5 Question Interview: Michelle Cox from Metacafe

Metacafe: Video Entertainment, Powered by YouMany people think that YouTube is the only online video sharing site on the market and that is far from the truth. One of the best video sharing sites I highly recommend and use frequently is Metacafe. Metacafe is one of the world’s largest video sites, attracting more than 25 million unique viewers each month and it specializes in short-form original content – from small independent artists to large established Hollywood production studios alike.

For this month’s interview feature I spoke with Michelle Cox who is the communications director for Metacafe. When she’s not busy watching videos, talking about videos or thinking of videos… well, she’s probably asleep (and dreaming about videos). After chatting about our favorite videos…we got the interview started:

EG: Alright Michelle, I’m starting out with a tough one…what makes Metacafe unique when compared to other video sharing sites like YouTube?

MC: YouTube created the online video industry. We at Metacafe are creating the short-form video entertainment industry. We aren’t interested in providing a platform for any and every video. We’re focused solely on made-for-the-web content that is entertaining to a large and diverse audience. We think short-form is poised to take its place as the third pillar of the video entertainment industry, alongside TV and movies. There are so many talented producers out there making some really creative, innovative, entertaining short videos – from individual independent filmmakers to boutique production houses to major media companies. Metacafe is the premier destination for distribution of this content, and our unique approach to people-powered programming ensures that the videos our audience finds most entertaining receive maximum exposure on the site.

EG: What do you mean by “people-powered programming”?

MC: We engage our 30 million monthly viewers every step of the way in creating the Metacafe entertainment experience. First, our community review panel – made up of 80,000 volunteers around the world – takes a first look at every video uploaded to the site. They help us eliminate any videos that are inappropriate, and they help identify the videos that are most likely to prove entertaining to the larger audience. Second, once a video is on the site, our VideoRankTM technology is constantly looking at how viewers react to it – telling us how entertaining it is based on factors such as how many people watch it to the end, watch it more than once, send it to a friend, mark it as a favorite, and more. The higher a video’s VideoRankTM, the more likely it is to be featured on our home page, in our recommendation engine and other key areas around the site. Third, our viewers determine which videos earn money through our Producer Rewards® program – we pay $5 for every 1,000 views of an original video accepted into the program.

EG: One of your new features that recently made its debut on Metacafe is PLYfx, do you want to say a few words about this cool new feature?

MC: It is a really cool new feature! PLYfx is a creativity toolkit that enables Metacafe viewers to personalize their entertainment experiences by adding dialog bubbles, photos, webcam video, clip art, subtitles and more to videos. Once you’ve personalized a video, you can save it with a unique URL and even send it to your friends directly from the Metacafe video player. PLYfx is currently in beta testing, but anyone can check it out by clicking the “Enable PLYfx” button embedded in this Metacafe blog post.

EG: The opportunities to monetize online video are rapidly increasing across many of the top video sharing sites, how does Metacafe allow the video producer to monetize their video?

MC: Our Producer Rewards® program was one of the first to pay independent video creators for their work, and we’ve paid well over $1 million to hundreds of creators since the program launched in October of 2006. Any creator can submit a video for consideration, and the basic requirements are simply that it be an original work that is appropriate for and proves entertaining to our large and diverse audience. We pay $5 for every 1,000 views, and the creator gets the first payment for $100 after the video crosses the 20,000 views threshold. We’ve also recently established partnerships with a number of boutique production firms creating short-form content for the web – companies such as 60 Frames, Howcast, Next New Networks, Aniboom and others. These are revenue-sharing based relationships in which we share a percentage of advertising revenue with content creators.

EG: What is the one hint or tip you could share that most people creating videos fail to realize or include in the production or launching of their video on Metacafe? What makes the difference between a good video with a handful of views and a great video with thousands of views?

MC: There’s no magic formula, but a few tips for success:

  • Capture the viewer’s attention immediately – In short-form entertainment, you need to get into the action right away. Lead with the punch line and keep it punchy throughout.
  • Do something original – Viewers are always looking for something new. Amaze us!
  • Keep it short – The average video on Metacafe is 90 seconds long. We don’t accept anything longer than 10 minutes, and we find that viewers start dropping off after 3 minutes or so.
  • Make a high-quality production – You don’t need expensive equipment, but you should spend the time to ensure your video looks and sounds good. Write a script. Use a microphone. Light your set.
  • Package your video well – A video’s title, tags, description and thumbnail make the difference between a video that stands out from the crowd and one that gets lost in a sea of content. Be thorough and accurate in creating the metadata for your video to ensure it reaches the right viewers and meets their expectations.

EG: What is coming down the pipe from Metacafe to stay ahead of the game or enhance the user experience?

MC: One of the big things we’re focused on right now is rolling out Wikicafe – a mass collaboration platform that empowers our community to edit video metadata. The feature is currently in beta testing with our registered users, and we’ll be officially launching the feature later this summer. I really can’t emphasize enough how critical thorough and accurate titles, tags, descriptions and other information about a video are. The challenges of video search are well documented, and we think Wikicafe will help address many of these problems. Ultimately, it’s about matching the right videos with the right viewers – and the right advertisers with those viewers. We’re serious about engaging our community every step of the way, and Wikicafe is a natural next step in our people-powered programming approach.

EG: Thanks Michelle!