TelevisionWeek contributing writer Daisy Whitney is blogging about the pinnacles and pitfalls facing viewers who want to consume television in new ways. Check in frequently as Daisy kicks the tires on the new media juggernaut and dishes on which services do -- and don’t -- make the cut.


Trial and Error

March 2007 Archives

Best and Worst Sites for Video

March 30, 2007 11:33 AM

Since I’m always telling you which sites I think are incredibly easy or mind-numbingly difficult to operate, let’s turn the tables today. This is your chance to dish on who does it well and who stinks in the Web video business. The only rule is you can’t shamelessly promote your own site. So name a site—heck, name two or three—that plays video easily and then dish on the ones that don’t.

P.S. Don’t leave me hanging here with no comments. You need to comment, even anonymously.

A Ninja and Pair of Boy Skaters

March 29, 2007 1:08 PM

Stop by www.askaninja.com today for your must-watch video of the day. Check out the Ninja’s interview with Will Ferrell and Jon Heder—it’s hilarious.

Apparently, the movie is great too, the Ninja creators tell me.

How could it not be? It has Will and Jon ice skating. I, for one, will be at the theater on Saturday night.

Click here to check out “Blades of Glory” trailer.

Back Again at NBC.com

March 28, 2007 11:38 AM

In my post last week about the NBC Universal-News Corp venture, I pointed out that I had found the video experience on NBC.com to be less than A+. Some readers posted that they had no trouble playing videos on NBC.com.

Since the Trial and Error blog by no means operates under an iron fist or even a three- strike rule (infinite strikes allowed, this umpire says!), I decide to pay a visit to NBC.com on Tuesday evening and see if my opinion changes.

I click on the “watch episodes” tab to start. Good thinking on my part, eh? And I opt for “30 Rock.”

OK, so the episode actually loads instantly this time. And, I’ll admit grudgingly, the video plays just fine and even manages to successfully jump through each of the four parts. And, darn it, the pause button even works too.

But I find a glitch after 10 minutes or so! I move the fast forward scroll bar a few minutes ahead and bam—the picture freezes but the audio keeps playing for about 10 seconds before the video catches up.

Ha. So there.

Now That’s News You Can Use

March 27, 2007 2:55 PM

Now, leave it to The Onion to get it right. The fake newspaper recently launched its fake news video network yesterday at www.theonion.com.

Not only is the video prominently displayed on the home page, not only is it easy to play, not only does it play without hiccups, it’s actually worth watching. Like blow-off - your - meetings - and - strategic - planning - sessions - and - new - media -whatnot - brainstorms worth watching.

Check out the piece on how one corporate executive was affected by immigration.

Immigration: The Human Cost

U Find, U Report, U Decide

March 26, 2007 2:40 PM

FoxNews.com recently launched Ureport, a new service on its Web site that lets users upload photos, text and video reports. Since I don’t have a cell phone camera (I know, I know, I’m such a luddite), nor has there been any exciting news events in my neck of the woods (though my six year-old reports that a friend of his saw a snake near the elementary school), I won’t be submitting to the site.

Still, I’m curious to see if Foxnews.com has made the service easy for those citizen journalists who are much more ambitious than I. However, a quick scan of Foxnews.com does not turn up a link for the new component of the service. Next, I conduct a search on the site for “ureport.” The first result oddly enough whisks me to a link thanking me for sending my report to “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren. Which I didn’t do. As part of that thank you note is a link to “submit another report.” I click through and it takes me to a form to upload pictures and video. The form looks quite easy to use.

My questions for readers and for Fox: are site visitors using this, is it easy enough to find, and would you submit to a news site?

Tobey and Topher Together at Last in the Final Trailer

March 23, 2007 4:04 PM

A funny thing happened today. The TV was easier to watch than the computer. I’m not really sure how that transpired, but I’ve commissioned a team of scientists stop by in a few moments to conduct an experiment.

Anyway, here’s how it all started. Comcast announced it would premiere today the final trailer for “Spider-Man 3” online and on-demand. Naturally, I tried the online portal first at www.spiderman3oncomcast.com and watched the snazzy new preview. For the regular blog readers, allow me to digress and say that though the trailer starts slow it really takes off, so now I am feeling more jazzed about taking the day off on May 4 to see the movie. Yes, editors, I still won’t be in that day.

But after I watched the preview, my computer went all sluggish and weird and sounded like Hal slowing down.

