A lot has been written by people I respect who have industry knowledge about the trials and tribulations over at Joost, the P2P video start up that was founded by the founders of Skype. Despite bringing in a big name CEO from Cisco, and all the hype Joost got, the recapping of their demise by Om Malik, Michael Arrington and pal Peter Csathy all have picked apart most of the shortcomings the start-up faced.
Two of the very on the mark comments speak out loudly from Arrington and Malik:
Arrington in TechCrunch wrote:
Here’s what I learned from Joost’s failure - celebrity founders, celebrity CEOs and tons and tons of cash can be a recipe for disaster. Applying yesterday’s solutions to today’s problems isn’t an interesting business. And finally, knowing when to throw in the towel and just return what’s left of capital to investors is an important skill as well. That way everyone can move on and focus on real value add opportunities. There’s no room for Joost in the consumer online video space, and there’s almost certainly no room for them in white label video, either. Time to call it a learning experience and move on.
While Malik in GigaOm wrote in his post about what went wrong cited Hulu:
Hulu: It started with a simple, easy-to-use interface for its browser-based video service, offered higher-quality video and used content from its backers, NBC and Fox, to become a household name, which in turn allowed Hulu to convince other content owners to sign up for its platform. Now it owns 10 percent of online video traffic.
While Csathy's two posts go on to pretty much drill down to what really matters after you remove the celebrity founded company (YAWN) and the pedigree of the investors (DOUBLE YAWN) before getting to the meat of the matter:
There are many reasons why all of Joost's advantages -- and it had remarkable ones -- did not lead them to the promised land. At the end of the day, Om Malik concludes that "in the end, however, it all boiled down to a lack of content."
Very interesting conclusion -- perhaps content IS king after all?
And, for video professionals -- where their content IS their business -- quality video trumps all.
So with all that as a backdrop, I'm going to now weigh in and say.."yup. All great points. All dead on the money from the Silicon Valley world and totally reflective of what happened and why." As a matter of fact, the autopsy the three performed are all reasons why Joost has failed, minus one key component. And the funny thing is all three pretty much wrote around the key missing piece.
I have to sometimes laugh and sit back at how long ago (1974) I first learned the meaning of PRODUCTION VALUE. I was assigned (at the tender age of 14) to work with NFL Films who were producing the Philadelphia Wings highlights film (yes FILM) and the producer was a pain in the butt. But when I saw the finished product, I realized his demand (not a request, not a please can you, but a demand) to be in just the right spot to shoot the game. To be inside the locker room with cameras, to be on the bus with the team, to have certain players mic'd a certain way, all were geared towards the precision and end result that NFL Films was known for.
A few years later I was working for the Philadelphia Flyers and we came up with the idea for the Pepsi Shootout, adapting the Boston Bruins Mini One on One idea that had been pioneered by my friend and now Chairman of USA Hockey, Ron DiGregorio (aka Digger.) The then Flyers producer Peter Silverman insisted on production value, and that it be better than what was done in Boston. Camera angles. Chyron text details, which meant having every players name, number, jersey color, position known well before the shooting at the Spectrum, pronunciation of names for announcers the late Gene Hart, Bobby Taylor and yes, me, all were needed too. Lighting had to be just right, etc.
A few years later it was Mike Finnochiaro, who produced the Bobby Clarke Retirement video and my staging of the live event, where the crew I hired, out of the world of rock and roll arena show production, led by George Packer, the former road manager of Styx, demonstrated as a team a complete understanding of the finished product. But it was Packer who was a lifelong Flyers fan, and who like I had grown up watching, and yes, idolizing number 16 who said, to me, we have to bring production value to the event so it looks great when we were discussing what we were doing and why. So did Mike Brooks, from whom we rented the fast fold screens and projectors (this was 1984 folks and wide-screens in arenas were just being thought of.) Brooks too emphasized that the reason for using the fast fold, light weight screens and the GE 5055 projectors had all to do with production value. Yes we could have saved a few grand here and there, but because it was Clarkie who was being retired, nothing was going to keep any of us from doing it better than best, because that was the way he played.
Each of these examples, of 30 years ago (yes I'm older than Csathy, Malik and Arrington) are riveted in my head because in each case, they key words used by each of the different experts was that at the end of the day, it all came down to the words "Production Value."
And that's what Joost didn't have. Sure they had lots of content, but like so much that's on the web today, the lack of production value in the majority of the content, is what has been holding back video on the web, and what held them back.
Csathy's points about encoding are closest to that mark. If you don't make it look GREAT, people won't watch. That's my rub with so much of the Flash video vs. Quicktime. It's kind of like Pixar under Steve Jobs. Good enough wasn't Good. It had to be Great. And that's what Joost wasn't. It was simply good enough to get the investors on board. After that it never got better.