Library 101, One Week in – and that Hulu Thing

Library 101Michael Porter and I have been extremely pleased about the response to our Library 101 project so far. The video? Seven days in, it’s been viewed 11,200 times, and counting. The Facebook Page? 3157 fans and counting. Our Library 101 website with 23 essays? Lots of activity there as well.

And for the most part, response has been very positive. Sure, some of you loved the video and the essays … others, not so much – fair enough. So why do I say “positive?”

Because our goal with this project is being met – people are starting conversations about the changing face of librarianship and the future. In Facebook, at our Project site, and on other blogs and websites, too. Have we hit our mark so far? You bet. We hope those conversations continue, and grow into real change for libraries.

Interestingly, there’s a group of you that have questioned why we included Hulu, of all things, on our 101 list, so I thought I’d start up a conversation about that particular item.

Here’s what our 101 page says about Hulu and other multimedia tools: “Heard of new media tools and services, like iTunes (58), Netflix (59), Amazon (60), Hulu (61), and YouTube (62)? Yep – if you haven’t already, be sure to learn them like the back of your hand. Because you WILL be (more likely, ARE) getting questions about them! Even better, gain some in-depth understanding of these services so you, say, know the difference between YouTube and Blip.tv (63), for example.”

We didn’t actually focus on specific tools (though I can see why some would think so – Hulu’s #61 on the list, after all). The goal of that section wasn’t so much on individual tools, but more about understanding the differences between the tools, and what the future holds for that content.

Why? A couple of reasons. First of all, it’s to help to our patrons:

  • It’s important to be familiar with different search tools (and Hulu is a niche multimedia search tool)
  • It’s also important to know where to access content your library doesn’t own. For example, if a patron wants to watch the second season of I Dream of Jeannie – you might not own it, but it’s free to view on Hulu.

The second reason services like Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, etc were included brings up a slowly growing dilemma for libraries.

Hulu claims to make more money through online ads for a tv show than traditional broadcast companies make with traditional commericals (heard at a presentation by Hulu). That’s a game-changer for broadcast programming. Combine that with Hulu getting more licenses for streamed content, Netflix going all digital, iTunes doing the same, and the fact that most of these services are already subscription-based, or are rumored to be thinking about a subscription-based model … what does that leave libraries with?

Nothing. That is, nothing physical to check out in the library. No DVDs (which I’m guessing will be disappearing as multimedia content shifts to primarily online access). These companies – at least right now – don’t seem to be interested in working with libraries. They’re going after individuals.

At the very least, libraries need to begin working with these corporations to help set up organizational licensing and check-out models for libraries (because if they aren’t subscription-based yet, they will be). And that really only begins to scrape the surface of emerging online content (ie., do you catalog it? Include it in our digital collection? can patrons comfortably watch multimedia content in our libraries? Etc).

So again – thank you guys so much for watching, reading … and starting these important conversations! The goal is to move libraries forward, one step at a time. And I’m pretty confident we can do it. What a fun time to be a librarian!

SXSWi2009: Quality – the Next Online Video Opportunity

Speaker – Eric Feng, Hulu

I arrived late at this one, but still took a boatload of notes. Online video is amazing, and Hulu is right there in the thick of it! Here’s what I heard:

Video 3.0:

continual growth of broadband:

  • median US broadband speed in 2008 was 2.3 Mb/s – still lots of room to grow. Some can get 10 Mb/s
  • In Japan, the median broadband speed is 63 Mb/s !!!

Video technology innovatin is continuing

  • better hardware – more powerful PC CPUs and GPUs
  • better video codecs – H264 as great open source example thats used in many places (ie., YouTube and DVD, for example)
  • Better video platforms – multi-bitrate streaming, intelligent buffering
  • iPhone has the processing speed of a PC around 1998-1999

Marketplace for premium content is there

  • video content has changed
  • now full TV shows are online
  • there are fully-produced, professional-quality web-only shows

Online video ads expected to grow 45% to $850 million in 2009

  • people/companies can monetize content
  • 150% growth in 2007 for online tv
  • 200% growth in 2008

Stuff about Hulu:

The Underwater pyramid – great example of a pyramid with the tip sticking out of the water – the tip is what you see, a small company. The stuff under the water is all the mega technology required to make that company run. It’s a huge technology base.

“Worthy or remark” – Hulu’s rallying cry. They want their stuff to be this, and want people to say this about Hulu when Hulu’s “not in the room”

Great content deserves great quality – 90% of videos available in high resolution 480p – that’s standard def TV/DVD quality video. Wow.

Closed captions to enhance video viewing:

  • thousands of videos have this on Hulu
  • it’s incredibly hard to do
  • they have to sync timecode
  • the V companies store the closed caption content in a variety of ways, including in SMIL and XML, and they have to figure out how to parse it into the videos

Obsess over every pixel

  • review process for every thumbnail on the site
  • they actually look at every one
  • 16X9 thumbnails, optimized for different sizes
  • working on the experience – they’re obsessed over the details
  • they actually used technology to automatically crop shows/thumbnails that were sized 4X3 to 16X9
  • They made it a game in their company, complete with prizes – they had 20,000 thumbnails to do

Innovations you use, but don’t notice

  • query-aware thumbnails
  • same video has different thumbnails depending on your search query

Aside – Eric played their newest Hulu TV ad today – it’s not out on TV yet…

Q – when will Hulu be on my TV/Set top box?

A – still focused on the PC and browser. He said in regards to the TV/Video content world, “they’re the tallest midget in the room”

Q – Canadians can’t get Hulu – when will you be in other countries? I guess Hulu is only available in the US right now.

A – it’s because of rights – they have to sometimes negotiate those rights show-by-show, region-by-region. Wow. They are committed to worldwide. And Eric said “Canada first. Promise.”

Q/A – about Ad revenue – Hulu actually makes more money on with ads online for, example, the show 3rd Rock than the traditional broadcast companies make with traditional commericals. That’s amazing! And they share their ad revenue with the owners of the content.