An Early Peek Into the Vlogosphere

In January of this year, the first video blogging (or vlogging) conference was held in New York City. But, unsurprisingly, most people attended vloggercon 2005 online.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, an estimated 8 million Americans have blogs and 32 million have read a blog, up 58 percent from just 10 months earlier. Technorati, a blog search engine and measurement firm, reports roughly 23,000 new blogs are created every day.

Video blogging is still nascent, and it’s unclear how it will grow up. With broadband penetration at a tipping point and low-resolution digital video cameras available in cell phones and PDAs, it’s only a matter of time before vlogging becomes an opportunity (or a major challenge) for marketers. Imagine consumers regularly posting hidden-camera videos of a customer service failure at a bank or a retail store. It’s closer than you might think.

Today, there are only a small number of well-trafficked vlogs, and many are purely entertainment-oriented, such as Steve Garfield’s, or more news oriented, such as Rocketboom. Google, Yahoo, and other portals are looking into hosting vlog services, however, and Google recently announced it’s including personal vlogs in its video search function.

Online video has been around for a long time, but with broadband’s ubiquity and the explosive growth of text-based blogs, camera phones, and small, inexpensive digital cameras with video capabilities, the rise of vlogs seems inevitable. Vlogs’ popularity rose noticeably after the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia. Dozens of vlogs sprung up distributing raw tsunami video footage. People sent email containing obscure tsunami URLs depicting gruesome imagery. Later, the same footage ran on the evening news. The major news networks all pulled from the same sites, but more complete, newsworthy footage was available sooner because of vlogging.

There are many socio-economic and political ramifications of the vlog trend, but in this column, I’ll focus on the challenges and opportunities for marketers:

  • Embrace the vlogosphere. The blog, vlog, and moblog (define) phenomenon is nascent but powerful. Don’t underestimate the power the medium can have on your brand. Monitor vlogs and learn from them. After all, they can represent free, incredibly useful customer feedback (that all of your customers have access to, particularly now that most blog entries have a long search engine shelf life).
  • Your customers will produce your commercials. What happens when every customer, or potential customer, can produce a commercial for your product or service — damaging or championing your brand? Vlogs have reach and credibility, even more than traditional broadcast stations in some cases. Think about the Dan Rather fiasco. Reading a blog about the scale of a new IKEA store is a much different online experience than actually seeing it, as Christian Brower showed viewers on his vlog recently.
  • Harness the power of brand love. If you’re confident about your brand, give your customers a voice, a community, even a camera, so they can share the love for your brand or actively participate in your brand experience. A great example of that is Microsoft’s Channel 9. The site attracts 900,000 software developers a month, who flock to watch interviews and demos and share their experiences.
  • Know thy vlogger. Although I haven’t seen any data on the vlogging demographic, based on the vlogs I’ve seen it’s a younger, tech-savvy market — ages 15-34. They are, of course, the most highly coveted consumer market, as they are the cultural tastemakers.

It’s early in the vlog movement. Beat your competition to the punch by harnessing this growing trend’s power. Good luck and let me know how you do.

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