Things are starting to get really interesting with Rocketboom. I feel like we are near a tipping point. The potential is there and Monday represents kind of a new era for us in terms of our perspective.
Nobody likes long posts so be forewarned! This is a major report. I wish I could do even more.
I. Rocketboom Traffic History
II. A realistic assessment of Rocketboom's current market value and why that value is greater than many national TV broadcast shows.
III. How Rocketboom is going to get way better in quality, really fast, without more money.
IV. How Rocketboom honors, respects and remains legal with international copyright laws.
V. The success and value of non invasive advertising for niche audiences.
VI. Internet Culture - Talkin 'bout our generations <-people with all kinds of age ranges and interests are intertwining with all kinds of international perspectives.
VII. Humanwire - How this is working out so well in development and what it will be like to suddenly have a free news database of quality citizen journalistic stories, in motion video form, coming in from all over the world.
VIII. Dromology - Time is of the essence and why consequence and speed are the most assured assets you can have.
Coming soon to a theater near you!
I. Rocketboom Traffic History
164 shows so far, 5 days a week without fail since the end of October, 2004.
Today I created a long-term statistical report. This is only the last two thirds of our existence. We began daily at the end of October 2004, though these stats reflect a period beginning at the end of January 2005.
a) The most flawed account is the bandwidth transferred. Most of the time Rocketboom has been alive, I have been piggybacking off my forever-free Parsons New School Server space. Once Rocketboom hit the mainstream media for the first time with this AP article , I decided it was no longer fair to Parsons to use my account in this way. Also some people falsely perceived that Rocketboom was a student project because the videos loaded from the a.parsons.edu URL. However, this being the case, the statistics in parentheses indicate accurately that Rocketboom is now transferring about 50gigs a day.
b) To me, the most important stat is not the hits, and not the bandwidth but the page views. Aside from the about pages and the archive page which I can see that very, very few people actually hit, every page has a video. So to me, not quite 1 page view equals an intent to watch a video. In the last 5 months we have had just about 2 million page requests. Currently, we are serving approx. 200,000 pages/videos per week.
c) I have said before that bittorrent often accounts for 75% percent of our traffic. This may have just been a phase that only lasted a few weeks around the time I noticed it. Nevertheless, I still have not gotten around to getting our torrents back in action - its been over a month since we have had them running. So the most recent stats in parentheses do not account for bittorrent traffic at all. Any bittorrented Rocketboom videos were copied and re-seeded elsewhere though I dont have those numbers. I heard Bram Cohen, the creator of Bittorrent say in March that snapshots of internet traffic now reveal over 50% bittorrent traffic, way up since the last report that said 30%.
Not reflected in our Long term report:
c) Our daily subscriber base who use video players and podcast apps like FireANT to retrieve videos via RSS enclosures through XML, or, if you will, our hardcore daily subscriber base, has begun to mushroom and has surpassed our daily website visits growing from around 10% only two months ago to now over 50%. With IPodderX for instance, we seem to be getting around 500-800 new subscribers every day. This is because they decided to put the Rocketboom xml feed as a stock feed in their player download so that when people d/l a new copy of iPodderX, they are also subscribing to Rocketboom consequently. In time I will be able to tell what percentage keep the feed and how many more probably delete it. What is interesting about this is that more and more people are downloading these players; FireANT also includes Rocketboom in the stock feed. This is just an amazing fortune for us because they are really booming on their own.
d) One of the most flattering major increases in traffic that can't be found in Technorati or Google too easily is the increase of individuals who are just starting to videoblog for the first time and including Rocketboom in their side links. While this sometimes only brings 0 or 1 hits, or often does appear in Technorati with a zero link authority, it's the most fulfilling of all I think that someone feels strongly enough about their likeness for us that they put us up as permalink on their site. This is the way the world works, I know, it's just that I think its probably the most valuable in terms of my feelings that people really like what we are doing (even more than a committed daily subscriber). It would be too embarrassing to not stop and draw attention to the fact that I have a few sidelines here, mostly by people that I don't even know or have hardly even met if at all, but defiantly, I feel that rain, sleet hail or snow, I find a great value in their perspective and can trust that that they will always be sincere. It's essentially an awesome responsibility.
e) We have an unusually large international audience. The numbers span so many countries regularly and it's not just a few here and there, but serious bulk in unexpected places.