So I decided to check out the rest of the “Spider-Man 3” goodies on the television. Comcast has done a great job making the content easy to find – “Spider-Man 3” has its own menu button in the movie section of the VOD menu. You can even find all the past trailers for the prior Spidey flicks, as well as trivia.

I then returned to my computer, which sputtered a few more times but recovered enough for me to click on a behind-the-scenes clips. That worked fine this go round and I’m even awarding Comcast major points for also effectively promoting the Spider-Man content from the home page of its portal at Comcast.net.

Comcast plans to debut new movie-related content each week online and on-demand every week leading up to the premiere. So check back. I know I will.

Thought for the Day

March 22, 2007 5:29 PM

I wouldn’t bet on the NBC Universal-News Corp. venture. And that’s for one reason—ease of use. So far I’ve seen little evidence that anyone besides iTunes and YouTube have nailed user-friendliness. NBC.com routinely delivers C-grade Web video experiences, while Fox still makes its videos hard to find. ABC.com comes closest on the network side. But iTunes competitors such as Amazon are virtually unusable. AOL Video and Wal-Mart are merely passable as Web video destinations. And Viacom’s new partner Joost is one of my least favorite services ever. Until I see evidence to the contrary, I continue to believe consumers have little tolerance for shenanigans. That’s why they go to Itunes, that’s why they go to YouTube. However, if NBCU and News Corp. can match those user experiences, then we’ll have a real game on our hands.

Joost Part 2—Taking Over My Computer

March 21, 2007 12:36 PM

So I visit Joost again and it totally takes over my computer. Yep, it’s out of control. Some funky Indian music plays and somewhere on my desktop is a bizarre Joost video playing without any care to what I want. So, naturally, I minimize every window open and search for the offending program. Ah, there it is. But now the screen is full screen. I pound away on the keyboard, frantically searching for the escape button. I despise video that plays without any control. Finally, the window shrinks and I hit pause. Whew, now I am back on the main Joost page.

I scroll through some of the channels, clicking on categories such as “most interactive.” But nothing happens. So I loop back into the main content listing and decide to pick a random programmer—Lassie videos. But that link only brings me to a page asking me to add or remove the channel. So I try one more, opting for the Lime network. A yoga video launches and the quality is great. But once again, Joost makes it ultra difficult to actually control the service. Joost takes over the computer screen again, so I must resize the window. When I look around for a button to escort me back to the main listing, I see none. Nor is there a friendly little “X” button to shut down the program. So once more, I resort to the right click and exit option.

Joost is a big thumbs down.

Did you Vote?

March 20, 2007 1:11 PM

I’m not convinced that my vote matters or that my vote was even received or that I even voted properly. But boy, do I feel democratic, nay, even patriotic today! You guessed it. I just voted for the YouTube Video Awards for the best videos in seven categories from 2006.

I’m not sure how the 10 videos in each category were selected—if YouTube chose them or if the “community,” the great big YouTube cabal that we’re all a part of— handpicked the nominations. But, nevertheless, the voting was the easiest I have done on the Internet. You simply click on a big arrow button next to each video to move it up or down in the rankings.

How cool is that?

In the interests of full transparency—which is the very foundation the blogosphere is built on and who I am to rock the boat—I only voted in “Best Series” and “Most Creative” because those categories contained videos with which I am familiar. I voted for OKGo’s “Here It Goes Again” in Most Creative and then I voted for Chad Vader, Will it Blend, and Nobody’s Watching for Best Series.

Now go forth and let your voice be heard. You can find a link on the main YouTube page or go to YouTube.com/ytawards. And you can just hang there and keep ranking your favorites every hour until the voting closes on Friday.

Feathers or Not? ABC.com Lets You Pick

March 19, 2007 12:09 PM

Since I’m unlikely to win CNBC’s Million Dollar Challenge, I decide to try my chances at ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” No, I’m not dancing—I’m handicapping the winners and losers in advance thanks to a new fantasy game on ABC.com.

Here’s the link (Dancing With the Stars: Fantasy Dancing), but you don’t need it since ABC actually does something better than provide a link—it effectively promotes the game right in the middle of its home page. This is still a feat many networks have yet to master

Repeat after me. Easy to find, easy to play, easy to use.

The fantasy game lets you pick the dancing couple most likely to win the highest score and the couple most likely to nab the lowest score. You can also select bonus questions, such as betting on whether a celebrity is likely to wear feathers. I know nothing about the dancers, so I randomly pick Paulina Porizkova and Alec Mazo to get the most points and Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson to snag the least. And I’m gambling on the appearance of feathers too.

Check out the game and see how you do in picking winners.

