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

April 2007 Archives

ABCNews.com Needs a Relaunch for the Relaunch

April 30, 2007 12:33 PM

ABC News.com officially launches its revamped site tomorrow but the site is already live today. Which would sort of mean it’s already launched.

In a memo sent to employees last week ABC New’s David Westin said the relaunch is “the first stage of an overall redesign that will ultimately transform the site into a news and information website that will be boldly different—both from what it has been before and from what other, similar sites offer. The new version will be simpler, easier to use and will feature video more prominently than what we’ve had until now.”

In March ABCnews.com generated 150 million page views, a 22 percent rise over February and also clocked in with 11.5 million unique visitors.

The new layout seems pretty standard for a news site—there is a listing of top headlines in the upper left. There are also links for hot topics and then an item for “As Seen on GMA,” which includes a link to Emeril Lagasse’s “Bananas Foster French Toast.”

That sounds tempting so I check it out. I expect to see video, but instead am greeted with a photo of Mr. Lagasse and the recipe.

But wait, then I notice in the embedded player lies a video for the French toast, just waiting to be played. So I click on it.

And I click on it.

And I click on it.

And still nothing happens.

I go back to the home page and try to click on a polar bear video. Still nothing happens. I’m clicking on the video itself, the image on the middle of the player and nothing is moving at all. So then I try the text link below and the video finally launches.

I think ABCnews.com could do better, especially because the site was so good before.

Dow Jones Launches Site

April 27, 2007 12:24 PM

Dow Jones launched a new Web site Allthingsd.com (was allthingsdigital.com taken?) featuring the opinions and writings of the Wall Street Journal’s well-known tech pundits Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. They’re joined by former San Jose Mercury News tech writer and expert John Paczkowski, who delivers a sassy, snarky, spunky daily video report. The video is easy to find, easy to use, easy to play, and—get this—actually useful.

YouTube Rewards?

April 27, 2007 12:21 PM

Call it the positive reinforcement trick. Give a dog a biscuit, he’ll learn how to sit.

That’s what Google-owned YouTube plans to launch in a few months, said David Eun, VP of content partnerships at Google, while speaking at the PaidContent social media conference in Los Angeles yesterday. An M&M for good behavior is a time-honored tradition on the Web and on social networking sites in particular that reward users for regular usage and such.

So why not use it on YouTube then?

“We are always focused on the user experience and so we want to make sure they understand that is our primary objective,” he said, during a panel. “As we think about monetization, we know where our traffic is coming from and it’s from users. So we have to do right by them and we have to think about programming that recognizes them and rewards them and you will see more of that in the coming months.”

A Bonus!

April 25, 2007 7:37 PM

But wait! Here’s my bonus SNL Digital Short.

This video was not included in the SNL digital vote conducted here yesterday or on AT&T phones.

But it should have been. It’s the “SNL Digital Short: Business Meeting.”

Our Own SNL Digital Vote

April 25, 2007 1:54 AM

I don’t have an AT&T wireless phone. But I do have access to the Web. So I’m staging my own vote for the best Saturday Night Live digital short here on this blog.

Incidentally, if you have an AT&T phone you can watch and vote for the season’s best SNL digital short and be entered to win a trip to New York to see the final SNL show of the season on May 19.

Meanwhile, I tracked down the digital shorts on contention on YouTube. Incidentally, who is SNL fooling? The Dick in a Box sketch has already garnered 20 million views on YouTube while none of the others have corralled more than three million views.

Still, Trial and Error is a democracy. So here goes.


Body Fuzion:

Laser Cats 2:

Peyton Manning for The United Way:

Dick in a Box:

My choices in order (I know, big shock): Dick in a Box, Peyton Manning, Body Fuzion, Sloths and then Laser Cats.

CNN Posts Victims' Tribute Page

April 24, 2007 12:36 AM

Amidst the debates last week on NBC’s decision to air the video material it received from Virgina Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui, an interesting thing happened over on CNN.com.

Site visitors were drawn to the victims’ tribute page at www.cnn.com/victims. As of April 23, the page had generated more than 17.7 million page views. The memorial page includes profiles of the victims, accompanied by thoughts and memories shared by family members and friends.

Online users can also submit their own videos, photos or comments to honor the Virginia Tech victims, through CNN's I-Report at http://www.cnn.com/vtechireport, CNN said.

CNN also said that the page ranked as one of the most trafficked single features in CNN.com’s history.

Searching for Your Favorite Show Online

April 23, 2007 11:46 AM

Video search site Blinkx (nope, still not employed by ‘em) introduced a new feature last week dubbed Blinkx Remote to help users find full-length TV programs online.