e) Because we allow our content to be redistributed by other non commercial entities, and also allow Rocketboom to be used in particular instances of commercial use, there are many other venues that receive Rocketboom daily that are not reflected in this report. For instance, however many people have Akimbo have access to Rocketboom, like its a TV station on demand [I really like Akimbo by the way, more on this later]. There are also sites like Open Media Network that just take Rocketboom for nothing but surely reach people we would never reach and several cell-phone distributors who have the go-ahead to distribute Rocketboom on to European, Asian and Indian markets that we would never otherwise reach either - people that don't blog and ones you cant really find in Google. There is also the matter of people seeding bittorrents. From time to time I hear that we are popular in Singapore, but I really cant see any sign of it. Except for one thing:
f) I don't know why I never mentioned this publicly or anything, I just didn't want people to think I was boasting I guess, and also it was kind of a strange time, but from all of the accounts I heard about Tsunami videos, I'm certain we served just as many tsunami videos as anyone. Prior to, and so unreflected in this report, only because its an interesting story, this is why:
On a Sunday when I was writing the script and looking for news stories for the following Monday, I witnessed the tsunami go down online via the main stream media like cnn.com in particular. So I knew the issue was so intense that there would be nothing else to say on Monday and so I spent all day looking for images and video and personal accounts - anything that I could find to "show". This was something I had never done to this degree because I had never really had an impetus. But looking around for footage and pictures was what I would do for any event, big or small on a daily basis for Rocketboom so it started as just another day.
Anyway, I couldn't find any videos on the day of, but I found two sites in Singapore that had about three people total who had posted a whole load of photos. So I believe I created perhaps the first tsunami video online that was a montage of the images with intense background music. While we did not have as much of a reach with our content at the time, we gained very high search return results for "tsunami video" apparently.
There was another major factor that led to the endurance of tsunami traffic: When Waxy and others like myself had accumulated the videos the next day, the same that also became really popular, I decided to turn them all into quicktime videos because there were none. As a result I was the only one serving the Quicktime files for several days and so probably all of those original batch videos that are out there that are quicktime, are generations from me (not to say that makes me special or anything, just pointing it out because i think its interesting), coincidentally. A few sites took these files and re-seeded them in bittorrent sites and then they quickly surpassed our search authority as it stacked against the time, I reckon. I assume Robin Good has an interesting tale to tell because we received a huge amount of traffic from his massive roundup as just one example.
[**aside: Of course I could not pay for the bandwidth and had the videos on the Parsons.edu server space. I brought the graduate multimedia sever down to a grinding halt (the same server that everyone uses to experiment with all kinds of wacky and powerful stuff). We couldn't even get the server to deliver a 5k gif file until I renamed the videos and brought them back on slowly over days.
[**to the other aside: I watched as iFilm, the massively obnoxious and ad invasive leech site, learned a thing or two during this time as well about search return results. Of course with their link authority, they became the mainstream site to watch the tsunami videos as the only known option to a lot of people to start with. I remember later, on the day before the Superbowl this year, iFilm had posted all of the superbowl commercials, including all of the text and even video and image placeholders for ALL of the commercials in order to get them up first and to receive the best search results. So if you went to iFilm that night before the game, you could click on a bunch of superbowl commercials, which of course never loaded. But all of the advertisements surrounding the commercials were there and they were already making big bucks before they even copied the broadcasts and then posted the videos. Thats crummy of them and you can predict their behavior to be like this in the future too I suppose. I have noticed that over the last few months the obnoxiousness had gone way down, but its still pretty out-of-control for my tastes]
In conclusion, esp. taking an overview since October, I am gathering that despite certain spikes and MSM here and there, we have been doubling at a rate of approx. every 1.5 months (as reflected by the bar graphs in the long-term stats page).
PART II [**updated: 10:30am, 07/09/2005]
II. A realistic assessment of Rocketboom's current market value and why that value is greater than many national TV broadcast shows
This one has stumped me since I made the claim and I'm going to back off because my understanding of what I'm doing is growing though my understanding of how national TV broadcasts work is nearly zilch. I have not even lived in a home with a TV once since 1990.
Pardon me for not doing more research. I'm getting a real kick out continuing to not watch TV because everyone that seems to watch it is like an alien to me from another planet. It makes me feel like an astronaut without having to go through all of the rigorous training. Now it seems so relevant to what I'm doing, but is that an excuse to start watching it?
