Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Cynopsis: DIGITAL


Good morning, it’s Thursday, September 25, 2008, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.

Yahoo introduced a significant upgrade to its online advertising apparatus yesterday, developed with the Yahoo Newspaper Consortium. The new “APT” platform taps data Yahoo collects including users’ locations, demographic info and surfing habits to allow advertisers to better target their campaigns. The company hopes the platform will give both Yahoo and its newspaper publishing clients a much-needed boost in the display ad business, which has been hit hard by the economic slowdown and is losing ground to rival formats. Consortium members including E.W. Scripps Co., McClatchy Co., Hearst Corp., Media General Inc. and A.H. Belo Corp. have already been testing the platform in recent weeks.


In its first major deal since going public Discovery announced a content tie up with YouTube that will lead to the launch of 9 branded YouTube channels in the U.S. and a group of additional international native language channels to come later this year. Each channel corresponds to a Discovery network including Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Planet Green, Discovery Health and Science Channel. To kick off the effort Mythbusters hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are hosting a viewer challenge asking users to upload myth-themed videos that may inspire future shows.
There’s no telling how much a viral hit can boost traffic across an entire site. A simple email making the rounds this week linking to a poll on the NOW section of (asking whether or not Sarah Palin is qualified to serve as VP of the U.S.) has driven record traffic to the entire site according to the network. Sourcing data from Google Analytics, PBS says:

  • A new single-day traffic record was set for on Monday, Sept. 22nd with more than 2 million visits. had 8.2 million visits from 6.5 million unique visitors in the last seven days (9/17 – 9/23/08)
  • received an average of 1.1 million visits per day in the last week (9/17 – 9/23) with 7.2 million pageviews on the Sarah Palin poll page; more than 50 million votes were cast
  • The recently-launched PBS KIDS GO! video player is already streaming nearly 1 million video clips a week

SN Digital‘s launches a redesign today replacing the tab-based interface that had users clicking through topics as they would sift through recipes in their recipe box. Recipes now appear in a much cleaner format and are accompanied by a helpful suggestion engine pointing users to “similar, quicker or lighter” options. New web series will be featured and more videos culled from Food Network shows are presented, better integrated across the site as how-to guides, eating suggestions or holiday ideas. Also look for a new Food Network iPhone application.


Requiring a downloadable client player didn’t work for Joost but concerned parents may be willing to go the extra mile. Kidthing is a slick new entertainment player aimed at kids, parents and teachers designed to distribute safe digital content from top name kids publishers including HarperCollins Children’s Books, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Penguin Young Readers Groups. There are no ads – rather parents pay for downloads on an a la carte basis. Whatever is purchased resides on Kidthing servers and can be accessed from any computer whether at school, home or grandma’s house. The National Education Association’s Read Across America campaign has chosen kidthing as its exclusive digital distribution partner offering free downloads for teachers to use in their classrooms each month.
Here’s a fun concept. Amuso is a user generated game show portal featuring a proprietary embeddable media player that makes it easy to create, enter and keep up with online contests. A creation engine allows users to create their own game show concept and utilize viral marketing techniques to attract entrants, who may pay a nominal cash fee to join. The Amuso community will also vote up the best entries, helping their exposure. The producer gets to keep 15% of the entry fees as their reward once the show wraps.
For more fun and games check out World Office Sports, a new online series created by and Shorn Entertainment to support Twix’s “Need a Moment” Campaign. The four online videos feature in-office sports competitions such as Mail Cart Luge and Wastebasketball in which office peons compete for the coveted Gold Stapler award. 
Video portal Dailymotion launched a Canadian version of its site featuring homepages targeting both English and French-speaking users.


Here’s another destination to help feed your hunger for gadget news. Obsessable is a new blog from a start-up called Crowd Fusion. It’s led by Brian Alvey, co-founder of Weblogs – the folks behind Engadget, Autoblog and TV Squad. This is a competitive space, no doubt, but the initial product is very well organized and well informed. Engadget veterans Randall Bennett & Evan Blass are its appropriately obsessed Managing Editors.
The New Air Sharing iPhone app from Avatron Software lets you wirelessly connect iPhone or iPod touch to a Mac, PC, or Linux computer and drag documents (including MS Office docs, Pages documents, Keynote presentations, PDFs, images, and others) to your iPhone or iPod touch without plugging in the cable. It goes for $6.99 on the Apple App Store.
Check out QuikMaps, a nifty little web app that allows you to doodle, draw lines or add icons to any Google map.


