Webshots, Now with Video

CNET Networks’ photo-sharing property Webshots added video-sharing capabilities for members to post clips in their new and existing photo albums. Intel signed on as sponsor during the launch period.

Webshots will create a new channel to house videos at video.webshots.com, where Intel acts as the core sponsor. The page will feature editors’ picks based on what members are sharing. Intel’s involvement also includes persistent branding throughout the site, and an Intel-branded page.

Pre- and post-roll ads will appear on the video channel site and sponsored pages, but not in clips within members’ photo albums. Before videos appear on the channel or sponsored pages, they go through a vetting process. That process is one way CNET tries to soothe wary advertisers, according to Martin Green, SVP of community for CNET.

“They can align with a relevant theme to protect the brand with their standards and protect the integrity of the site,” Green said.

CNET is hopeful about selling advertising on the video channel and branded pages carrying clips. Since it launched channels in September it has sold channel sponsorships to companies including Casio, Sony, Olympus, Fox TV’s “Justice”, Best Buy, T-Mobile, Cingular and Pedigree. Inventory running on the site’s family channel is sold out through the end of the year.

Video has been worked into the site in the same way photos and text appear throughout. When users submit files, they can select file types to denote still images and video. The movie appears as part of the user’s photo album. Webshots boasts that its video player has a 50 percent larger viewing area and almost three-times the bitrate of other video sites.

The site supports free and paid membership, and will allow video hosting for both platforms. Free members are allowed 100 five-minute clips, and earn the ability to upload 10 additional clips for each month of membership. Premium members can host 250 10 minute clips plus 25 additional for each subscribing month.

Before year’s end, Webshots plans to add a Flash slideshow manager that will allow users to view photos and videos together.

“We believe that the core of Webshots’ offering is real people sharing real stories, and that’s why we pursued this integrated photo and video UI,” said Green.

In early 2007, Webshots will launch Project Spotlight, an artist grant program expected to foster Webisodic content “in concert with a select number of partners funding, incubating and highlighting original content,” said Russ Novy, CNET’s director of product marketing.

The first Project Spotlight films are expected to appear on the site in February. A call for entries is already posted, and submissions are due by January 1.

Webshots underwent a redesign in September, which at first met with mixed results. Green said the site has spent the last 45 days addressing suggestions from users, and has seen a double-digit increase in the number of new sign-ups.

The video enhancement is garnering a similar mixed reaction, after the site opted to introduce the video functionality to Webshots users with two clips from Intel’s U.S. Media Manager Thom Campbell: one tips-oriented, the other in the form of a PSA with warnings about sharing certain personal information. That led several users to post skeptical comments about the corporate video, but the initial response is not a concern to Green.

“If you’re watching a video from Intel, it’s not as intimate, not as easy to understand why videos are on the site,” said Green. “The minute you get an invitation from a family member…that will change your mind.”

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