Bank Robbery Makes Hostage Rich
Hostage Victim, Not Bank Robbers, Get the Money
Wall Street Times: January 14, 2008
The two Brooklyn teenagers that attempted to rob the Manhattan Ameribank last Wednesday took home no cash, but a bank hostage is quickly profiting from the event. Melissa Trinkle -- one of 17 hostages that was held at gunpoint for 4 hours during the attempted robbery -- captured video footage of the dramatic event via her cell phone. In the three days following the robbery, she has earned more than $7,500 from advertisements that accompany her video.
Trinkle used her Samsung video cell phone to record the bank robbery, and received offers for the footage as high as $10,000 from CNN, ABCNews and NBC. Trinkle declined, and chose to upload her footage to Revver.com, a company that gives video content owners 50% of the ad revenue generated from people clicking a single "ad frame" at the end of the video. More than 250,000 people watched the video in the days following the event, and 5 percent clicked an advertisement by Sony. The video is available at Revver.com, but more than 80 percent of the viewers watched Trinkle's video via Revver's broadcast partners Comcast-Google and Verizon-Blinkx.
Okay, so this is fiction.
But it's inspired by three real events. First, the study yesterday that announced that news is the biggest attraction for online video viewers. Second- do you remember the amateur video footage taken last fall from the inside of the JetBlue flight that had landing-gear probems? Compelling stuff. Third, while in NYC Tuesday waiting for a Google meeting, two of my colleagues and I browsed a Samsung showroom. We saw this Samsung video camera phone, and I would have spontaniously driven myself into further debt if they actually sold them there. Like people in Japan and Finland, many of us will be carrying videocameras embedded into our cell phones in the next 18 months.
Something like this bank robbery story will happen, of course. It is "citizen journalism" at its finest- we're all roving reporters with the video cell phones, and we won't stand to give away our exclusive video footage without upside potential directly tied to the number of people viewing it. No more selling footage to networks for a fixed amount and letting the networks profit if it becomes "hot." Naturally, there will always be a role for the news equivalent of the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" provided by a WSJ, CNN or ABCNews. We naive Americans need a credible and trusted source to tell us what's news and what's bogus (after all, Bloggers aren't usually journalists and we're known for fiction). But Tom Brokaw's field reporters in 2008 be you and me. And we'll gladly invite the news channels to "point" to our video, but we'll expect a piece of the ongoing advertising action. This reduces the risk of a network wasting big dollars on amateur video that doesn't turn out to be so popular, and increases the content creator's upside potential if the video is viral.
Finally, I'd say one of the most interesting parts of this speculative tale is the realization that although Revver may be the broker between video creators and advertisers, someone else likely will find the eyeballs. And that will be a BIG player like Verizon, Comcast, Google and maybe even Blinkx.tv. The trick for Revver will be to gain a foothold with distribution channels (as evidenced by the Blinkx deal) soon before the broadcasters decide to dissintermediate them. And that's not fiction.