and different advertising models. It's not just about cost-per-thousand. It's about relationship building."
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