Google Video: At the Movies

 

In a world where some of the most-viewed online videos tend to be of cheap crotch kicks and strange karaoke or lip-synch Webcam renditions, it’s refreshing to see attention is still paid to professionally produced video content. Recently, Google launched Google Video Movie Previews, a destination for audiences to watch trailers for films that are in theaters or coming soon. Though it hasn’t exactly reinvented the way audiences find movie trailers online, there are aspects that bode well for this product’s future, as well as some elements that could probably use improvement.

This product is sorely needed in the marketplace and will undoubtedly spawn copycat services from Google’s competitors. Movie trailers are among the most popular (if not the most popular) video content viewed online, so it makes sense the tool most people use to search provides the content in an accurate, easy-to-use format that’s made Google number one in search.

The “Now Playing” section features, in alphabetical order, trailers from participating studios and is appropriately positioned at the top of the screen. Below is the “Coming Soon” section, in chronological order, of films that will eventually appear in theaters. This layout is logical and makes it easy for audiences to find what they’re looking for.

Trailers are featured dynamically, with a process similar to the way videos are indexed across its site with XML and metadata. This maintains an even playing field across content providers and contributes to a positive user experience.

Once a trailer is requested, the Flash video playback experience is quick — not high definition (HD) or even digital TV-like quality — but quick, and can be viewed in multiple sizes. Relevant information (including a synopsis and an official site URL) appears to the right of the trailer, with links to more information, send-to-a-friend, and code to embed the trailer on your blog or social networking (e.g., MySpace.com) profile. All the tools necessary to virally spread this content are at users’ disposal.

A download option allows for maximum portability, giving users the ability to download an MP4 (define) file suited for iPod, PlayStation Portable (PSP), or PC-based playback.

Though the product is still new, it’s expected that improvements will be made to the service. After I fiddled with it for a while, some areas ripe for improvement revealed themselves. For example, what’s with the URL (http://video.google.com/movietrailers.html)? And why is it so hard to find? If it’s a soft launch, that’s acceptable. But even a search on Google for “movie trailers” doesn’t bring up the page. Hopefully that will change.

And why call it Movie Previews? Why not Trailers? It seems the studio-speak term is now part of consumer lexicon.

Movie showtimes should also be more integrated into the main page or at least the individual trailer pages for each film. That would contribute to a more logical user experience.

Also, the “Embed” link isn’t active for every trailer. It’s an option that every content producer should enable — why limit the spread of your content?

Overall, the site’s clean, crisp, and a bold step forward for Google in the world of content promotion, a world it’s only begun to explore. If it expects to compete with Microsoft and others as a content distribution platform, these are the kinds of efforts it must launch early and often. It’s a given that all studios will ultimately participate; I mean, it is Google. But for now, it’s a work in progress. One you and I should keep a close eye on. It may help shape the way Google eventually becomes a significant driver of brand awareness.

Meet Ian at Online Video Advertising Forum in New York City, June 16, 2006.