OK, that sounds useful and promising. Though, part of me thinks it’s just as easy to go to iTunes or a network Web too. But then again, with the NBCU-News Corp. venture slated to distribute shows across various Web sites later this summer, perhaps a roadmap to full-length shows will come in handy.

I go to blinkx.com and in the upper right hand corner is a link for the service—an auspicious start. When I click on the icon for the remote, it takes me to a page with a list of TV shows. A simple list, no fuss, no muss. I click on CW’s “One Tree Hill” and I’m thinking it will whisk me to a down and dirty list of links to full-length episodes.

And it does. However, my eye is first drawn to a long list of “One Tree Hill” clips on iFilm, Dailymotion.com, Google, Metacafe, Veoh and other sites. But then at the top I notice a gray box with links to full-length episodes on three sites—CWTV.com, Amazon Unbox and iTunes.

I return to the list and try ABC’s “October Road,” which includes a link for the full episode on ABC.com. Finally, I test NBC’s “30 Rock,” which has links for both iTunes and NBC.com.

Blinkx Remote should clean up the page just a tidge to highlight the full-length episodes better, but overall it is a very nice feature.

MySpace News

April 20, 2007 1:00 PM

I’ll admit it. I’m not much of a news person. I’m not a news junkie; I’m not a news hound. I don’t watch TV news and I balk when my husband turns on the radio.

So MySpace’s news product, which recently launched in beta at http://news.myspace.com/, is not something I’d gravitate to on my own. But with that caveat in mind, I decide to check it out anyway. The news service pulls from various sources and then organizes the stories according to topics.

You can browse news by category with the categories listed on the right hand side of the page, or you can click on the main news stories in the center of the page.

But my first thought is that the layout is just really dull. Just boring white and blue blah.

Still, I click through to a story on the World Bank. Ah, that’s better. It takes me to a Yahoo News page embedded within MySpace, so I’m still on MySpace but the story is wrapped in Yahoo’s layout and includes pictures.

Here’s my non-news hound take—MySpace News needs to jazz up the home page. A lot.

I do wanna be an online star! I do, I do, I do!

April 19, 2007 7:09 PM

So let's assume I am a digital video creator with stars in my eyes. Let's pretend I've got a hankering to be the next LonelyGirl or Ask a Ninja.

What would I do? Why, I'd go to Veoh, of course. And I'd submit my digital reel to the United Talent Agency and then my phone would ring off the hook with a flurry of offers of representation. A bidding war would ensue.

In order to do this, I must first go to Veoh.com and upload the latest in my sweet new video series, featuring me breakdancing with my calico cat Patches on top of a swingset that I painted purple. Fortunately, Veoh has made it super easy for Patches and me -- the link to upload is on the Veoh home page, and it guides me straight through the simple upload process.

So now all that's left is the waiting. Kitty and I snuggle up in front of the warm laptop and waiting for eager UTA agents to grant us our 15 minutes. But in the meantime, we decide to check out the competition, since fortunately all the other submissions are posted for anyone to view. So come on over to Veoh and let me know who we need to beat.

The UTA submissions channel went live on April 18.

So You Want to Be an Online Video Star?

April 18, 2007 2:41 PM

Then check out http://makeinternettv.org/, the new site from the open source Internet TV folks at participatoryculture.org. MakeInternetTV is a starting point for any video auteur out there who wants a little direction before they point and shoot.

The site includes pointers on what type of gear you need as well as instructions on shooting (above the head, with two hands, blog style, etc.), selecting a video format, copyright issues to consider, uploading videos, and finally building an audience through promotion.

Google CEO’s Stock Tip

April 17, 2007 11:50 AM

So if Eric Schmidt were a venture capitalist what would he invest in right now?

That was the question an audience member posed of the Google CEO during yesterday’s keynote session at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention.

His answer?

Mobile, baby, mobile.

“Mobile, mobile, mobile. The mobile device is like the DVD of this generation in terms of innovation,” he said. “It’s highly targeted, highly personal and it will get tremendous processing power….figuring out how to get your platform, your content, your viewers on the mobile device is the next big challenge.”

There you go.

You read it here first.

Pulled into the Web at CWTV Online

April 16, 2007 3:07 PM

And now it’s time for the newest one – CWTV.

The CW recently launched full episode streaming on its Web site at www.cwtv.com. This is my first time actually visiting the network’s site. As it happens, I’m sucked into the “Spider-Man 3” web on the site. On the “Spider-Man 3” promo page, there’s an “Unattainable Crush Contest.” Oh, sure, I have unattainable crushes. And if I submit an essay I could win a chance to take my unattainable crush to the premier of the movie. But for some strange reason, I’m pretty sure even if I won, there’s no way Daniel Craig would be sitting next to me watching Spidey. So I choose not to enter and instead watch a movie trailer. All’s well with the video player on this site.

