Anyone who has ever worked or karaoked with me knows that I'm vigilant about verbiage and a stickler for semantics. And readers of my last two Search Insider columns know that I'm on a video kick, contemplating a Google acquisition of blinkx and the best way to monetize online video.
Today, my predispositions collide with my muse as I drill down on the intent of video queries and concede that maybe I'm looking at this topic through the wrong lens.
I've been laser-focused on innovation in the video search space as a key component to improving the consumer's online video experience. My argument has been that improved search capabilities -- going beyond metadata to audio/video recognition -- will make video more accessible. This, combined with query-based, non-interruptive advertising, will provide more utility to consumers which will, in turn, make online video a more lucrative platform for marketers and publishers.
I went so far as to say "it's only a matter of time before video search becomes the No. 1 way people find video on the Web."
It was a recent demo of the soon-to-be-released Online Video Guide from TV Guide that shook me to my Query Marketing core and made me ask (insert Carrie Bradshaw voiceover here), "When it comes to video, do consumers want to search or discover?"
To create a framework for this discussion, let's turn to our trusty dictionary.com:
Search - to inquire, investigate, examine, or seek; conduct an examination or investigation.
Discover - to see, get knowledge of, learn of, find, or find out; gain sight or knowledge of (something previously unseen or unknown)
When people are searching, they are looking for something that they already know -- or hope -- exists.
When people are discovering, they are finding out about something they had not previously known existed.
While the difference may be subtle, I think it gets to the root of an individual's intentions when consuming video online or via traditional TV/cable. There are times when someone thinks or knows specific video content exists and wants to find and watch it. But there are many more times -- especially in the long-tail online environment -- when someone encounters a video that he or she would have never guessed existed. And, in today's on-demand media world, it's rare that, in either case, someone will be willing to wait for a pre-determined timeslot to watch it.
When people search the Web, in general, their queries can be characterized largely by two main objectives -- information or entertainment. Drilling down into informational queries, searcher intent is typically either commercial (i.e., looking to buy something) or research-related (e.g., looking for a stock quote, sports score, or homework resource).
When people search for video online or channel-surf on terrestrial TV/cable, their queries are nearly always focused on entertainment. And with the steady penetration of broadband and improvement in the mobile Web, traditional TV/cable is being relied upon less and less as a source of information. I can't remember the last time I flipped my TV to ESPN to find a sports score or tuned in to my local news to see tomorrow's weather report -- or even the news, for that matter.
When people are in the entertainment mindset, they are typically more open to distractions and diversions. Thus, they are more susceptible to discovery. This is something marketers have preyed on for years and is the reason TV advertising still accounts for the lion's share of today's marketing budget. The tide is turning, however, as consumers take a more active role (read: get ADD) in their entertainment consumption, empowered by DVRs and the proliferation of online video and gaming content. And, with the convergence of TV and the Web, marketers can no longer differentiate TV primarily as an entertainment medium and the Web as an informational vehicle.
This is where TV Guide's Online Video Guide comes into play. Indexing professional video content from a variety of sources, the Online Video Guide -- scheduled to launch this month -- allows you to search for video by keyword and narrow your query based on network, show, or video length. But it also has some great discovery features, including the ability to browse by celebrity, genre, or popularity.
Furthermore, the Online Video Guide has a tool called "clip collector" that allows you to store video you're interested in to view later. TV Guide plans on using this data along with other clickstream activity to deliver personalized video suggestions as part of its phase 2 efforts. All this, combined with its status as the leading "index" of traditional TV/cable content, positions TV Guide well for a world in which all video content resides on one digital platform.
So back to my earlier ruminations. Is innovation in video search what will truly drive the industry forward? Or is it innovation in video discovery?
Is blinkx the company Google should buy to capitalize on the growth of online video and help its investment in YouTube pay off? Or is it Gemstar-TV Guide?
Could the "old-media squares" I've dogged in past columns be better equipped to navigate the emerging online video landscape than new-media visionaries?
Do Carrie and Big end up together?
Should I be searching for these answers or hoping to discover them?