Local Video: “Just Around the Corner”

2006 is certainly turning out to be the “Year of Video”, facilitated by the rise of online video sharing sites and broadcast networks’ moves towards shifting distribution (among many other recent events, like Google’s introduction of video to AdSense).

But one area where (at least) I haven’t seen much attention devoted to yet is local video.

The video format is able to convey and evoke very strong emotional messages, beyond the capabilities of pure text or audio. It has the capability to uniquely and immediately reach viewers in a very personal, visceral way. To me, this capacity appears to match extremely well with many types of local content. Information about people’s local neighborhood and community is one category that strikes at these very same chords of passion, accessibility, and intimacy.

While local television stations have traditionally struggled to attract audiences to their sites, the emergence of video of on the web enabled by broadband adoption has given them a second chance at finding a voice. This Cincinnati Enquirer article profiles how local Ohio stations – far from “media revolution” epicenters of Silicon Valley, New York, and L.A. – have embraced the web as a distribution outlet for their content. It’s a progressive to hear one of WCPO’s news directors, Matt Miller, saying,

“We’re not just a TV newsroom anymore… We’re a news content distributor on whatever platforms are out there right now – TV, the Web, podcasting, cell phones.”

But the opportunity for local video goes far beyond the recasting/repurposing of traditional local television content consisting of news, weather, and sports. The ability to produce and reach a relevant audience with video content has and is continuing to become remarkably easier. This situation should facilitate the creation of local cultural, political, and entertainment content that wasn’t economically feasible under previous structures. I think that the potential for existing local-related online businesses (like cityguides, travel advisory, business directories) is clear. Supplementing existing offerings with video appears to be a natural extension of the information set which they provide.

The fuzzier opportunity which will work itself over time is what other types of local video content will be produced, that users will want to consume, and that advertisers are willing to support. Thoughts? It seems to me that both incumbent players and upstarts alike have a chance run with ideas in this open playing field. (The difficulty, of course, like with any company trying to amass local info, is the ability to generate/produce/obtain a critical mass of content for enough coverage to satisfy consumers of it.)

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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