Hard Times Are Good For The Online Video Industry: Don’t Give Into The Scare

No one will argue that just about every business vertical and our country are experiencing hard times. But for the online video industry, the challenging times are good for business and as a whole, good for the industry overall. To me, it looks as if too many folks are writing for headlines and want to predict doom and gloom just so they can play on emotions and do things like create lists of ways that companies in our space can "survive" the hard times. How many more posts do we have to read where someone gives advice saying things like "watch your expenses" or "renegotiate vendor contracts"? If any company in any industry does not already know to watch their expenses and isn't constantly working to renegotiate vendor contracts, in good or bad times, then they don't deserve to survive. Let them go under.

Part of the reason why we see so many of these is lists is that quite frankly, there are way too many companies that have to do with the Internet, being run by a bunch of young kids with no business experience at all. What other industries besides the Internet space do you see lists like this being made? The airline and automotive industries as a whole have been taking for years. We don't see the Airlines and those who cover the space talking about how airlines should "watch their fuel costs" or "make sure they don't have empty planes". A lot of what we are reading about in the online video space is due to the fact that many running these companies just don't have a lot of business experience. I don't fault them for that, you have to get your start somewhere, but those who have money in these companies should be overseeing them very closely all the time, not just when times are bad. And how many companies have a CEO or executive management team who might have very strategic visions or be very smart people, yet have no leadership skills or business experience. Many of the companies in the Internet space as a whole are founded by very smart technology people, not business people.

It seems that many writers want readers to give into the scare of these articles talking about how bad things are, and how much worse they are going to get, without looking at the real reason companies are having problems. Most of the companies I see laying off employees, don't have any business model to begin with. So at some point, in good economic times or bad, they are going to layoff employees anyway. That is not the case for all companies, but it is for many of them. And what about the positive impact this will have on the industry as a whole? Do we really need a hundred user generated video sites out there? Chopping many of them out of the market will help better define who the leaders are, what business models work and will assist those with real business models to grow faster and help them stand out from the sea of confusion. Many companies who have a legitimate shot at making it tell me their main marketing problem is how they make themselves stand out from all the noise that comes from having way too many companies, with no real business, in the market.

That being said, I'm not suggesting that anyone losing their job is a good thing or easy to deal with. And some cuts are coming to companies who I do think have a real business model in the future. But layoffs are a part of any business. The thing I don't like hearing is how so many executives of these companies are only just now talking about keeping an eye on costs because of the economy. Any real business person will tell you that you keep a closer eye on costs when things are good, when you tend to waste money, so that when things are bad, you are already prepared and don't have to take drastic actions. More money is wasted in good economic times with things like lavish dinners, expensive hotel rooms and company branded swag, than in times when the economy is bad.

I think it is also crucial for all facets of the online video industry to keep things in perspective and set expectations properly. For instance, at the beginning of this year it was all about how online video advertising was talking all this money from broadcast and print advertising. The death of every medium except the Internet was being predicted and as a result, people expected more than what was possible. The most aggressive prediction I saw was for online video advertising to be a billion and a half dollars in 2008. Now, at the end of this year, it looks like it will be more along the lines of $500 million. While there is nothing wrong with that number, even if it was a billion and a half dollars this year, that's less than 3% of the entire TV advertising market, that the industry is predicting such immediate death for. Lets be positive and excited about the growth we have coming, but also be realistic.

We have to keep in mind that even though this industry has been around for more than ten years now, every facet of the online video industry is still very small. The markets for online video advertising and content delivery for video are both under half a billion dollars this year. The market size for video transcoding, video publishing platforms and niche video networks are all under a few hundred million each. I think it is very easy for people in the industry to forget that while many have been working in this industry for years, our industry as a whole is still very small when compared to just about every other vertical market. We still have a lot of growth to do, a lot of innovation to bring to the market and many applications that need to be developed on top of the basic underlying technology that has been created.

Things will get worse for companies with no real business model, product offering or clear and defined message of who they are and what they offer. That's just business. But after the shakeout, our industry will still be here, business is still growing and the industry will be stronger as a result of it. We are only just getting started.