Metacafe unveils producer awards, to underscore advantage over YouTube

metacafelogo.bmpHave you visited video site Metacafe yet?

If you haven’t, get ready for shocking videos. Almost every one we viewed today had our heart racing or mesmerized us in some way. Tomorrow (Monday), Metacafe introduces a “producer awards” feature, which pays video makers $5 per 1,000 views their videos get — providing the video gets a minimum of 20,000 total views.

This is what makes Metacafe different. It keeps out the junk videos you often find at the top of the YouTube and other video sites — because it lets human filters decide which videos are best. It doesn’t rely on a video’s view count alone, which makes YouTube susceptible to gaming. This, Metacafe says, gives the user a higher probability of finding a video engaging — and we have to agree (we didn’t necessarily like the videos we see there, but there’s no denying we found them engaging).

YouTube is a great place to post short, homemade videos, because YouTube has no filters to block them. MetaCafe, however, raises the standards: Of videos on YouTube, 90 percent are watched less than 1,000 times. Of the top 200 vidoes on each site, MetaCafe’s get many more viewers, chief executive Arik Czerniak tell us.

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It does this by injecting a step between when you upload a video and when the video hits the site. Unlike at YouTube, where a video goes directly to a site, a video at Metacafe first gets distributed to a random group of reviewers among some 100,000 who have agreed to participate in the review process. This group gives their initial thumbs up or down on a video’s potential appeal to a mass audience.

If a video gets the thumbs up, Metacafe posts it to the site, and then tracks the interactions users have with the video, such as whether they watch it multiple times, or send to friends. If the video looks popular, Metacafe keeps pushing it up the ranks. YouTube, Czerniak says, is more easily gamed: Users send links to a thousand friends, and their friends’ views count toward pushing up a video’s popularity regardless of its quality.

Metacafe’s detection system blocks the submission of duplicate videos or of shorter versions of videos already posted. This helps avoid spamming and copyright infringement problems. Metacafe can license the video its users submit and then distribute it to other sites. It thus helps producers avoid having to worry about ruthlessly marketing their videos, as they have to do on other sites.

The graphic below shows how Metacafe ignores the length of the blue “long tail,” or the mediocre videos submitted by individuals getting hardly any views. (Click on the image, and you’ll see a powerpoint with more of MetaCafe’s strategy and details).

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Metacafe says it is the largest “independent” video site, as in not owned by a large company (thus excluding YouTube-Google). Below is data citing ComScore Media Metrix. Metacafe has 17M unique visitors a month globally, and that number has been growing steadily, from three million in January.

CEO Czerniak recently moved the company’s headquarters to Palo Alto. Why not LA — after all, Metacafe is focused on top-notch video producing? He said the world’s center for internet talent is still Silicon Valley. As the company develops relationships with producers, it may consider opening an office in LA, he said.