Coffee turns students into accidental farmers (photos)

At BTTR Ventures in Emeryville, Calif., a business school idea of reusing garbage has quickly turned into an innovative mushroom business.

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Google Boost Local Search Ads Could Help Boost Video Traffic

Last week, Google quietly rolled out a new kind of search ad—called Google Boost.  Boost is intended to be used for locally-focused businesses that want an easy, pain-free way to get some added exposure when local searches are performed. Currently, Boost is in beta, and is only available to customers in three U.S. cities:  San [...]

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23Video Wants To Help Companies Create Customizable, Branded Video Portals

As more businesses of all sizes embrace online video, there is a growing demand for customizable video platforms.  And while Brightcove has lead the charge in providing branded video solutions, there are many businesses that are still not able to afford their services.  A new service, called 23Video, thinks companies are ready to create their own [...]

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C-level Executive Conversations: The Filter – Entertainment, Optimized

This is the first in a series of conversations ReelSEO will have with C-level officers of emerging companies in the rapidly expanding digital video arena.  We’ll want to know what makes these leaders tick, what makes their business models special, what keeps them up at night, how they make profits, and how they expect to [...]

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YouTube CEO & Co-Founder Stepping Down

Five years after co-founding YouTube, long-time CEO Chad Hurley is stepping down from that position, according to TechCrunch. In fact, he’s reportedly been transitioning away from the chief executive role for the last two years, ceding most day-to-day business decisions to Google VP of Product Management Salar Kamangar.

That Hurley, who founded the online video site with Steve Chen and Jawed Karim in early 2005, would be moving on is not totally unexpected. After all, he hasn’t been a public figurehead for YouTube for quite some time. The bigger surprise is probably that Hurley has held on so long after making a bundle from Google’s $1.65 billion acquisition of the online video site in 2006.

Co-founder Steve Chen left his role as CTO of YouTube in late 2008, but remained with Google; apparently Hurley transitioned away from his duties at around the same time.

YouTube is now being led primarily by Kalamangar, who is famously known as Google Employee No. 9. He has been tasked with helping to move YouTube from a very large and popular unprofitable business to one that can use its size and scale to make some serious dough.

Google is shy about sharing too many details on YouTube’s financials, though the site is reportedly serving up more than 2 billion videos a day, and monetizing about 2 billion of those video plays per week. While that means about one in seven videos viewed actually has an ad attached, it’s unclear how long it will be before the site actually starts turning a profit for Google.

Some analysts expected that YouTube could become profitable this year with nearly $1 billion in revenues. Although Google execs have spent the last several earning calls bragging about how the site is monetizing well — and has been for some time — they’ve yet to say that YouTube has actually turned a profit.

The day YouTube actually does start making a profit will be a huge one for the web video industry; despite massive amounts of money being poured into the segment, it has had very few huge success stories to date. A profitable YouTube would not just be a validation for Google and it’s $1.65 billion investment, but for the industry as a whole.

To learn more about what YouTube is up to now, come see Director of Product Management Hunter Walk at NewTeeVee Live on Nov. 10 in San Francisco.

Photo courtesy of Robert Scoble.

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YouTube Won’t Fix Google TV’s Content Problems

Updated. There’s been an interesting development in the recent Google TV saga, in which the search giant has shifted responsibility for the new TV operating system into its YouTube division, according to a report the SF Chronicle. By doing so, Google hopes its online video site can help Google TV with a lesson in striking content deals. But if that’s the case, it will probably be disappointed.

The whole issue revolves around the lack of premium content available through Google TV and a number of high-profile content companies that have blocked their content from being available on TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes powered by the Google OS. Broadcasters such as ABC, CBS and NBC have all declined to let their web content be played back through the integrated web browser built into Google TV devices built by Sony and Logitech.

The broadcasters were unhappy with the prospect that viewers would be able to watch their web offerings in lieu of live broadcast content on the biggest screen in the home. Since those companies rely on high-value broadcast advertising, as well as increasingly high retransmission fees from cable operators, the idea of giving viewers access to web programming that they can’t monetize as well was a bit of a turn-off. The whole affair has caused a bit of a stir, especially since it takes away from Google’s initial pitch for the TV OS, which was to enable viewers to mix and match web and TV content on the big screen.

But Google TV is primarily a technology platform, and the folks there don’t necessarily have a ton of experience in media matters. As a result, Google is reportedly shifting responsibility for the fledgling TV division into YouTube, which actually has some experience striking content deals with broadcasters like CBS.

