Gamblers on their way to Las Vegas can turn to their iPods for last-minute poker advice from a nine-time champion.
Phil Hellmuth Jr., a perennial winner of the World Series of Poker, has recorded a bunch of strategy videos for Texas Hold ‘Em that play on personal computers, iPods and other mobile video devices.
“I ... envision people on the airplane sharpening their game,” said Hellmuth, whose videos will be distributed in a few weeks through the website of IAmplify, a New York start-up that specializes in how-to and self-help content for the Web and portable media players.
New-media companies are using Web video for far more than laughs and thrills. As the Internet matures, moving pictures are being used for more practical purposes: to help market digital cameras, plan trips, set up electronic gear and learn how to pop a motorcycle wheelie.
In addition to poker lessons, IAmplify distributes videos on yoga and other workouts as well as knitting advice and instruction for golfers.
“While they’re on the green, they can look at their iPod and get some tips,” said Murray Hidary, who founded IAmplify with his brother, Jack.
Text and still pictures give cooks all the information they need to prepare a recipe, for example. But when it comes to showing how to carve a turkey, julienne a carrot or flip a crepe, video rules.
“We are graduating beyond text,” said George Lichter, chief executive of InfoSpace Media Inc., whose how-to website, Answerbag.com, recently began letting users upload explanatory videos. “ ‘Show me’ is much better than ‘Tell me.’ ”
Hollywood and Silicon Valley are abuzz over how the Internet is reshaping the entertainment and news businesses. Broadcast and cable TV networks are making shows such as “Lost” and scores of news clips available for viewing on computers and iPods, as they experiment with business models. Amateurs also are jumping in the game, sharing funny home movies and other videos through sites such as YouTube.
But a sharp rise in broadband connectivity is spurring the use of video across the Internet. In May, 72% of active Web users in the U.S. connected at home via broadband, a sharp rise from 57% during the same period last year, according to research firm Nielsen/NetRatings.
Web services that used to rely solely on text and pictures are starting to take advantage of the faster connections.
Some entrepreneurs are betting that video will improve online city guides and travel sites, and attract both Web surfers and advertisers.
Savory New York, founded by a former TV producer and her husband, gathers restaurant listings and reviews from across the Web, then complements them with recorded interviews with chefs and proprietors. Another site, Code.tv, features video profiles of eateries, nightlife spots and wellness centers in New York and the Hamptons, and its founders plan to expand to Los Angeles in early August.
“It adds a dimension to the content that otherwise wouldn’t be there,” said Greg Sterling, founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a media consulting firm.
TurnHere Inc. of Emeryville, Calif., pays budding filmmakers about $1,000 for snappy travel videos about neighborhoods in Los Angeles, San Francisco and dozens of other cities. The site also includes commercials, which local businesses can commission for $750.
The site is using documentary-style video to create an “emotional attachment to place,” said TurnHere Chief Executive Brad Inman. “We’re trying to tap into Hollywood’s way of inspiring us.”
Other websites are using video to inspire purchases. WebCollage Inc., a New York company, takes marketing videos from manufacturers and syndicates them to e-tailers so that, for example, shoppers on CompUSA’s website can see some of the video-recording features on Casio digital cameras.
CNet Networks Inc. was an early user of video to complement its product reviews and shopping pages, with more than 5,000 videos across its websites that help consumers buy and set up technology products. The day after Thanksgiving last year, CNet held a 12-hour call-in show over the Internet to answer questions about holiday tech shopping.
“The phone lines were lit up the whole time,” said Candice Meyers, a CNet executive producer.
But Meyers said CNet had learned a valuable lesson: Websites that add video simply to attract a different form of advertising will alienate consumers.
“Our first rule of thumb is video has to add something,” she said. “If it’s more efficient to leave it in text, leave it in text.”