C-SPAN To Launch User Video Site

Public interest TV station C-SPAN and online media storage provider StreamLoad have announced that the two companies will collaborate on a new user submitted video site set to launch later this month and called ViewFinder. The ViewFinder site is already online, though it’s clearly not ready for launch (I just guessed the URL correctly after seeing the press release).

Everyone wants in on the user submitted video game. More than seeking extra revenue, it may be a survival strategy. Old media’s dominance of video can no longer be presumed. Will short-form amateur video makers still seek the big audiences and validation of old, mainstream media or are the other options emerging too appealing and numerous to take that for granted anymore?

C-SPAN’s entry demands some comparison with CNN’s user submitted video site, launched in July and called Exchange. Exchange emphasizes fast street level action reports in a section it calls iReports but it also includes mundane questions like “How do you plan to stay sane during holiday travel?” that users can upload videos in response to. CNN’s Exchange is powered by Blip.tv (winners of the Best Video Hosting Vloggies Award) and requires Windows Media Player to view the videos, which must have been the media behemoth’s idea since the videos on Blip.tv are all in Flash. It’s hard to know how much traction Exchange has gained in the 4 months since it launched, but in the blogosphere the site has only seen around 20 inbound links in the last week.

In contrast, C-SPAN is asking for video replies to two questions, with submissions under 2 minutes in length. Right now the site asks for responses to a Question of the Week from the show Washington Journal and thoughts about the “fast approaching” midterm US congressional elections. The links aren’t all correct and some of the pages won’t load, so when they say it won’t be out until the end of the month that’s probably true.

C-SPAN’s Viewfinder will be powered by Streamload, a San Diego based multipurpose media storage service that offers very low costs, large capacity and a wide variety of white labeled services. Our previous coverage of StreamLoad is here. The TV network had discussed a partnership with Google Video this spring. In fact, PaidContent reported at the time, C-SPAN’s demand that the famous Colbert/Bush roast video be pulled from YouTube was a part of that experiment to see how partnering with Google Video could work. The fact that StreamLoad was awarded the ViewFinder partnership is probably something they are very proud of.

Will user submitted video sent to C-SPAN be interesting? Will a large number of people submit video? It’s a fascinating gamble. Could it be more obvious that old media is looking to incorporate new media, instead of battening down the hatches and rambling on about “objectivity?” I hope both of these mainstream news experiments with user submitted video are successful and we get to enjoy the benefits of both old media and new media. Hopefully the people in charge of selecting which videos will be shared and highlighted will exercise broad and fair editorial judgment. Selecting those videos could be a fun job, if people from across the political spectrum embrace the opportunity to submit video to these stations. Whether they will remains a question, when so many other sites are building up a large audience and don’t exercise editorial control over what is shown to viewers. It’s good that the C-SPAN TOS is for non-exclusive licensing.

For how long will video producers feel drawn the the audiences and validation of old media? Check out the startup video aggregation site The Daily Reel to see an example of another vision of the future. The barrier to entry just isn’t what it used to be (an understatement) and as video proliferates, alternatives just might topple the big old media instead of being co-opted. It’ll be a fun contest to watch, one way or the other.