Incidentally, if you followed my CNBC stock picks, I had opted for Comcast, Disney and Google. I’m ranked 128,544 after two weeks, placing me in the top 41 percent. C’mon TV industry stocks—I need you to do better!

Great-Looking Joost has Kinks to Work Out

March 16, 2007 12:32 PM

On first blush, there’s a lot that is really cool about Joost. I just downloaded the service this morning and am kicking the tires on the beta version of this new online video service.

The service features a cool black screen that can either run full screen or can be a sort of half size window. The interface is sleek and stylish with neon style red, blue and green accents for “My Channels” and “My Joost” against the black.

Joost hasn’t fully loaded its service yet with programs from its new best friend and noted YouTube enemy, Viacom. But the service does have handful of niche videos. I try a few skateboarding clips, but the fast forward function on the scroll bar doesn’t work. And then when I hit the fast forward button itself, the service jumps me to the next video rather than further ahead in the one I am watching.

But here’s the bigger issue. I can’t find any quick escape hatch. And we all need the escape hatch, don’t we, when it comes to online video? I resort to the old-fashioned method and right click on the desktop icon to shut it down.

I’ll run some more tests and report back in a few days.

A Second Life for a Gay Robot

March 15, 2007 11:25 AM

The Internet has given brushed-off pilots a second life. Add to the ranks of the Internet Undead “Gay Robot.”

The show was initially a pilot that Sony Pictures Television developed for Comedy Central in 2006 with Adam Sandler’s production company Happy Madison. It’s based off of a sketch from one of Mr. Sandler’s comedy albums. The pilot wasn’t picked up, but Sony worked out promotional deals with BitTorrent and MySpace to give the show a second life, describing “Gay Robot” as an “internal passion project,” according to a Sony spokeswoman.

The show has become a minor Internet hit and recently landed the No. 1 spot on MySpace’s daily video rankings. The pilot has amassed more than 485,000 views and Sony recently posted a deleted scene that corralled more than 420,000 views. The entire collection of “Gay Robot” clips has logged more than 1 million views.

To check it out for yourself:


Add to My Profile | More Videos

Got Six Years to Collect Cat Fur? Then You Can Knit a Sweater from Fluffy Too!

March 14, 2007 11:27 AM

“The Today Show” snagged its own URL last week when MSNBC launched www.todayshow.com to give the morning show its own Web home. MSNBC.com had previously housed “Today” content in its site. The new site includes a daily blog, a weekly behind-the-scenes video blog from Al Roker, as well as a range of video clips.

The video clips are clearly marked in the middle of the page with a row of thumbnails images linking to various video news stories. I test a couple—one on better posture and another on a woman who knit a sweater from her cat’s fur. (It took six years to amass the more than five pounds of fur, so plan accordingly if you decide to try this at home).

I’ve always found the news sites do a bang-up job with video and video players—clips are usually easy to find and play without problems. But here’s the part I’d like to see NBC change. When you launch a video, the site loads a video player in a separate window. From that window, you can click on other videos and play them. But that window does not include links to additional “Today” snippets—the videos instead are general NBC News videos. So if you’re going to the trouble of anointing a special URL just for that show, then make sure I can see the show’s videos in the separate window player. As it is now, I need to return to Todayshow.com to search for more videos.

Which is annoying.

And, one more thing, I can’t find the Al Roker video blog. I searched for it on the site to no avail.

TVWeek Confessional—Have you Watched Pirated Clips?

March 13, 2007 12:36 PM

YouTube doesn’t feel like a pirate site. I know, I know. Viacom will say it is. But it doesn’t feel like those naughty peer-to-peer sites where you have to know a secret password and duck down a dark alley of the Web to use.

Today, Viacom filed a lawsuit against YouTube seeking more than $1 billion in damages for copyright violation, contending that nearly 160,000 unauthorized clips of Viacom programming have been viewed more than 1.5 billion times on YouTube.

I’m wondering how Viacom tracked down all those clips. I’m picturing an army of sweat shop workers in a windowless office probably in the basement of Viacom’s corporate offices plugging away “South Park” and “Laguna Beach” and “Jon Stewart” into YouTube’s search bar to track down those 160,000 clips.

The fact is, it’s probably easy for them to find the unauthorized clips on YouTube. That’s because it’s just plain easy to find video on YouTube. That’s why YouTube has become and likely will remain the first and foremost stop on the Web for finding video. And that’s why I hope big media and YouTube can work it all out and be friends, so we can continue to have a resource on the Web.

