While in Las Vegas for Blogworld 2010, I had a pleasure of speaking with Leo Laporte. Leo is a widely respected technology journalist, and is the President of TWiT (This Week in Tech) Network. We touched on a variety of topics, including why he chose the live video medium for TWiT Live, why video is a challenge for many content creators, and how his company is approaching their video SEO efforts.
My Father and I listen to Leo's "The Tech Guy" radio show each Sunday on KFI 640 AM in Los Angeles. For me, meeting Leo was like meeting a celebrity. What always blows me away with Leo is how knowledgeable he is in all things tech and how kind he is when addressing callers' questions - regardless of how stupid their question might be.
Leo is an intelligent and well-spoken guy. I hope you enjoy the interview:
Here are some of the key points Laporte makes in the video above:
- Live = authenticity = engagement
- Video formats for TWiT TV
- Video SEO strategies at TWiT Networks
- The future of video search indexing
TWiT.tv decided to go with live video shows as opposed to pre-recorded shows. There are many reasons for this decision, but Laporte seems especially enamored with the unique engagement levels of the live video audience.
He compares live video shows on TWiT Live to something like Good Morning America, which he feels is really a radio show with pictures. Moms and dads all over the country turn it on, but then go about getting breakfast made, packing lunches, cleaning the house—all with an ear turned to the TV. They listen more than they watch. And TWiT Live is the same kind of thing. It's intended to be watched if you want, or running in the background like a radio show.
Like radio, the "live" aspect of TWiT Live is what's engaging about it. You could, in theory, have a conversation with a radio host, or the hosts of The Today Show. Things are much more compelling when it's live.
Laporte explains his show's appeal:
"It's not that it's audio versus video, it's that it's live. It's going on right now… I think we're moving away from—in every form of media—kind of canned, scripted presentations. I think people want authenticity. You know, even in movies now, a lot of the best comedies are scripted but then they're ad-libbed, and the best stuff is the ad-libbed stuff. People want spontaneity. I think that's why—yes, it's more engaging because it's real, it's live, it's happening, and it's not canned.”
Laporte talks about how standardized file formats exist already for things like text or audio, but it's not the same with video:
"Text there is a standard for, it's called ASCII. Audio, there's kind-of a quasi-standard for, mp3... What format do you put video out in? Do you put out high quality video? Do you put out low quality video? Do you use H.264? Do you use MP4? What do you do?”
TWiT Live decided that H.264 was going to win, he says, so that's they use. They actually create two versions of every downloadable video they put out: One in higher quality HD, and one designed for mobile phones or other devices with smaller screens.
TWiT.tv puts everything on YouTube, because it helps video content to be found more easily by consumers using search engines. But there are still limitations for Google with indexing video. You have to choose proper keywords, descriptions, and titles. Laporte's network creates what he calls "Show Notes," which are text-based web documents Google can index and understand. Some of the shows even have full transcripts.
Laporte is pretty candid in admitting that search is an area that his company still hasn't completely figured out (who has?). But it's also an area he thinks reinforces his decision to go with live video. Live video isn't searched for the same way standard video is. With standard video, people search topically, by genre or keyword. But when some kind of live video is the intended target, search users go by the common denominators from show to show: the host's name, the show's name, or the network's name. Since Twit.tv ranks pretty well for those things, viewers are able to find it quickly with search, and get right into the content after clicking.
It's one of the more interesting arguments I've heard for live video—that it's easier for search users to find you. Of course, it's an entirely different kind of viewer we're talking about here. Yes, there are viewers who go looking for a radio-style live talk show, but they're not the same people watching skateboarding wrecks. How can live video producers make new audience members out of fans of standard-video?
He's got some pretty inventive ideas rolling around in his head, including some related to how to provide more context for a video so as to be better "understood" by search engines using timed-text. Specifically, he has a goal to eventually stream text that's tied to the live audio and video they stream:
"We have lots of thoughts on this, but we're not there yet... Eventually my goal is (secret sauce)... I want to stream text, that's tied to the audio and the video. I've been calling this... the River Effect... What I want to do is make a stream so that when you go to live.twit.tv, there's audio, there's video, and there's also a textual stream with hotlinks that you can click, and that's searchable later. And I think that that's really kind of ultimately going to be the key for us for SEO is that there will be this textual component of everything we do.”
That's pretty fascinating. Adding a live, simultaneous text stream along with video in order to make the archives more searchable in the future is a solid strategy, assuming that it is done in such a way that the search engine bots can read it. This would also be a great addition for those that are hard of hearing or perhaps, are in an environment where they cant use sound. We've certainly talked about the power of closed captions and transcripts for Video SEO and this would be very similar in terms of the effect.
Conclusion - Learn from the "Chief TWiT"
We can learn a lot from a thought leader like Laporte, who clearly has some unique ideas about the benefits of live video and the possible ways we can improve video searchability. I encourage you to visit TWiT.tv where you will find over 15 different Netcasts (all Free and ad-supported) covering some aspect of technology. Leo hosts and produces most of the shows including his excellent TWiT Live - which let's you watch streaming video of shows (via Justin.tv) as they are being produced along with other coverage of tech news and issues, and Leo's personal life.
Leo- thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us and share with our readers your thoughts and insights about video formats, live video's benefits, and the unique challenges in getting video indexed and properly ranked. It was an absolute pleasure to meet you. My dad is jealous.
PS - I love your title on your business card - "Chief TWiT" - very clever :-)