Without knowing how TV operates and without knowing detailed numbers of viewer-ships and without even knowing how much money goes in and out in net, I can still safely draw the following comparison:
If a TV show has a small audience of 30,000 viewers for one show (I hear this is a bottom-of-the-barrel number but that some shows on TV, beyond cable access, do have these kinds of numbers), then right now, that show may sell a 15 second advertisement at the end of the show for $1000 (sounds cheap to me, but someone who seemed to know what he was talking about said it was this low for the bottom-end shows). [If you have numbers, PLEASE SHARE!]
In that case, as a direct parallel, as Rocketboom now has an audience of 30,000+ each day, then our ad space at the end of each clip could be considered to be valued, by the same benchmarks, at the same amount, $1000.
This is, of course, a good starting place, but an advertisement on Rocketboom is substantially more valuable:
The TV ad plays once, at a certain time (e.g. 7:29:30 - 7:29:45 p.m. on 12/02/2005) to an exclusive domestic subscriber network while a Rocketboom ad is available anytime to a non-inclusive international network.
The Rocketboom ad goes on to live with a major life span in a range from many more people to, so far, often 5 times the amount or, a value of $5,000 at least, based on the benchmark value example.
The TV ad is also not available for "reference" in the future. The Rocketboom ad is searchable consequently and inconsequently.
The TV AD demands another interface to take action (e.g. calling on phone, going to store) in order to be effective while Rocketboom ads provide direct links to advertisers' websites.
TV ads do not have an apparent feedback mechanism.
Rocketboom ads are talked about in comments with other viewers.
The list goes on and on, esp in terms of vague psychological concepts, the kinds the advertising industry just loves apparently.
So the value of the Rocketboom ad, with all of this, is worth WAY more then the TV ad. Lets just be calm and say twice as much. In the case scenario above, if the benchmark number for a good episode is $5000, then a "reasonable assessment" of the value of Rocketboom is somewhere between $2000 and $10,000 a day/episode.
At an inexpensive $50 cost per episode (including bandwidth, printer ink, light bulb and subway fare), that leaves a lot left over for salary and growth seed. With additional shows/videoblogs that share resources it is a lucrative model, I believe. Hence the idea of an international "network".
Most importantly, the advertising is enjoyed by the audience, typically, because the ad comes only at the end, it's non invasive, non repetitive, and filtered for supreme quality with relevance.
III. How Rocketboom is going to get way better in quality, really fast, without more money
The main problem with Rocketboom in particular is that we must create something compelling from nothing everyday. We tend to wait until the evening to gather the script and shoot in order to remain fresh the following day. This means the only time for dealing with screw ups is in the middle of the night. Therefore, when 9am comes along, we usually have to grin and bear it with what we have and hit publish. I wish I could spend two weeks on each episode, and then put it down for two weeks and then revisit it for a few more days.
So in order to fix this, we are doing now what we have been unable to successfully do in the past: have back ups on the shelf. We have made a commitment to end each week with two back-ups on the shelf for the future, just in case, with the hopes of accumulation. Also the correspondents, who create their own work, often save the day now. We still have more and more work to do in this area, but the more quality backups we can obtain, the more liberally we can use them when the production at hand is worse.
IV. How Rocketboom honors, respects and remains legal with international copyright laws
When Socrates said "One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing", he was probably talking about copyright law. All I know about copyright law is that it a wide-open field right now and previous cases may have no outcome on future cases with all of the different angles that can be taken in terms of placing responsibility and assessing damages, etc. Also, every country is different.
Nevertheless, it is our policy and the policy that we promote to universally abide by the content creator's wishes. No matter what others do or think, I believe, so far, that if the true author of a creative work wants us to refrain from using their work, or stop using their work, then we should and will respect those wishes. I draw no distinction between my friend's personal blog and a mainstream media network. If you created the content, you can tell me not to use it.
There is nothing about Rocketboom that is dependent on other people's work. It certainly is convenient and helpful to us and our audience (and the author of the content) when we do use others' work in the ways that we do, with permission and under fair use guidelines, etc., though, even in those cases when a fair use scenario seems legal, and the content creator wants us to not use their work, we will respect those wishes, and simply cease and desist.
So far in the history of Rocketboom, we have never once been asked to take down any content from our site.
V. The success and value of non invasive advertising for niche audiences
Listen to this audio folloup to my talk at the SXSWi 2005.