I spot a Spider-Man Love Match quiz. It will tell me which Spider-Man character is the man of my dreams. I can’t resist.

And how about that? Apparently my “Spider-Man 3” dream hunk is Peter Parker.

Oh, incidentally, the full episodes of CW shows work fine.

ABC.com New Player Goes from Mini to Full Screen, but Needs Better Scroll

April 13, 2007 12:11 AM

ABC’s number is up today. So let’s see how the vaunted ABC.com holds up.

I click on the “watch full episodes” link in the middle of the web page, which delivers me to another page saying “Our new video player is here. Awesome sums it up.”

Well, la dee dah. Let’s see about its self-proclaimed awesomeness, shall we?

I hit “launch new player.”

It loads in about 10 seconds. Not too bad.

The experience feels the same – there’s a swooping semi-circle of sorts with jpegs for the shows. Guess which show I pick?

Nope, I resist “Grey’s Anatomy.” I exercise self-restraint. Threw you for a loop, huh? Instead, I pick “October Road.”

I test out the different screen sizes – full screen, big, normal and mini. That’s impressive actually – all the sizes work. How cool is it to have the mini option? It’s just this adorable teensy tiny video screen.

So I like all of this, but…The scroll bar. The fast forward. It never seems like it’s working. I move the scroll bar, but the shadow remains behind where it was, so I’m never sure how far it jumped.

NBC Again and Again

April 12, 2007 12:54 AM

In the interest of fairness, I’ll continue my week-long visit to the network Web sites. NBC.com’s number comes out of the hat today, so I opt to watch “Passions.” This is such a strange show – some sorcerer witch type is using an etch-a-sketch as a crystal ball and her little granddaughter only talks through cartoon bubbles graphically imposed over her head. OK, for a twist, let’s test how quickly new episodes load. I’m just going to do engage a rapid-fire jump through the next five episodes. I know what you’re thinking – I’m wild, I’m crazy, I’m throwing caution to the wind. It’s all too true when it comes to the woozy world of online video. Here goes.

OK, I jump to the March 28 episode and boom – a black screen of death in the video player bearing the message “Connection Error.” Egads.

March 27, here we go. Oh, that’s no fun. It loaded fine.

Onto March 26. Same thing. Only three seconds and it launched.

And now March 23. Wow – two seconds.

NBC’s grade continues to improve.

Fox.com Fares Well, Not Great

April 11, 2007 12:39 AM

Since we spent time checking out CBS’s full-episode streaming yesterday it only seems fair now to peruse the competition.

So, I stop by Fox.com. Immediately, a short clip from “Prison Break” plays. I search around that general vicinity, looking for a link to the full episode. But the full episode feature – Fox on Demand – is housed a little lower on the main page.

Once I spot “Fox on Demand” I click on that link, taking me to myspace.com/Fox. Hmm, are all of Fox’s full episodes stored on MySpace? Who gets credit for the stream – MySpace.com or Fox.com?

In any case, I click on “24” and the page does look sharp and is chock full of surrounding features like forums and links to friends as well as a list of episodes.

I toggle through the different features – pause, rewind and my new favorite feature to test, the scroll bar. They work well for the most part, but I do encounter some minor buffering when I move the scroll bar.

It’s interesting to see how each site and network lays out the features just a little differently. I try the expanded screen size option, but when you do that, you lose quick access to the fast forward and pause buttons. I contend that lickety-split access to pause, minimize and mute are some of the most important features in any form of online video.

Barely a Buffer on CBS.com

April 10, 2007 12:51 AM

CBS has earned praise for ease of use of episode streaming on its Web site. So I hop over for a quick test drive. Smack in the middle of the home page is a menu bar with various shows listed above it. I select “Jericho” and watch a few minutes from a recent episode.

The site makes me choose which type of player I want (I hate any impediments and road blocks to instant viewing), but once I opt for Windows Media, the video plays immediately.

I can even move the scroll bar a few minutes ahead with only about one second of buffering. Overall, the video performance appears to be improving on the Web site. Of course, that doesn’t make me more interested in watching the shows though. Oh well – you can’t have everything, can you?

What's on the Other Side?

April 9, 2007 12:50 AM

CBS sends out periodic emails promoting the offerings on its innertube web site. I recently clicked through on one of the links in the email to check out “Ghost Whisperer: The Other Side.” It’s an online companion to the on-air show. I’ve never seen the CBS show “Ghost Whisperer,” but I will say this about the online half – the link from the email escorted me directly to the online show, no questions asked.

The player worked great, with the pause feature operating at lightning speed. And, get this, I could move the scroll bar to jump ahead on the video without any pausing, stuttering or momentary freeze-ups. So I think I’ll try the full episode player tomorrow.