The problem is that YouTube itself has had a hard time bringing real high-value, prime-time content onto the site. Most partnerships thus far have included short-form clips of new shows or full-length episodes of older programming. It hasn’t really proven that it can negotiate to add new hit shows or the kind of stuff you’d find on Hulu or broadcast sites.

YouTube is trying to change that, having recently added a pair of execs — Robert Kyncl, former vice president for content acquisition at Netflix, and Dean Gilbert, former vice president of product management for Google TV — to bolster the amount of premium content on the site. But in the short term, it’s difficult to see broadcasters getting on board, unless Google can somehow write a check that makes up for the billions of dollars in broadcast advertising and retrans fees that are at stake if web video competes directly with broadcast programming on Google TV.

We’ve reached out for comment from Google, but haven’t gotten confirmation or more information from YouTube or Google TV representatives about the reported move just yet — but it’s early here on the West Coast. We will update if we hear back.

Update: Google has issued the following statement, denying the key assertion of the SF Chronicle story, that Google has reorged the division to move Google TV within YouTube:

Google TV has been closely aligned with YouTube for years. Although we did reorganize a division within YouTube a month ago, that was based on streamlining our operations so we could make faster decisions and align team goals with the company’s overall business objectives. Just like any rapidly growing organization, it is important for YouTube to evolve and grow to ensure further success in the future. The recently created YouTube Content Organization is run by VP of Content Partnerships Dean Gilbert.

While YouTube says there’s no actual story there, we stand by our initial take on the idea of YouTube leading Google TV content negotiations, which is: Google TV and YouTube will have a hard time convincing broadcasters to unblock their content without writing some very large checks.

To hear what Google TV product lead Rishi Chandra has to say about bringing broadcast content to Google TV, come see him speak at NewTeeVee Live on November 10 in San Francisco.

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Comcast Subscribers Flee as Cable Bills Increase

Need more evidence that cable subscribers are cutting the cord? Look no further than Comcast’s latest earnings report, in which the nation’s top cable provider announced it lost 275,000 basic cable subs during the third quarter. Want to know why they’re switching off cable? Check out Comcast’s average revenue per user: $129.75, a 10 percent increase over the last year.

So Comcast’s cable bills increase and as a result, users jump ship to find cheaper forms of entertainment. It couldn’t really be that easy, could it? For some, it means finding an alternative service provider that operates in their neighborhoods — like Verizon or Dish Network — with a sweeter introductory rate for pay TV services. After all, there’s been plenty of IPTV and satellite substitution going on, as competition heats up and cable subscribers look for alternative providers.

While the company blamed the rough economy, the housing crunch and competitive pressures for much of the decline, Comcast said that a small number are unsubscribing from pay TV services and finding their content somewhere else completely. But Comcast Cable president Neil Smit hedged on the reason for customers unsubscribing, saying that based on exit interviews, those former customers aren’t turning to Netflix or Hulu for their content, but instead turning to over-the-air signals — essentially plugging in digital rabbit ears — to access broadcast video content.

The drop in basic cable subscribers was much larger than consensus Wall Street estimates, as analysts expected Comcast to shed 189,000 subs during the quarter. Those dropping pay TV subscriptions weren’t just basic cable subscribers; according to Comcast, 60 percent of those cord cutters were higher-value customers. That’s worrying news for Comcast, and could be for the cable industry in general.

Worse news for Comcast and for consumers is the 10-percent jump in average revenue per consumer. Quite frankly, that kind of increase is not sustainable long-term, and Comcast — and cable companies in general — are going to have a hard time convincing their subscribers to stick around if they’re going to have their bills increased so dramatically year-after-year. Some of that price increase comes from customers paying for more value-added services, like DVR or digital TV, and some of it comes from Comcast churning off lower-value customers. But on the whole, pay TV bills have increased exponentially over the past several years, and they don’t seem to show any signs of slowing down.

While Comcast doesn’t yet see Netflix or Hulu as a threat to its business, the prospect of paying $10 a month or less as opposed to $130 a month is certainly an attractive proposition, and will continue to gain steam as cable prices continue to rise.

To learn more about how different users are cuttings the cord, what devices are available for watching content online and web video content that you might not already know about, check out our web series Cord Cutters below:

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Titanas.

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Do iPhone or Android Users Watch More Video? (And Other Video Trends)

Mobile video optimization firm Bytemobile has just released its most recent “Mobile Minute Metrics” report, a look at wireless users’ video consumption trends and behavior based on metrics from a cross-section of nearly 2 billion Bytemobile customers in 58 countries around the world.

