« Long Tail TV: Wishlist | Main | Away from my desk »

January 17, 2005



Another thing that would help in finding video is wider use of metadata. Most (if not all) of the video formats allow for a good deal of metadata, but not all of the video editing tools make it easy to add thoughtful metadata.

For example, it would be cool if you subtitle your video and users could search the subtitles when looking for content (ie, "find me a video that mentions the Lincoln Memorial"). It would be handy to be able to search based on where the video was taken, dates and times, credit text and so on.

On the Internet, metadata is king.

Chris Anderson

Yes, explicit metadata would be great. But Google and Yahoo! have also shown that you can to do quite a bit with the closed-caption information in broadcast TV, at least. I'm not sure how much video on the web has that (and whether there's an easy way to extract it), but it's something.

Jason Coleman

I know it's been mentioned a lot lately (Wired, etc), but since Chris didn't mention it explicity, I thought I might.
iFilm's Viral Video channel seems to be a pretty good example of some Long Tail video that is moving up the tail at a pace that could not happen without the web for distribution. Of course, this conversation wouldn't happen without the web... Chris even mentioned searching for video for Halo 2 physics hack, which I found there.
That leads to the end of his article, where he asks how to find this stuff? What are some good ways for crawlers and sites to use for video (and audio, like podcasts) to categorize content? The use of tags, as in photos on flickr site, or the use of some sort of meta data like the previous poster suggests? Or is it possible to use closed caption to some of this? What about non-speach related video (skateboard films or music)? Any further thoughts?

nick sweeney

If I could get Treo's programming through an online outlet (my local cable provider doesn't offer it) then I'd pay up. And if I could buy an 'expatriate' UK TV licence (currently around US$200) and gain the right to download and watch BBC television, I'd pay up.

On the issue of finding content: one aspect, I think, is the serendipity factor. Or, more accurately, the phenomenon of only knowing that you want something (or more of something) when you stumble across it at random. For instance, I had no idea about the Prelinger Archives until I was searching for random public-domain films to use in a magazine article on video encoding for the Web. Now I'd love to track down even more of those public information films, especially from the UK...


I think that Rob had a very good idea about metadata. I can't think of a good way to get people to voluntarily add good metadata. I have been using flickr for images lately and have ejoyed trying to think of as many tags as possible to help others find my stuff, but when searching other people's photos I notice that they do not often try to add anything helpful. If people are persuaded to add even one tag it probably doesn't describe anything in the picture.

I doubt that hobbyists or witnesses who go about taking video to share with their friends or the world are going to want to spend time doing the librarian's task of categorizing their content.

This is even more true if what you hope to be able to search for are things that the video incidentally includes. As I took your example of video that mentions the Lincoln memorial to mean. Famous buildings or things in the background may not even occur to the vacation photographer as significant. He is interested in pictures of his kids and he labels it "summer vacation, 2004, Orlando."

The quickest solution I see to this is to have other people add tags to photos while they are browsing. Then period architecture afficionados could help each other out without any need for cooperation from the photographer.

A tangental observation about flickr: If they are trying to take advantage of the long tail, or to help guide viewers to "great photos" then shouldn't there be a link to "most favorited" images? I don't see any kind of rating system. The best you can do is find a photographer or other member you like, and then look at what THEY like. These can be good guides, I suppose, but the system should help guide you as well, by aggragating the preferences of people you haven't made contact with.

An observation on long tail video: You are going to be watching it for a long time and most of what you see is going to be pretty dull. Editing is the most time consuming part of making any movie. It is also the most time consuming part of editing most audio. I had my significant sweetie read Bastiat's "The Law" figuring I could find an interested audiance for the venerable economist's observations conveyed by her lucious and highly-cultured voice. But editing took easily eight times as long and I got bored and have not yet finished. This simply involved cutting out noise and mistakes from a single piece of audio. Video storytelling demands much more. Cutting from one camera angle to another to show emotion and exchange between two parties, wide shots to establish the setting, close-ups to insert emotional intensity. These are all judgement calls by the editor, an artist who specializes in compressing long stretches of boring footage into an emotionally gripping and information-dense collection of essential impressions that you can watch in 30 minutes. Without editors I don't see how it would be worth staring at a screen all day while you waited for something significant to happen. Just watch your Christmas videos from 2003 to get my point.

One way I can see around this would be if viewers could add time tags to point out to others where the interesting parts were. Casual viewers could insert a point tag which would record perhaps a minute of video to either side. More dedicated media guides could add opening and closing tags for interesting scenes, we would watch what they had watched from cut to cut. Hmm, then all we need is video hyperlinking, where a trailblazer could watch hours of boring video from various sources, mark out the interesting cuts and when the interesting part from one video stream was at an end you would be linked to another interesting stream which might have relevent content. Such a person would do a job similar to today's video editors. Like an Instapundit style blogger he would simply link from one interesting excerpt to another, perhaps adding his own commentary.

I have many more ideas but this is way too long for a comment.


>If I am 16 and my favorite band is not what hits the charts but rather the latest skate punk music thing, then the custom skate punk music shows that can easily be created and delivered to my microcontent platform will be much more interesting to me than American Idol.

this is already being done by myspace.com.


It seems that with Long Tail TV, the traditional distinction between movies and TV might be increasingly blurred, if more and more films get made with the explicit intent of recouping costs / making profits via DVD or some other personal-distribution method. And if directors know that films are primarily going to be viewed on screens far smaller than movie-theatre screens, that may in fact impact their aesthetic choices, much in the same way that TV involves different aesthetic choices from movies watched in theatres.

Also, going by the definition of "content that is not available through traditional distribution channels but could nevertheless find an audience", one could argue that Long Tail TV is already occurring with pornography - especially pornography catering to less common interests. Hence the death of the X-rated theatre in favour of the VCR, and perhaps the death of renting pornographic videos in favour of downloaded movies. That's very much niche distribution to find an audience.


I'd love for any and all old TV shows or episodes to be available in a format that is easily accessible.

One idea that comes to mind is youtube. The obstacle I see is the owners of the content being greedy.

Lots of classics out there not being re-run. And some of them are important pop culture icons.

The comments to this entry are closed.


The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

FREE was available in all digital forms--ebook, web book, and audiobook--for free shortly after the hardcover was published on July 7th. The ebook and web book were free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged MP3 audiobook (get zip file here) will remain free forever, available in all regions.

Order the hardcover now!