How-To Video Sites Gaining Traction

In July, I wrote an article about a US site called ViewDo.com that had just made its debut. The website features content that allows users to understand how to do different tasks, broken down into categories, called DoPartments, that include arts, auto, computer, electronics, fitness, and food, among others. The home page, at the time of the article, contained such content as instructions on how to tie a Windsor knot.

An article, then, in Monday’s Daily Telegraph caught my eye while I was in London. The article described a website set to launch in a few weeks that will do the same thing in the UK market. The website, called Videojug.com, is being launched by Dan Thompson and will provide very similar information. In fact, in the article about Videojug’s impending launch, Mr. Thompson described examples of his content that included several of ViewDo’s videos, including how to tie a Windsor knot.

While the similarities are striking, the launch of these two websites so close together brings up three important points.

First, the internet has matured to the point that rich media–and especially video-on-demand content, whether delivered as a stream or download–is a natural focal point for a variety of sites being launched in what’s being billed as Web 2.0. No longer is video an after-thought on text-driven websites. We’re now at a point where many new websites are video-centric, and these do-it-yourself sites bear witness to the power that video content can have in daily life, especially ViewDo.com’s iPod-centric content, designed to be used in places where a computer just isn’t practical.

Videojug.com, a new how-to site based in the UK.

Figure 1

Second, the days of launching a website that contains a single good idea that can be leveraged into a worldwide leader are waning. Segmentation as a business strategy still makes sense, but on internet time the model has shifted to getting a universally-appealing service up and running smoothly before segmentation occurs. In other words, Google–and to a lesser extent ViewDo or VideoJug–are attractive to users on a global basis based on the service they provide, and not on whether the content is appealing to a particular geographic segment. In practical terms, this means that initial decisions regarding the financial implications and production value of content must knowingly address whether this content will only appeal to customers on one continent or many. Once the business is established, though, segmentation becomes a method to manage both growth and user experience "clutter." Google is again a good example of this–open google.com is Switzerland and the URL changes to google.ch, automatically returning content in German or French first, then in English as a secondary experience.

Third, the two sites appear to have different methods of generating content, which may provide the biggest insight into the differentiation of approaches. The Daily Telegraph article didn’t reveal much about VideoJug’s intent to allow consumers to add their own content but did note that Dan Thompson’s group is commissioning over 100 initial videos. This means the content will have a higher production value but also may limit the scalability of do-it-yourself content. ViewDo started down that same path, but shifted gears to allow content to be generated from consumers themselves.

"Currently our content is a mix of ViewDos that we have created and that have been submitted by our users," said co-founder Alan Puccinelli during a recent interview. "That said, we recognize that in order to scale to become the community for how-to videos online, the ‘idea’ of ViewDo is much larger than just us. We enjoy creating ViewDos on things that we know and interest us, but we know that the future bulk of our content exists with the rest of the world. Therefore, we are really working on encouraging submissions from the public, as everyone has knowledge that's worth sharing."

Investors for both companies would do well to consider the three points and how each company on either side of the Atlantic–and other companies that may pop up to fill the gap in Africa, different parts of Europe, the Middle East and Asia–can benefit from a general interest in consumer-viewed and consumer-generated content in the self-help and do-it-yourself rich media segments.

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