According to the new report, which focuses on Q3 2010 mobile traffic, mobile operators are seeing “unprecedented” levels of mobile data traffic, an increase heavily impacted by increased demand for video. Some interesting stats were revealed, too – like whether it’s Android or iPhone users who watch more video, what sites get the most views and more.

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Bytemobile found that, on a per-user average, it’s iPhone users generating the most video traffic. 42% of total data traffic generated by the iPhone is video, while only 32% on Android is video.

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The most popular and most watched videos are still those coming from user-generated content sites like YouTube and Google Video, which account for 48% of total network video traffic. The second-largest category of video is adult content, accounting for 30% of total traffic. Combined, these two categories – user-gen and adult – make up nearly 80% of total video traffic.

As in last quarter, users are still opting for lower-quality videos (240p) to minimize stalling and other bandwidth-related issues. HD video is currently requested a third less often than low-res video, but generates a similar amount of data traffic – 31% compared with 39%. This means that even a small increase in HD video consumption leads to a significantly greater increase in network traffic load, the report notes.

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Not surprisingly, when network speeds increase, video traffic also increases. Case in point: Right now, wireless networks with slower end-to-end speeds only see an average of 39% of their total data traffic as video-generated, while faster networks see nearly 60%.

Video viewing peak hours are now no longer daytime, but evening – a shift that indicates a transition from business usage to residential, entertainment-based usage, says Bytemobile. Mobile data usage, however, occurs during all waking hours (9 a.m. to midnight), with traffic patterns that reflect the number of users on the network at any given time.

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Skype Debuts Its Half, Now It’s Facebook’s Turn to Integrate

We were excited last month to find out about the integration of Skype and Facebook. This morning, the feature is going live for all to see with the release of Skype 5.0.

The latest version comes with some cleaned up design features, built-in Facebook integration and the group video chat we’ve watched develop in the beta releases. For Skype, it’s improvement all around and all we can say now is that the ball is surely in Facebook’s court.

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Group Video Chat Goes Live

We got a quick tour of Skype 5.0 and the first thing Rick Osterloh, head of consumer product management, showed off was the group video chat feature. Allowing up to 10 people at once, the chat takes advantage of Skype’s high-quality audio and video. It offers some nifty features, like “dynamic view”, which highlights the person speaking by enlarging their video feed and shrinking everyone else. While group voice and text chat will be available for free, Skype plans on charging for group video chat in the near future.

A Clean-Cut Interface

The next big feature was the new “Skype Home”, which features a cleaned-up contacts list, recent contacts, and the Facebook integration.

skype-50-home.JPG

As Osterloh called it, it’s a “nice central place for users to go.” The contacts list now shows users’ avatars next to their names and the recent contacts list shows just that, along with recent Skype transactions.

Here Comes Facebook

Now for the Facebook integration – it’s basically your Facebook feed pulled directly into Skype. You can "like" things and post comments, but anything beyond that – like viewing profiles, photos or events – opens separately in your browser.

skype-50-fb-integration-screenshot.JPG

Viewing your Facebook feed in Skype offers another advantage – for friends who include their phone number in their Facebook profile, you will see two buttons. One lets you call either their Skype number or their home/mobile phone, while the other allows you to send an SMS. If they have a Skype account linked to their Facebook account, a “+” will appear, letting you add them as a Skype contact.

Even better than the Facebook feed – because we really don’t see ourselves browsing Facebook in Skype – is the importing of your Facebook Phonebook. Suddenly, everyone you know on Facebook that lists a phone number will be easily contactable via Skype.

The Ball’s In Facebook’s Court

We were really hoping to see Skype integration on the Facebook website. Osterloh told us that they don’t have anything to announce there today, but we’re hoping to see the vice-versa integration in the near future.

So does this embody the endless potential we wrote about last month? Not really, but it’s a decent first step. What we’re really hoping to see from this partnership are Skype buttons on Facebook that launch Skype calls and SMS capabilities. Even more, we would love to see a Skype integration in the iPhone and Android apps. Imagine using Skype’s background capabilities for ever-present chat and free, quick Skype-to-Skype phone calls connected directly to your Facebook account. What about quick connections from Facebook to businesses as a part of its fledgling Places product?

While the Facebook integration in Skype is nice, it’s the other way around that we’re really excited to see…so what do you say, Facebook? Will we see on-site voice and video calling? SMS integration?

It would be pretty neat, is all we’re saying…

The latest version of Skype is now available for download.

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