Yahoo makes Web video search more like TV channels
By Eric Auchard
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Yahoo Inc. is making it easier for Web surfers to find videos by upgrading its search system to become more like saving favorite TV channels with a remote control, the company said on Wednesday.
The Internet media giant aims to recapture share in the fast-emerging market for viewing videos online — the year’s hottest Internet trend — where Yahoo has lost ground over the past six months to upstart video search company YouTube.
“Instead of having to discover individual videos one by one, once you have found a source you like, you can keep coming back,” Jason Zajac, general manager of social media at Yahoo, said in a phone interview.
YouTube, a San Mateo, California-based company with only 30 employees which was founded by two former developers at online payments company PayPal, surged from nowhere earlier this year and now attracts tens of millions of monthly users.
That is five times the U.S. audience of former market leader Yahoo Video Search, according to data from Internet measurement firm Hitwise. MySpace ranks second, Yahoo third and Microsoft Corp.’s MSN is fourth, data shows. Other rapid gainers are start-ups Grouper and Daily Motion.
Among the changes Yahoo is introducing to its video search service at http://video.yahoo.com is a simple way for users to subscribe to and watch “channels”, or groups of videos related by videomaker, programmer or keyword topic.
Yahoo now allows subscribers to specific channels to tag, or categorize, videos to make it easier for viewers with similar tastes to find the video later. Users can browse for featured videos, popular videos or by category or “tag”.
“It is really worthwhile to create something that people can go back to and not have to find all over again,” said IDC analyst Josh Martin, who was briefed on Yahoo’s plans. “Searching for video kind of sucks right now.”
Taking advantage of the growing availability of broadband Internet connections, YouTube has made its name as the playground of quirky short-form videos contributed by users. It has yet to figure out how to make money off its service, through some form of advertising or other money-making effort.
To date, Yahoo had taken a cautious approach to serving up user-created video that is suddenly all the rage on the Web, focusing instead on acting as a showcase for professionally produced videos available across the Web or sports, news and entertainment programming licensed or created by Yahoo itself.
Zajac said Yahoo is applying an editorial process to its video search home page that balances high-quality programming against the popularity contest for the latest joke videos.
“Of course, users have access to all the content across the Yahoo network,” Zajac said. “What we are adding to that is user-generated content.”
The changes Yahoo is introducing to its video search service combine an uncluttered design look with linkages to its wider network of other Internet properties.
Videomakers both amateur and pro can now upload a video to Yahoo. Users can then post a version of their favorite videos onto their own Web sites using an embedded Yahoo video player.
“This is a good step for Yahoo,” Martin said. The next move for the Sunnyvale, California-based company is to connect together video content across its network of sites ranging from news to travel to sports fantasy leagues. “Yahoo has stuff that others like Google or YouTube don’t,” he said.