One of the good things about living part time in Austin, Texas, is the number of Web 2.0 companies (not to mention Web 1.0) companies in the area and the entrepreneurial energy that permeates the tech community. I had the opportunity to visit one prominent Web 2.0 company, Pluck, last week. Pluck is a leader in creating social media platforms for publishing companies, brands, sports teams, retailers and..well.. anyone who sees the light when it comes to getting users engaged with their product, brand, team or service.
The conversation got around to facilitating video comments to blogs ala Seesmic, the goal of which is to add personality and impact to threaded conversations. If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, can we assume a video is worth 10,000? According to Pluck’s current roadmap, adding video comments to blogs is a nice to have but certainly not a priority or something its customers are requesting. As an observer to Pluck’s near five-year evolution, two of its keys to success is listening closely to its customers and trying to stay ahead of those needs without venturing into areas that won’t result in immediate or medium-term impact.
Which leads us back to video commenting to blogs. After arriving back to my office after my Pluck meeting, I read that Seesmic laid off seven staffers citing “markets conditions and the recession.” Here is CEO Loic Le Meur’s Seesmic post explaining the need for the action.
Recession and global economic instability may certain be factors in Seesmic’s current market acceptance, but a few other considerations must be taken into account. For publishers, video commentary would add engagement, but it also adds quite a bit of workflow burden. Unlike text comments which can be easily scanned or filtered, video comments must be reviewed individually which takes time and resources most companies just don’t have. Even the boldest of publishers would shudder if it posted an unreviewed video comment that included something considered slanderous or objectionable made its way onto its website. And once your get beyond a narrow band of folks who are comfortable with creating powerful video commentaries, the webcammed masses just are not comfortable putting themselves out there for circumspection not to mention critiques and flames.
The simple take-away, as I see it, is that creating social interaction is a powerful asset to anyone aiming for greater web engagement. There are boundaries, however, past which mass interest from publishers and consumers seriously attenuates.