AOL Beefs Up Video Search Engine

America Online's audio/video search unit Singingfish Inc. today is expected to announce a series of new content-feed partnerships with AtomFilms, CBSNews.com, and Dow Jones'MarketWatch, among others. Karen Howe, Singingfish vice president and general manager, said that while the engine's crawler has most likely indexed content from these publishers in the past, the partnerships will dramatically improve accessibility of content.

"Working with publishers allows us to significantly improve the meta data, which helps us sort the feeds and helps users find them," Howe explained. "The partnerships also give access to nearly all of the content that publishers want to make available, and give them control over the feeds they want live or dead."

The Singingfish search engine delivers links to streaming audio or video from an index of more than 20 million pieces of streaming content. When users click on results, two windows pop up--one for the media format that streams the content, and another for the content provider's home page, also know as a "daughter window."

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Web publishers can't get enough of the traffic that is driven to their sites via daughter windows, said Howe. "I love the fact that conversations with publishers have gone so well, because they really understand the clear and present need to surface their content, and the way to do that is to work closely with us."

But, said Howe, existing partners--including MSNBC, NPR, and Reuters--as well as new ones have to invest considerably to both digitize and encode their content with meta information before Singingfish can make it readily available.

Today, however, there are far less barriers for publishers than there were even a year ago. The cost of bandwidth and general encoding, and the cost of storing files, is way down. And, while most providers are still experimenting with monetization models, Howe is continually struck by the new sources of video feeds adding to Singingfish's index.

"Health, travel, fashion--pick a vertical and they're trying to get their video content out there," said Howe. "The promotional value of these efforts can't be quantified yet, but it will be great."

Other partners announced today include entertainment sites such as Big-Boys.com, Like Television, ManiaTV.com, Hollywood.com, and The One Network, as well as video technology site ROO Media, and Healthology, Inc.

Singingfish users can search by media format, category, and time length. Users can also save and send their searches.

Currently, said Howe, the ad model involves advertisers paying for inclusion in the search results, generally on a per-stream basis. Singingfish guarantees advertisers inclusion in the index, but doesn't guarantee placement on any search query; paid inclusion results are not highlighted in the natural search results.

Howe said the main advantage of paid inclusion for advertisers is the option of customized landing pages, such as pages highlighting promotional offers, or ones where users can make purchases.

She added that the model is still evolving, and that in the future, Singingfish might offer rich media and display advertising. The company is also considering custom home page takeovers and other brand sponsorship opportunities, Howe said.

Most of Singingfish's business still comes from licensing its technology to major Web portals and online media companies. Singingfish multimedia search results currently appear on WindowsMedia.com, RealNetworks, InfoSpace, and AOL. There are approximately 8 million queries per day across all of Singingfish's search properties, according to Howe.

Separately, on Wednesday AOL launched what it claims is the first online sports radio show produced by, and pitched at, bloggers. Dubbed Sports Bloggers Live, it can be found at sportsbloggerslive.com, and airs Mondays at 7 p.m. E.S.T.

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