So I’ll go first here. I’ll step into the circle and admit my own piracy culpability. First, let it be said that I am opposed to piracy. I don’t buy illegal DVDs, I don’t watch pirated DVDs. I have no problem paying $1.99 for a TV show on iTunes.

But sometimes if I just want to see a certain scene from a movie I’ll check if it’s on YouTube. I watched “The Departed” over the weekend and went to YouTube last night to look up “The Departed.” And I found not only a cleverly edited two-minute clip of nearly every example of the script’s favorite word (Yes, it takes at least two full minutes to include every utterance), but I also located several posts of scenes from the movie. I watched a few—the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio asks Vera Farmiga for valium and the scene where Jack Nicholson tells Leo that he has an “informer in his unit.”

So that’s my confession. I hope Warner Brothers doesn’t come sue me now. Now it’s your turn. I want to hear from the media executives out there who I suspect are also going to YouTube to look up a clip or two, a scene here or there. You don’t have to use your name, but c’mon lob in a comment here—admit it and tell us that you’re a closet pirate too.

I want the TV in MTV.com!

March 12, 2007 2:53 PM

Been to MTV.com recently? Well everyone else has. Or at least that’s what Viacom wants us to think.

The network has been touting its recent Web traffic highs, especially following Viacom’s removal of 100,000 clips from YouTube on Feb. 2.

Today, MTV said that it delivered more than 84 million video streams in January and 85.1 million streams in February, both records for the site.

So let’s visit MTV.com and see just how easy it is to find videos. Here’s the first thing I notice—there are video and jpegs covering nearly every square inch of the Web site.

Now, that’s a good thing for a site that wants to be an important online video destination. I do notice that a video is already playing in the embedded player on the upper left hand side of the page. That’s what we call a non-user initiated stream, which means the visitor doesn’t hit “play” to start the stream; the video simply starts as soon as you land on the site.

I wonder how many of those streams that viewers don’t actually choose to start are counted into MTV’s new video streams total. How many of those 85 million streams are ones we don’t select?

I tool around the site some more and click on random videos to see how they play. I watch an ad for a video game, a short clip on Hillary Duff’s new clothing line, and a few brief snippets of music videos. And the video player works great—the videos play smoothly, the site looks fantastic.

But, I’m having a hard time finding actual TV content on the site. TV shows are supposed to be important components of MTV.com. I click on various video tabs and even stumble across a list of content from “Date my Mom.” But when I hit “Play All” thinking that the show clips will launch, the video player serves up Mastodon’s “Colony of Birchmen” video. I know this is a big shock—but I’m not really a Mastodon fan. So I try again and the same thing happens. And 20 minutes after I enter MTV.com, I’m not any closer to finding TV content on the site or buying a Mastodon record.

Sleeping With the Enemy

March 9, 2007 1:13 PM

It pays to read blogs. Just this morning while perusing lostremote.com, I learned of a fabulous little parody video of NBC’s “Heroes,” only this one is dubbed “Zeroes.” It’s a mock promo for a show about ordinary people with pointless abilities—the talent to kick yourself in the back of the head, to wiggle your stomach, write with your foot and so on. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen on the Internet. Oh, and it just so happens that it was produced clandestinely by, you guessed it, NBC. It’s part of NBC’s little strategy known as viral marketing and involves the network planting the video, without any NBC tags or markings, on viral video sites such as YouTube and Break.

So, if you think about it, NBC’s yammering about lawsuits and copyright and such doesn’t seem to hold quite as much gravitas since the network really is sleeping with the enemy. Only it’s not telling anyone. So, shhh….

Zeroes: A Heroes Parody -

Speed Painting…What do you think?

March 8, 2007 12:18 PM

If we needed more evidence that viral video is for people with two much time on their hands, may I submit the latest viral video trend?

It’s speed painting. Remember those videos from last summer where someone would take a picture of himself every day for a year and then edit together, like one of those cartoon books where you flip the pages quickly to watch the images change? Now imagine doing that with Photoshop, but you watch the Photoshop process. Only faster.

Get the idea? Speed painting is sort of similar.

Here are a couple examples. The first one is long at nearly seven minutes, but weirdly transfixing. And the second one is mostly just odd.

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y14g50q4hQ0

2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVqZVFf3B1A

So what do you think about Speed Painting?

Snowboarders of the World Unite

March 7, 2007 2:48 PM

So if you like all things snowboarding, there’s a new web site for you – www.snowvision.com. I hopped on it today for a quick tour. Snowvision is a product of Diversion Media of New York, which produces broadband channels for niche audiences.