Ze Frank on Blip

April 6, 2007 1:42 PM

Have you check out Ze Frank’s show yet? It just ended last month after a year-long Web run. But never fear! Past episodes are available on Blip.tv.

It looks like Ze is still in the process of adding some features, such as a blog to his page on Blip. But it’s worth swinging by at http://zefrank.blip.tv/. The site is easy to use and the page, as he builds it out, should have some nice capabilities.

VOD Net HealthiNation Expands on Broadband

April 5, 2007 12:05 AM

Just a quick shoutout to broadband and VOD network HealthiNation. It inked a deal with Yahoo last month to distribute its health videos on Yahoo’s lifestyle channel.

I’ve always admired HealthiNation for ease of use. Now, the Yahoo deal should increase its reach substantially. HealthiNation has begun the integration of videos onto Yahoo.

You can check it out here:

Three Cheers for JibJab

April 4, 2007 12:35 AM

Let’s visit JibJab.com today.

Now, this is a video site worth emulating. I’m immediately drawn into the video “What we call the news,” because – are you sitting down – the site promotes it high up on the home page so you can’t miss it. Yes, site designers, promotion is a key element in use of videos.

The video player, embedded of course, is a cinch to use. All the requisite functions work swimmingly – I even rewind twice to try to catch the lyrics on the cat part (you’ll know what I am talking about when you watch it). And on top of that, you can hit the “save” button while you’re watching the video to save it in a playlist if you’re a member.

Also, when you pause the video, a big button is overlaid on top of the video, so when you come back to the it, the button just sort of guides you effortlessly back in.

How's Amanda Doing?

April 3, 2007 12:39 AM

I haven’t visited my good friend and long lost younger sister (pretend sister, OK) Amanda Congdon in some time now.

Let’s see how she is doing. I pop over to Amandacongdon.com and am kind of surprised that it’s not a snazzy video hub. I spy the link for starring amandacongdon and click on that. I watch “Journalism Stories.”

The video plays just fine and yada, yada. It’s still not my cup of tea, but that’s OK.

So now let’s see our friend Amanda on Blip. I’m actually really digging the Blip service. The video player is very cool and easy to use. Here’s the weird thing though – the first video that plays is Amanda talking about her deal with ABCnews.com and how she’s going to be the first video blogger for the site. But that deal was announced late last year. I’m not sure why this episode is the first one in the list of Amanda’s videos.

Finish 'The Office' Quote

April 2, 2007 1:33 PM

Here’s another way to avoid work today. NBC.com noticed that fans on its message boards were playing quote games from “The Office,” zinging sayings back and forth from the show, and asking who said them. So the network turned that into a game it released today online.

I’m a big fan of the show and have seen all the episodes so I gave it a whirl. Sadly, I earned 70 out of a possible 620. The game is mostly a hoot though and reminds you of all you love about the show.

But here’s what I think. It’s a little too hard to be fun. Some of the quotes that you need to finish are long—one is even 19 words. Who can remember the whole thing? You also need to nail the punctuation to earn the points.

The game is also a little long. I kept wondering how many wrong answers I would have to suffer through until it tabulated my score. Still, it’s a fun diversion for fans of the show—so go to NBC.com and check it out.

Two Months 'Til Prom

April 2, 2007 11:53 AM

Michael Eisner’s digital production shop Vuguru premiered its 80-episode online series “Prom Queen” last night on MySpace with YouTube, Veoh and Promqueen.tv launches to follow today.

I popped by MySpace last night to get a first look. I went straight to MySpace.com, the main URL, to see if the series would be promoted there. No such luck. So I clicked through on the Video tab to see if it would be tucked behind that door.

Aha! Very nice. It is there, highlighted in the upper right hand corner of the page with the tantalizing hot link “Watch Now.” I think I’ll do just that.

The video plays straight away with a super short “brought to you” ad from the upcoming movie Hairspray (literally two seconds). Then we dive into the story.

My first thought is the production is really high-quality. It’s not your typical online video with shaky camera work and jerky cuts. It’s well-lit and the music sets the mood. And the mood is CREEPY.

Prom Queen is definitely not my personal taste—yes, one can tell after two minutes, I believe. But the video should perform admirably online, given the ease of use and the top-tier production style. Plus, the video had generated nearly 5,000 views by 10 p.m. EST on Sunday night, three hours after it posted.

Oh, and the first episode is bookended by another short “Hairspray” ad and a Verizon sponsorship message. The ads are far too short, in my view, to be annoying—they blend right in and don’t bug you.

What a thought.

Also, be sure to check out the MySpace pages for the Prom Queen characters. They’re a hoot.