Mobile video delivery/advertising platform Transpera announced a partnership with widget network Clearspring Technologies to further integrate its mobile video service offerings by way of online widgets. The deal includes implementation of Clearspring’s online widget technology, featuring the “Send-to-Mobile” capability powered by Transpera, where a user can send a video to a mobile phone directly from a widget. Clearspring is the leading widget provider in the U.S. according to the latest comScore WidgetMetrics report with over 57 million monthly views.


announced its latest microseries with Lincoln dubbed RPM, a crime-thriller from Mandalay Television starring Jonathan Schaech (Prom Night), Lori Heuring (Runaway Jury) and Brian White (The Shield). Featured within primetime episodes of Law & Order, the microseries will extend the crime drama into commercial breaks and feature the Lincoln MKS within the storyline and across multiple platforms driving tune-in.


Overall online video usage declined slightly in August as some viewers unglued themselves from their computers for a spell. But those who watched viewed more as time spent per person actually increased by nearly 8% from July to August, according to Nielsen Online. An analysis of the two chief presidential candidates sites had video streams and views to increasing by 155% and 173% respectively, compared to relatively flat gains on The McCain campaign may have received a boost from women users since the Sarah Palin selection, however, as women viewed 58% of the videos on the site in August.
Overall Online Video Usage (U.S.) July ’08 vs. Aug. ’08
                                 Jul-08         Aug-08      Percent Change
Unique Viewers (000)   119,146       117,916         -1.0%
Total Streams (000)  8,526,733    8,061,706        -5.5%
Streams per Viewer          71.6          68.4         -4.5%
Time per Viewer (min)     170.5         183.9          7.8%
Source: Nielsen Online, VideoCensus
Note: Includes progressive downloads and excludes video advertising.
Top Online Brands ranked by Video Streams – Aug. ’08
Brand                              Total Streams (000)  Unique Viewers (000)
YouTube                            4,762,883                   76,746
Fox Interactive Media              278,375                   16,053
Nickelodeon Kids and Family      223,044                    6,935
MSN/Windows Live                  205,018                  12,035
Disney Online                         171,249                   10,341
Yahoo!                                  169,259                   19,659
ESPN                                    123,123                    5,827
Hulu                                     107,622                    2,632
CNN Digital Network                106,383                    8,111
Turner Sports and Ent.             87,441                    3,892
Source: Nielsen Online, VideoCensus
Note: Includes progressive downloads and excludes video advertising.


Aimee Viles has been named VP/New Media for the recently consolidated Bravo Media. She will report to Lisa Hsia, SVP/Digital and New Media Strategy and be responsible for supervising Bravo’s New Media department, including all wireless, interactive TV, gaming and other emerging media initiatives.
Quincy C. Newell
was named President of Codeblack Interactive, the new digital division of Sherman Oaks-based African American-targeted film studio Codeblack Entertainment. Quincy will lead the push to distribute past and current Codeblack titles across digital outlets. He reports to Codeblack Founder and CEO Jeff Clanagan.
Audrey Iwanczyszyn
has been appointed Managing Director of Channels and Platforms for MoMedia International to oversee the company’s move into channel distribution such as developing new partner wildlife site WildEarth into a TV brand. Audrey was formerly VP and Managing Director EMEA for the Hallmark Channel.


Micro-television network publisher NextNewNetworks (Barely Political) has some encouraging news to share this week. NNN’s YouTube channel, which has been up and running for nearly 2 years, is now regularly selling out its overlay and banner ad inventory. The company sells its own sponsorships on a CPM basis for its channels and these ads travel along wherever the video is syndicated, including on the boob tube itself via TivoCast. So actually these shows are selling their inventory out, period. Traffic via YouTube is responsible for nearly half of the company’s 20+ million aggregate monthly views, which speaks to the continued importance of YouTube as a distribution outlet. NNN founders Fred Seibert (who was MTV’s first creative director back in the day) and Tim Shey attribute their early success to their ubiquitous distribution strategy (“We built the company on the premise we’d be agnostic as far as availability,” says Seibert) as well as to the idea of putting community first. Shows are greenlit only if a viable community and a logical advertising base can be built around them. NNN is at an interesting crossroads at the moment, losing three of its regular shows (Epic FU, Veracificer and Pulp Secret’s The Stack) and getting ready to replace them with new ones that fit into what it sees as its thematic sweet spot – namely humor, lifestyle and automotive. If the studio and its distribution apparatus are firing on all cylinders, these shows should be able to find audiences much more quickly than inaugural efforts.

Later — Wayne
 Wayne Karrfalt for Cynopsis: Digital

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