Commentary

Google's New Helpouts Adds New Real-Time Video How-To Service

It is a complicated world and judging from the Dummy textbooks, there must be good money in it.

Google has now formally started Helpouts a suite of presumably helpful one-on-one, live video help guides, for which users will pay either by the minute (for computer help) or the session (for many music lessons). Some are free.

Altogether at this point, there are about 1,000 different experts who range from gardening pros to chefs to health gurus. I may have missed it, but it seems Google is not touching car repair. If you ask for help with “automobiles” you’re taken to “front-end Web development tutorials.” So Click and Clack seem to be safe.

The idea of real-time, real-people help (for real cash, too) isn’t totally new. There are other sites that do some of this, including sites that give music lessons. And there’s eHow and WebMD and several thousand how-to videos on Google’s own YouTube.

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Using them, I’ve fixed a lawnmower and not fixed a portable electric generator, and made rude, crude approximations of what (apparently) could have been great meals.  It’s not like the Internet doesn’t mean to be helpful, to be sure; if Helpouts grows like something run by Google can, it could make life tough for others in that space, particularly if Google starts matching advertising to topics, which would seem to be likely.  

Or matching experts to marketers, which it’s already doing. CNN reported, “Sephora has free makeup advice from its own staff of experts who will tell you how to put on the perfect red lip. Making its Helpouts free is smart marketing for Sephora, which can suggest its own products during the video sessions. Other companies signed up include Rosetta Stone, Weight Watchers and One Medical.”

(Score another one for native advertising, a big topic at MediaPost’s OMMA event in New York  today, when “On the Media” and MediaPost columnist Bob Garfield called native advertising fraudulent for –usually-- masquerading as editorial content.)

But while Helpouts would tend to have a problem with scale—how many people do you need to give one-on-one advice?—it also benefits from the complexity of Internet devices themselves. Every business that touches on the computer biz seems to have its version of the Geek Squad. It can do great business just explaining Windows products.

Gigaom.com thinks Helpouts could make a killing in the health field, noting that the service adheres by federal privacy regulations in place to protect patient data. It already has a deal with One Medical Group (Google owns a slice of it). The real killer app could be to make Helpouts available to a large HMO, the Website muses.  Big health care providers already offer help like that. I do mine over the phone. Assuming some day the Affordable Care Act arrives safely back from intensive care, many experts believe the next crisis might be a shortage of doctors and overall medical help. Gives me headaches. For Google, it might give them a lot of paying third-party experts.

 Google has been toying with the idea since this summer, at least, when it called for experts to start soliciting.  

People have to get all Googled up to use Helpouts, including paying for the service through Google Wallet. The experts kick back 20% to the Google empire, in most cases. But in a complicated world, this could be a development worth watching, and probably something I’ll end up paying for.

pj@mediapost.com    

1 comment about "Google's New Helpouts Adds New Real-Time Video How-To Service".
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  1. Ceasar Sanchez from N/A, November 6, 2013 at 6:52 a.m.

    I don't know, man. I seldom use Google Plus or Hangouts. I did a quick search for video related content (Adobe Premiere Pro & After Effects) and the choices were severely limited to 2-5 tutorial suites. The pricing was okay and I'm sure the classes are in-depth but there's also the plethora of YouTube content on the topics too for nearly no cost, if you can be selective in the pros that post content there. Plus, $50 for a single class - that's 20% of what I'd pay for a year's subscription to Lynda.com.

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