Blinkx Reinvents Itself Again, Adapting to the Future of Video
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other discovery services that are based purely on social filtering. For Blinkx, he says, “those social influences are merely factors, more inputs into the algorithm, no more or less. They are valuable inputs that we didn’t have five or six years ago, but you need a level of filtration above that. Twitter is great, but there is too much noise.”
In other words, Chandratillake says you can think of the new Blinkx site as “algorithmically based concept of what you are interested in. It’s still your stream—everything that the people you follow have shared is still there—but the order is based on our algorithms.”
Blinkx plans to monetize the videos on its site in the same way it does on its other properties—by showing pre-roll and post-roll ads. But that will come later, after the “beta” label comes off the site, probably in October. Eventually, Blinkx may offer its new socially-filtered video discovery tools to its partners, starting with the Burst Media properties.
After Chandratillake gave me a tour of the new site, I asked him to explain the thinking behind the redesign of the site, and for his opinions about some of the big trends in online video. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.
Xconomy: To some extent, what’s going on with apps like Showyou and NextGuide and the new Blinkx is a shifting of some of the burden of discovering video back to the user. Using Blinkx now is more akin to channel surfing than traditional search.
Suranga Chandratillake: Yes and no. The burden of discovery isn’t being shifted back to users per se, it’s being shifted increasingly to the community at large. You are making the final choice; the difference now is that the options are driven heavily by your network of friends and connections. And of course search is still there. If you know you want to watch a specific video and hunt it down, Blinkx is still an excellent tool for that.
The social stuff seems like a really easy fix for how you figure out what to show someone, but actually it’s not. What you need is an algorithm or a filtration level above that, that helps people manage the chaos.
X: What signals are your algorithms paying attention to?
SC: Using the social graph data we get through Facebook and Twitter, we know who you interact with most, who appears to be high-value in your stream. Through that we can extend the graph and see videos that may be being tweeted by people who are similar to the people you follow. Thirdly, it’s about history and what you click.
X: How does Blinkx’s core search expertise still show through in all this?
SC: There are two pieces I think we do better. One is profiling. You’ve always been able to train Blinkx over time, but doing that well is really hard. Secondly, we have more data on any given video object because we analyze the video more deeply. Those two things are the key reasons we’ve been successful so far. All we are doing now is opening up to more powerful weighting sources, which are the social networks. The tough thing is using them without letting them over-weight what you are doing. Even if something doesn’t completely fit your social stream, we might still think it’s relevant to you.
X: Do you think traditional video search is becoming less relevant?
SC: The number of searches we handle has always been increasing. I don’t feel that it has become less relevant. But what we have noticed is that as people have become more confident about their consumption of online video, they have spent more time wandering around. The first version of Blinkx was just a search box, but as early as 2006 we had a video wall. For me, the best analogy is to the generic news sites like Yahoo News and Google News. They have a real balance between discovery and search. I can go to Google News to hunt down a press release about a company I care about, but I can also see the big stories of the day.
X: Thew new version of our site seems a lot more friendly to people who are in “lean-back” video consumption mode, rather than “lean-forward.”
SC: Weirdly enough people were already using us in a very lean-back way, but I don’t know that we’ve ever really helped them do that. This allows people to do that very easily if that’s what they want to do. They can start playing a video, then look for the next thing to watch and the next. And it works particularly well on mobile devices, which feel even more lean-back than the computer does.
X: Why did you give up the CEO role for the chief strategy officer role?
SC: I really enjoy building companies. I get as much excitement out of things like hiring my 300th employee or hitting profitability as I do out of the pride of shipping something for the first time. But there is a point at which … Next Page »