AOL Live With Video Search

AOL launched a new video search service as part of its evolution from subscription service to public portal.

The video search went live on Tuesday within the beta site, launched on June 21.

AOL plans to grow this into its Video Hub, a central location for finding the 15,000 licensed video assets the Time Warner subsidiary has in its archives. The Video Hub also will lead to the Singingfish index of some 1.5 million video and audio files available on the wild Web.

“We’re going to get pretty aggressive with video search,” said Alex Blum, AOL vice president of audience products. “We see a major trend of the Web experience migrating to a richer streaming video experience, based on the stats with our existing video product offering.”

Blum said AOL and Singingfish, its multimedia-oriented Web crawler and search platform, are handling about 100 million streams per month.

“We built a lightweight Web-based player that doesn’t require a download, supports all the major formats and has an integrated experience with the search,” Blum said.

The AOL Video Player will integrate search and playback so that videos can be found, opened and played through a single interface. AOL updated its video search algorithms and relevance rules, and it applied speech-to-text processing to the files to supplement their metadata and enable the search engine to find keywords within the body of the video. Clustering technology lets searchers narrow by category and sort results by quality, duration and release date, as well as hide results that are less than 60 seconds in length.

AOL has content deals with many kinds of video providers, accepting feeds from them via media RSS. “We have the full spectrum of content, from highly produced stuff from television studios and networks to the long tail stuff we’ve crawled on the Web,” Blum said.

To help searchers sort through results, animated thumbnails let them preview individual results, while a recommendation engine suggests similar video content. Users can save favorite videos into playlists, while their recent search histories are automatically displayed.

Advertising plays a key role in AOL’s video plans — and it’s already a lucrative one.

“We built a streaming advertising platform that allows us to deliver video advertisements that are targeted and have rich media elements,” Blum said. “We can deliver back to advertisers very detailed metrics, well beyond what they’ll ever get through broadcast television.” He said that ads aren’t targeted by keywords, but rather by broad criteria based on the goals of the ad campaign and the characteristics of the individual user.

Those 100 million-plus streams that the service already is handling translate to 50 or 60 million ads per month, according to Blum. He said AOL is charging about twice as much for the ads as television broadcasters are able to charge. “It’s a very significant ad segment for us,” he said.

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