July 31, 2007
Hotswap Launches: Questions About Long-Term Success

I was reading about the latest Web video start-up, Hotstwap, recently. Dane Hamilton's Reuters article focuses on the people behind the process, the connection to big money behind the little startup. With co-founders of Apple and Clear Channel behind them, their promise to offer high-definition television through the Web is quite impressive.

Of course, everyone is trying to find their little niche in Web video. Search throughout this blog, and you will find scores of posts about the latest Web video venture or redesign to offer new features or deals to reward those who post content or attract new professional content producers to submit their work.

It's no different with Hotswap. They want to define themselves through the quality of their video. This approach fascinates me, because I understand it in the short-term (although there are multiple folks who look to be competing in that online high-definition video field right now), but the difficulty comes in the long-term process. I thought about this when HDNet launched; when high-definition television becomes widespread, just offering content in HD doesn't provide much of a brand to identify with. That's why Cuban and Friends have moved toward original programming to get people's attention, such as Dan Rather Reports.

What will be the fate of Hotswap? I don't know, but it remains an intriguing question. There are so many start-ups that get attention along the way, come through with the fanfare of the interesting creators who battled their way to the top with an idea, and then found some people with big money who believed in that idea so much they decided to back it. Of course, the Internet boom is littered with such companies, and the Web 2.0 boom will be as well. Several of the sites and features we've focused on here won't be around forever. And all of these competing in the online video space probably won't make it long-term.

It doesn't mean that each of them aren't valuable, though. The competition in the online video space is at least pushing people forward and creating the infrastructure that will make online video a longtime valuable tool--both for cross-platform distribution of professional content, original online programming from professionals, and user-generated content as well.

That takes me to Steve Smith's MediaPost piece last week on the demise of Amp'd. He writes, "I will let the hand-wringers kick over the Amp'd ashes, and perhaps it deserved to follow PseudoTV into oblivion. But I think there were a lot of things to like in the service that are worth preserving."

Of course, for the creators of Amp'd, all the money poured into branding and hype has to hurt. But that doesn't mean Amp'd was an utter failure, as Smith's piece outlines. The lessons it taught in terms of content and technology is worth looking at. Was Amp'd ahead of its time,before infrastructure was really ready for it?