Multimedia Search Matures . . . But Not Without Growing Pains

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Show Me the Money
Regardless of the approach each of these companies is taking, as with text search, the goal for many is to monetize the search process in the same fashion Google and others have done, by displaying relevant ads while the audio or video file plays. Price believes the ability to associate keywords with audio and video content will drive monetization. “I’ve seen products from Nexidia and TVEyes that go through the video and look at the text and then associate keyword advertisements with it. If the person being interviewed talks about a trip to Rome, the ads on the side might turn out to be about traveling to Rome. The person then talks about moving onto Florence, then there will be hotels in Florence listed. So I think that’s one thing that can make video much more financially feasible,” Price says.

Not surprisingly, Ives agrees, saying that using voice recognition technology can more accurately match ads to the content of the file. Laatz concurs and believes that ad revenue over the next five to 10 years will flow from other areas like print, TV, and radio to online video ads, and he predicts that the numbers could be in the 5- to 10-billion-dollar range in overall revenue from multimedia text ads. He also points out that, “There will, of course, be some growth, but the pace of reallocation will far exceed the growth of the ad space just as it has happened with the emergence of online ads.”

Blinkx navigates the revenue stream by a different route. Chandratillake says the online site is really a showcase for the technology and the company’s revenue plan is to license the technology. “How we make money is licensing our technology in various ways. This is primarily licensing the index to other people who want to have video search on their site, but don’t have the R&D budget to do it themselves.”

Searching for the Big Engines
So, if there is so much money in multimedia ads and Google paid $1.65 billion for YouTube, many wonder why the big search portals are still sitting on the sidelines. The consensus is that sooner rather than later, one of the big players will enter the game, and as soon as one gets involved, it will raise the profile of these smaller multimedia search players for the others.

TVEyes’ Ives doesn’t understand what they are waiting for. “Video search has not been tackled by large players and this is fascinating to me. In five years, we won’t distinguish between video and text search. We’ll just call it search, but this will require one of the big search engines to step up to the plate and offer something other than the metadata tag search we are experiencing today,” he says.

“I’m surprised it hasn’t happened. I can’t explain it, other than to say it will require a significant amount of hardware and software and no one has taken the leap. It won’t be that way for long. One and a half billion dollars is a lot of money and that has to be recouped, and displaying non-relevant banner ads at the top of the page won’t recoup that investment, that’s for sure,” Ives adds.

Laats from Podzinger thinks companies like his will attract customers looking for a better multimedia search experience and force the big search engines to look for better solutions than they offer today. Even though the big search players “are text search guys, they recognize the need to improve multimedia significantly. Podzinger and others are improving it and creating an advertising-based model. Our ability to solve these issues very rapidly as compared to the bigger, slower-moving guys like Google and Yahoo! will create customer adoption to the point where the thing we do with search will have to be in all these other places,” he says.

What’s more, Ives and Laats believe that whenever one of the big search companies gets involved, it will only benefit companies with existing technology because those that are left out of multimedia search will come looking for an existing solution. He says, “If Google announced something tomorrow, I would be excited because it would validate what we do. Google has strong competitors that need to match [one another] and we bring a turnkey solution that can scale rapidly.”

There will come a time, as Ives pointed out, when text, video, and audio files will appear in the same set of search results, but we still have a ways to go. One thing we have learned over the last couple of decades is just how rapidly the landscape changes. Once upon a time, Sherman says, Lycos blew away the competitors
by offering a two-line summary, an “advancement” we find simplistic today. In the not-too-distant future, it seems we will look back at the current state of multimedia search and smile. In spite of some incredible technological progress, once the big search companies become involved, it will change everything and it has the potential to shift the entire search-based revenue model.

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