IV. Internet Culture - Talkin 'bout our generations <-people with all kinds of age ranges and interests are intertwining with all kinds of international perspectives
This is kind of the basis for the book. I should probably leave that to the later date. In short, what I believe may be happening now is this: Most people still do not have access to the moving image. At most, they have a few options from the most popular, fiscally determined, nationally-centric broadcasts. Otherwise, and thus their world perspectives are derived from hearsay via dense levels of interpreted abstractions. The small child in a small town in America, may soon be able to see first hand, unedited, the reality behind the lifestyles, activities, believes, and cultural rituals of others from all over the world. Not just media geared towards their targeted culturally specific age groups. You would think this would be available somewhere but really its extremely difficult to gain access to international video, especially, quality off-stream content. Hold on world, this new access will likely boost the rate of worldwide understanding; I wish we could all do more to get along. Ahem.
VII. Humanwire - How this is working out so well in development and what it will be like to suddenly have a free news database of quality citizen journalistic stories, in motion video form, coming in from all over the world
Stay tuned for another post soon about this build, boiling up in the background another two more weeks. . .
VIII. Dromology - Time is of the essence and why consequence and speed are the most assured assets you can have.
Ever since I read Speed and Politics by Paul Virilio, everything made since for how to make things happen. This is the age-old model of technology that can be applied to everything in life. In a war, the side with the information first about where the other side is or isn't, will have the advantage. The person who first knows the news will have the stock advantage. The person who creates the first this or that will have that advantage to begin with. I hear you only live once. Why sleep off a third of that? In terms of directing with consequence, it's simply filtering happenstance. Sound esoteric? Check out Virilio, it's not.
Thanks for taking the time to share that. I enjoyed hearing all about it. Your podcast was the first one I saw and that's the moment I said "I must do this too". That was a few months ago and our viewership is growing fast.
Today my server shutdown for exeeding daily bandwidth.
I've tucked videos on Ourmedia and borrowed a friend's site
but it's kind of a messy way of doing things. I'm really finding it hard to keep accurate numbers on everything.
I admire what you're doing. Please share your experience whenever you can.
Interesting to read. I just wonder how can you afford to burn 50Gbs of bandwidth every day when there seems to be nothing on the site that produces any income for you? At, say 35c per Gig (which would be pretty cheap), that would be costs of $17 each day/$500 per month?
As for the copyright issue, which I guess you will be talking about in part two, that complicates the income situation, I imagine. By which I mean, to a certain extent you can get away with using copyright material when your site is non commercial (how does IFilm manage it?).
I have been looking at the public domain video material that is available in the States. But as I'm publishing from the UK, the whole thing is a mess, as stuff which is PD over there is often protected by copyright in Britain. Even if it is 'orphaned' and no one appears to care about it.
I think you are being incredibly naive on the subject of copyright. When you publish a video that includes the whole of the British no.1 hit single 'Is this the way to Amarillo' as its
soundtrack, that is neither 'fair use' of that record nor 'respecting' copyright. I think you are avoiding prosecution to date because Rocketboom is currently none-commercial. Put some ads at the end of each episode and I think you will be in big trouble.
Even music in the background at events which you film can be problematic from a copyright point of view.
Copyright is not up in the air at all. Infringement is an open and shut case.
g7, I hear what you are saying. Its not fair, usually, to use an entire piece like the amarillo piece. It is very possible we could get a call from someone asking us to take it down, and we would take it down, right away.
I believe in this case, even while playing the work in its entirety, it was fair-use because the work was being freely distributed, and because of the major degree of reach and also, only by its entirety, was it newsworthy. I especially determined that it was not disrespectful to the owners. This was my personal assessment though so again, right or wrong, at the first indication that the owners wouldn't want it, we would take it down.
When you say copyright is not up in the air at all, you are massively wrong. No one knows what to expect from the interpretation. Also, different national laws apply to the same case scenario.
And yes, I am naive about copyrights too. It doesn't matter though because we have nothing to fight over; If it's your content we are talking about, your wish is my command.
Anyway, I found part two very interesting. The advertising model makes sense I would say. One problem with the ad at the end is that viewers can just hit 'stop' once they've realised there is always an ad at the end and no more content. At the beginning would be more effective or in the middle (I'm sure Amanda could camp things up in the lead-in to the break).
I disagree with G7 about putting the ad ad the beginning or middle. I think the concept is to have ads that are cool enough that people will want to watch them. I also think the goodwill generated by not forcing people to watch ads will actually make them more open to the ads should they choose to watch them.