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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Review: Joost

Joost was in the news again today with the announcement that it’s signed some big name clients into various ad unit tests on the platform. A few of us have been testing it for several weeks, so I thought I’d post my review.

So, what is Joost? From a business perspective, Joost is an online content delivery platform that delivers video content on demand. I think of Joost as the entertainment industry’s response to YouTube, which means that while it is “on demand,” it really is like watching television. The content is commercial content, and there is a lot of it.

Joost is not a web site. You don’t type in a URL to get to it. Instead, you download the Joost executable to your desktop and install it. Currently, support is for the modern Windows platforms as well as Intel-based Macs. When you run the installer, you create a username and password, which you enter everytime you launch the application.

The application runs full screen and looks about as good as iTunes. It streams video from the web. So, you can’t download content and watch it later (for example, on a plane) which is one of the things I love about iTunes. Joost has a fairly clean user-interface. A few buttons are a little ambiguous, but it’s not too tough to figure things out.

If you are watching a program on Joost, you can open a widget that lets you invite a friend. As a beta-tester, I had three invitations to bring people into Joost, so I tested this. The thing is, there are no hyperlinks to Joost, so these emails simply promote a program within the client. Contrast this to YouTube where you get a link directly to a video and it launches immediately on click. While this might not seem like a big deal to someone like Viacom, who owns a ton of this content, or an advertiser, it illustrates the immediacy that makes YouTube so viral.

Joost was touted as having some social-ish features, but I was unimpressed. Supposedly, you can chat with other Joost users who are watching a program, or invite people in the client to watch the program while your watching it. So few people are on the platform now that chat probably wasn’t viable to test, but I don't imagine it being much different than the chat experience withing massive online games. As for inviting people to watch the same program as me, I think it’s a somewhat useless feature when you consider the time-shifted nature of broadband content consumption. I don’t want to watch something on Joost when you are watching it. I want to watch it when I want to watch it.

The ads just rolled out today, but I think I only saw one pre-roll(I was on the know that we don't really get paid for this kind of thing...). Not too obtrusive. In fact, it probably hearkens back to the earliest incarnations of television spots, which (I’ve heard) were sponsorships and ran only at the beginning of the show. Supposedly, contextual advertising will be tested and we can likely look forward to disruptions ranging from mild to extreme. Joost says advertising will be limited to three minutes an hour. One advantage to a web-delivered platform is that Joost can gauge how ads are tolerated based on audience behavior metrics.

I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m curious to see what emerges from a branded content perspective. This seems like Joost's most intriguing marketing possibility.

So, my take on this is that it’s not bad. But it’s not really that great. And if you play around with it a while, it becomes obvious that the people that are most excited about this platform are probably the owners of commercial content libraries that have no home online and the advertisers scrambling to find a viable video platform for the next generation of :30s. Interesting to see how this one plays out. Ultimately, the people will decide.


fk said...

Despite the viral disadvantage compared to YouTube, Joost brings a lot more things to the table. It has replaced almost 40% of both my TV and Internet consumption over the past two weeks. Check out my review on it below:

paul said...

Great review. I think YouTube and Joost are like apples and oranges. My favorite YouTube content is purely user-generated and would never find a home on Joost. For example, this:

One thing I should add is that the on-demand nature of Joost does allow for shorter programs, which in and of itself is a Web 2.0 content lesson that networks have a hard time swallowing. Eight minutes, twelve minutes, etc. Very cool. And it's got a good search.