Branded "u local," the KickApps-powered features will enable the stations’ viewers to engage in discussions about news topics as well as upload personal photos and videos. The u local brand will roll out to 25 Hearst-Argyle Television Web sites throughout the first half of this year.
"Our newsrooms continue to evolve to accommodate 24/7 local coverage and viewer engagement," said Jacques Natz, director of digital content for Hearst-Argyle Television. "The launch of u local is a step forward in opening up this process to Hearst-Argyle viewers. We're excited to work with KickApps to meet the changing demands of our audiences on-air and online."
Once installed on Hearst-Argyle's Web sites, the KickApps system leverages a local television's marketing platform and brand awareness to drive online engagement and to build community. Key factors to building a successful presence are the station’s ability to solicit viewer interaction along with the development of local news stories and UGC video.
YouTube goes professional
The Google-owned YouTube channel launched a new design on April 16, which separates user videos from professional video supplied by networks and other pro-content producers. The new design includes tabbed navigation with the professional content sections clearly identified. It also includes tabs for: movies, music, shows and videos. The familiar user-generated videos will be limited to the videos tab. This content, while plentiful and often watched, has been difficult to sell to advertisers. Confining such content to a single tab may ease the path to advertising — or as some say, brand-safe placement.
Not needing to reinvent the wheel, the new YouTube player will more closely resemble the functionality of that used by online competitor Hulu. Duplicating a feature provided on the Apple movie preview site, when videos are displayed in the new YouTube player, the surrounding area is dimmed, making the player’s images appear brighter and focusing the viewer’s interest.
In related news, YouTube and Disney announced a revenue-sharing deal supporting the launch of multiple ad-supported ESPN channels. Content will include shows from ESPN and Disney/ABC television. The ESPN channel is up now.The Disney/ABC site will launch in mid-May.
Key in the news is that the ABC content will only include short-form features. The agreement will permit ABC to develop ad-supported channels with both ABC and ESPN content. “This deal provides us with the opportunity to reach a broader online audience, to experiment with different monetization models and to extend the reach of our advertisers within branded environments that they most desire," said Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group.
As part of the agreement, the ESPN video player will be integrated into ESPN's channel on YouTube. The sports network will also make additional short-form content available through YouTube's player. Important to note is that no long-form content will appear on the YouTube channel. Also, this is the first time anything other than a YouTube player has been allowed on the channel’s Web site.
Disney is reportedly also in talks with online television channel Hulu for an equity share in the YouTube competitor. Such an agreement might be focused on allowing Hulu to get Disney’s long-form content. This would give Disney the best of both worlds — both long-term and short-form content available from different online channels.
The bottom line for YouTube is that it needs advertising, but that can’t happen as long as advertisers are leery about the content. Segregating UGC to a single YouTube channel, putting professional content on other channels, opens the door to safe advertising.