The site looks to be exactly the kind of content the Internet does well – short-form video clips for a young demographic. The videos play easily and the site is a cinch to navigate. I’ve never been on a snowboard, but I like to fantasize that someday I could be cool enough to hold my own. So whether you shush down the slopes or just daydream you do, the videos are worth a whirl.

I Miss You, Doc Ock

March 6, 2007 12:23 PM

I never thought I would say this. But the seven-minute preview for “Spiderman 3” on NBC.com is phenomenally dull.

Now, let me add that I didn’t just watch the preview for this blog. I watched it because I am a 100 percent, certified, unashamed “Spiderman” (the movie) junkie. I absolutely adore “Spiderman” and “Spiderman 2.” In fact, I am planning on taking May 4 off to see “Spiderman 3” the very day it’s released. (I suppose this blog entry will serve to let my editors at TVWeek know of my pending absence that day). And despite the snooze-inducing 7-minute clip from the final installment in the webbed trilogy, I’ll still see the movie.

But I’m slightly less excited than I was before watching the preview. Here’s why:

• Harry as the Green Goblin deux is boring.
• Aunt May’s speech about how Peter’s uncle proposed to her is beyond boring.
• Peter’s attempt to revive Harry is implausible.
• And, this pains me the most to say because I love the Peter and MJ push-pull, but I almost gagged when Peter said “I love you so much” to MJ in the web he’d spun.

Let’s move onto the mechanics now. As part of a marketing partnership with “Heroes,” NBC.com posted that seven-minute preview in high-definition on its site for 24 hours, starting in the evening of March 5.

I grant NBC major points for strong promotion—there’s an image that takes up nearly half the browser window shouting about the clip. I clicked on that image to download the clip. The download process is slightly annoying because you don’t see a download scroll bar telling you how much you have downloaded so far. So, despite the little window telling me to be patient, I still clicked on “download” four times. I have this thing about instant gratification.

After a few minutes of me impatiently tapping my foot, the clip downloaded four times. So in the end, NBC did a fine job handling the technology behind delivering such a mammoth clip.

I just wish the film makers did a better job giving me something that would entice me to take a week off.

Want to Win a Million Bucks?

March 5, 2007 3:45 PM

CNBC launched an online contest today that gives amateur stock whizzes the chance to win $1 million.

Not bad, eh?

Let me just preface this by saying I am not an agile stock trader. I don’t buy and sell them. I don’t have an online trading account. I leave that stuff to the experts.

But I decide to kick the tires nevertheless. I setup a portfolio of three stocks just to see how the game works. I choose three companies in different sectors of the TV business—Google, Comcast and Disney. The registration process for the game is simple at http://contests.cnbc.com/milliondollar/main.do. You only need to input a few bits of information, like email address and name. And once you finish, it’s a cinch to buy and trade stocks for your portfolio.

Just for good measure, I check out the home page. Indeed, CNBC has posted a prominent link for the game right in the middle of the page. Which means—major points for CNBC.

So check out the game and come play too. And see if you can beat the TV portfolio that I’ll be trafficking in.

Remember that CNBC awards the weekly winner with the highest percentage gain $10,000. At the end of ten weeks, the weekly winners and ten highest ranked players qualify for the finals and the chance to win $1 million.

In real money.

I’m Callie

March 2, 2007 12:34 PM

I think I speak for all women when I say the “Grey’s Anatomy” character we most want to be like is Izzie. That’s because of her assets—hair, height and, um, those two other things. And next we’d probably opt to be Meredith, only because we could have Patrick Dempsey, who is pretty much perfect.

But aside from those oh so superficial things, which Grey’s gal do you think you’re most like? There’s no need to guess anymore! C’mon down and take the personality quiz.

How do you handle breakups? Parties? Cute guys at work? (Um, I work alone in my house, but the Fedex guy is kinda cute). Take this quiz and you’ll get the ABC diagnosis on your personality.

In the interests of full disclosure, I’m Callie. My friend at ABC who sent me the link is Miranda. So who are you?

OK, Fine, BitTorrent Worked in the End

March 1, 2007 12:54 PM

My copy of “A Star Is Born” finished downloading about an hour later. A window popped up asking me to open or close the file. I chose open, which launched Windows media player. And then the movie started playing perfectly. I can fast forward in a breeze. I can rewind easily. And everything seems to be working just fine.

Darn. I’ll guess I’ll have to blame someone else for my computer’s problems.