So Yahoo is recommitted to online video? Great. But the success v. failure devil is in the details.

Steve Smith’s recent article in MediaPost makes some interesting observations re the power of the Yahoo platform and how content choices and presentation may be make or break for the portal’s effort.  The dilemma for the portals re original video has really never been (nor shall it be) whether to invest in content / online video.  It’s about the execution, presentation, and their approach to both creative and programming for the audience.  Yes, part of the problem is the now decade old “shoehorning of TV into the online content space.”   They are all aware of this and seemingly getting smarter.  As Smith notes, Yahoo has been doing some terrific shows that are meant for the web and crafted with the online audience in mind.

The real problem is in (1) the broader, strategic development of content, format, series drop frequency, and a more granular editorial calendar,  and (2) HOW the quality content is then presented to the audience.  While “it’s not TV”, the portals can take a lesson from TV and some time-tested strategies about presentation and programming.   We’ve consulted for the portals and always harp on the following.

The audience is indeed in control but, let’s not forget, that most viewers, regardless of platform, want some help.  They want some direction, they don’t want to wade through the chaff (including the bad visual presentation on most portals, e.g., Steve’s thumbnails example), and they want (a) ease and (b) the web to work for THEM.  They want Yahoo to act, dare I say, like the new model of Network.  Plant the flag by focusing first on just plain, terrific content offerings in each vertical.  Don’t shill or sell as your first priority and drive them away with ONLY the overtly branded stuff up front.  Don’t hide your best, most original stuff that will earn you loyalty (and their willingness to view the branded stuff).

In short, they have to act, at least a bit, like a network.  Be brave.  Think like a programmer / broadcaster and less like an info dump.   Sure, monetize your slate, but help that effort by investing in at least SOME content that you just believe in.  Get that to me on MY terms in all respects. Do so and you will earn the untapped loyalty that you can then sell to your sponsor brands.

With the sheer power of Yahoo’s numbers, we’d argue that cracking the code and taking  online video to that long anticipated new level, is only a few critical programming decisions away.  Maybe the new CEO will have an opinion on this.