RealTime IT News

Singingfish Floats New Multimedia Search

With broadband and desktop media fueling consumer interest in digital media content, video and audio search provider Singingfish has launched an improved search portal to help the world find more multimedia online.

On Wednesday, it announced the launch of a redesigned search portal designed to make it faster and easier for consumers to find streaming multimedia content on the Web.

"If there's a specific stream you want to dig into and find, we've made it easy to do it," said Singingfish vice president and general manager Karen Howe. "There are millions upon millions of downloads and streams available on the Web and it's all waiting to be discovered."

Seattle-based Singingfish provides multimedia search under license for Microsoft's Windows Media Player and RealNetworks' RealOne Player. It maintained those long-term relationships after it was acquired by AOL, a subsidiary of Time Warner , in November 2003.

Howe said search with singingfish.com has grown from a few thousand queries a day since then to over 700,000 a day.

Now, Singingfish officially welcomes those individual users with new functionality and tools.

Singingfish indexes Real, Windows Media Format, Quicktime and MP3 files. Search results are based on ranking and relevancy. They list the length of a particular file, its format and bit rate, and the source for the media, using metadata provided by the stream's host. That same metadata is used by the company to build its index, created by a mix of human interaction and automated processing. It evades copyright issues because it sends searchers directly to the hosting site, instead of bringing the stream itself into the search page.

Howe said site improvements were based on feedback from individual users of the standalone site. They mirror tools used by the search leaders.

An "I'm Bored" button, which sounds a bit like Google's "I'm feeling lucky," brings the user to a random result. Advanced search features are presented as simple filters so as not to intimidate users, a strategy also employed in MSN's search beta. The ability to save filter settings is common to both beta.search.msn.com and singingfish.com.

Multimedia-specific tools include the ability to search by a keyword, audio files only, video files only or both; searching by media format, by duration of content or by categories, such as Finance, Music, Movies, News, Radio, Sports and TV.

The company has a paid inclusion program that lets marketers buy positions in media search results, and there are many more revenue opportunities at the standalone site, said Joe Wilcox, a Jupiter Research analyst. (JupiterResearch and internetnews.com are owned by Jupitermedia.)

Wilcox said paid inclusion in listings on the Singingfish search portal could be used by music companies to open a hot new video, for example. Singingfish could also earn money through affiliate programs, because the search portal takes users to the Web page on which the streaming content is hosted.

Singingfish could make great headway with the 18- to 24-year-old crowd, Wilcox added. A recent JupiterResearch survey found that 30 percent of broadband users in that age group had listened to streaming music in the last 12 months, while 22 percent watched a music video at least once a month.

"The question will be what makes sense [for Singingfish]," Wilcox said. "The Singingfish folks are clear that this is early on and monetization opportunities will unfold over time."

With broadband use tripling in 2003, multimedia search could become a major skirmish point in the search wars. Yahoo acquired multimedia search technology along with its acquisition of search engine marketing company Overture.

Overture also picked up AltaVista in February 2003. The latter is a former search leader that in 2000 offered targeted MP3/audio search, video search and image search. By 2003, Yahoo reported around 550 million files in AltaVista's multimedia index.

Google reportedly has its own plans for developing video search. And MSN already offers the ability to search for a wide variety of formats, including pages containing the AVI and MPEG video formats, the MP3, WAV and AIFF audio formats and Macromedia's Shockwave.