Unimpressed With The Google Video Store?

    January 11, 2006

So, the Google Video Store is live, and, ehh. Nothing special.

What do we get?

So, besides a complete lack of quality content (save for CBS), a lack of complete sets (for CBS content, and other TV shows), there’s a big problem with inconsistency in pricing. I commend Google for not engaging in price fixing, a tack that works well for music (where lengths and perceived value are roughly uniform) but is an awful idea for video.

The diversity in video is a huge strength, with episodic TV series, movies, talk shows, nonfiction specials, interviews and sports programming, but Google should have made an effort to achieve consitency among pricing. I realize content providers are mostly asses, and the negotiations were probably a huge effort, but maybe Google should have set recommended prices.

Even better, I would have just used a bids-based system, like Google AdWords uses. Except, instead of prices set automatically by top bids, it would be set by views. The prices would all start at $1.99, and rise and fall based on how many people view the video. If the video is unpopular, the system would lower the price a little to see if it improved overall revenue, while if it is popular, it would go up in price, dropping back down if the new price turned off too many buyers. Not only would it make for a fast-adjusting fair market, but it would earn providers the most amount of money, ensure the largest possible audience, and discourage price gouging (which is clearly already happening).

Since Google isn’t doing it already, we can assume it won’t be forcing CBS into a new agreement anytime soon, so we can only hope providers will watch their sales carefully and adjust their prices over time. Don’t count on it though, since most of these guys have been content to let crap sit on Blockbuster shelves, gathering dust until Blockbuster is forced to sell it at a loss.

Getting back to the main point, at current, the Google Video Store isn’t anything special. I wanted to download a show to gauge quality, but I can’t find anything I want. The single NCIS episode in the entire collection is a repeat, and not a very good one.

Worse, the date listed is January 4, 2006, which is presumable when it was uploaded, but not when it originally ran, which can be misleading for fans looking for the latest episode (it almost fooled me). Worse, the show is only available with a Day Pass, meaning you lose it after 24 hours. Not having show descriptions? Huge mistake.

It seems like Google made no effort to require consistency of pricing, completeness of sets, quality of metadata, or anything else. I can’t see why anyone would rely on the Google Video Store for their needs. As long as iTunes and Vongo are doing a better job, you aren’t going to get customers.

Additionally, Google has made little effort at building a usable interface. Google Video is just a search engine, which doesn’t work well as a store. I know Google practically created the church of white space and clean interfaces, but rich content needs something better. I can’t find what I need, view large amounts of content at once, compare options and purchase in bulk for later viewing.

There’s a lot of other criticism out there, so much that linking to it would make this post more ungodly long. One thing we know about Google: It doesn’t bother them if they get it wrong the first time. Hopefully they’ll fix this one faster than they usually do.

Botched. Totally botched.

Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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