There’s been a bit of buzz around MSN’s new Soapbox video sharing site of late (currently invitation-only beta, I’m afraid). Initial reactions seem to have been reasonably positive, whilst pointing out that of course Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do if it’s going to compete with YouTube.
At the same time there’s been some speculation about whether YouTube is a sustainable business at all – particularly given the large amounts of copyrighted content that is available on the site. Obviously the future for YouTube (and, to a lesser extent, Soapbox) depends on being able to serve ads with or alongside the content.
Obviously YouTube or Soapbox could automatically insert a short ad at the beginning or end of a user’s video clip (my colleague Eric Picard has an interesting piece on Clickz about the new :05 format for TV ads). Using behavioural targeting, this ad could be targeted to the profile of the viewer. The network would keep all of the ad revenue, of course; the author of the content just has to hope that the ad isn’t too annoying for his/her audience.
But how about letting the person who uploads the video decide what ad(s) to insert, and rewarding them accordingly? So the video content becomes more like a contextual ad placement. Microsoft’s Points micropayment system (currently in use on Xbox Live and shortly to be rolled out for the Zune Marketplace) would be well-suited to this. Points you earn from hosting ads in your content could be spent on more bandwidth, or stuff for your Xbox or Zune player.
This system would have the benefit of allowing the content creator (who probably has a good idea of his/her likely audience) deciding what ads are most appropriate – and it has the double benefit of creating a viral distribution network for high quality video ads.