Blinkx Has an Eye on Contextual Video Search

Video search engine Blinkx today announced AdHoc, a platform that helps its partners monetize their video content with relevant advertising.

The product is similar to Google AdSense. And it’s not the first time blinkx has followed the Google path. CEO Suranga Chandratillake said the search engine giant serves as a model for his company.

Blinkx’s video search engine works by translating the audible speech and visual text it encounters in videos across the Web. It essentially turns it into textual metadata and stores it in a database along with the video’s URL.

That way, when users search using terms like “Silver Springs, Colorado,” it knows what results to offer: videos with those words spoken or displayed within the frame.

Now, with AdHoc, a blinkx content parter can run it’s videos through the blinkx search engine to develop the same metadata. Then, blinkx matches advertisements to the video based on matching keywords. A bed-and-breakfast near Silver Springs, Colorado might pay to show an advertisement in all videos wherein the words “Silver Springs, Colorado” are spoken or displayed. The blinkx content partner would then receive a share of that pay-out, Chandratillake said.

Only current blinkx content partners are able to join the platform, though Chandratillake said there are hopes to make it more broadly available.

Blinkx today also announced a global partnership with digital entertainment services company RealNetworks in which blinkx will power video search for the new RealPlayer. The deal is another in a series of partnerships for Blinkx in which it agrees to provide video search for another, more established search engine or portal on the Web.

Blinkx has already partnered with Lycos, Ask, Microsoft, and AOL’s among others.

Blinkx’s business plan probably sounds familiar. That’s because as Blinkx tries to establish itself as a profitable public company after its May 2007 initial public offering, the path its trying to follow is the one most famously marked by Google, CEO Suranga Chandratillake told

When Google sought to establish itself as the Internet’s fastest search engine earlier this decade, it did so by providing search for then more popular online destinations such as Yahoo. According to Chandratillake, Blinkx is trying establish itself the same way now.

“If you build a search engine there are two ways to market. One is to make your own brand famous and successful. The other is to power other people’s engines and sites. The former is great if you can do it. But it’s very expensive or involves a huge amount of luck,” Chandratillake said. He noted that Microsoft spent around $250 million to promote MSN search and lost two percent of its market share in the process.

“We certainly can’t afford to do that,” he said. “The much easier way to get more out of the index is to deals with these people. It’s just a quicker way to get momentum.”

Google rode the momentum it gained from early partnerships to the point when in May, 3.9 billion of the 7.6 billion online searches conducted by Americans during the month were over Google, according to metrics firm comScore. Google it’s also used its momentum to turn itself into a profitable advertising platform.

“If you think about what Google’s business is, sure it’s about search and it’s about letting people find things, but it’s also about tying those things, once you’ve found them, with advertising that’s relevant,” Chandratillake said. In time, Blinkx is supposed to be “about” precisely the same thing.

But there are a few steps between here and there. One will be for Blinkx to build an advertising sales team and the company isn’t quite there yet, Chandratillake said. Though announcements about advertising deals are coming.

Also, there’s the issue of exactly how advertisers will get there message to Web video watchers. For now, Chandratillake said options for advertisers include pre-, post- and mid-roll placement, as well as dynamically-selected banners, in-video mini-banners and a unique, post-roll catalog view.

“But I don’t think anyone has figured out the holy grail of online video advertising,” Chandratillake said, defining Blinkx’s opportunity.

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