It may have a search box and look like a video search engine but Clicker is not according to CEO and co-founder Jim Lanzone. In a way this may seem like a strange position to take given that Lanzone was the very partisan CEO of search engine Ask. But while Clicker does index video it primarily relies on structured data to organize and present content. It thus offers a richer and more complete user experience than can a pure video search engine, which is just crawling and relying on metadata. Metaphorically speaking there’s as much Yahoo Directory in here as Google.
Lanzone in his demo at the TechCrunch50 event described Clicker as “the first structured, comprehensive and unbiased programming guide for internet television.” The short version is “TV guide for the web.” People will get that concept immediately but even that doesn’t capture Lanzone’s vision. He explained to me during our call that the site was in many ways more like TripAdvisor or IMDB or (eventually) Wikipedia than it was Truveo or even YouTube. There’s also a little bit of Pandora in there for good measure.
The more I spoke to Lanzone the more impressed I was with his vision and Clicker’s potential.
Content convergence is coming: online video will more and more be watched on TV and TV/films are now heavily watched online. The site already has a deal with Boxee that brings this content to the living room. And Lazone’s vision encompasses more than just video as well.
Clicker is a product that comes at the right time for the market. As evidence, Lanzone told me that almost immediately after the TechCrunch demo he was getting inquiries from the mainstream broadcasters and cable companies.
There’s also a huge community play here too. Eventually Lanzone sees fans and the community “curating” content and building out layers and recommendations that an editorial staff or search engine couldn’t do alone. Each video can be annotated by users, who can add comments, point to related videos and so on. But while there’s going to be community involvement and lots of obscure internet-only content surfaced on Clicker, it won’t have all the self-indulgent amateur content that one finds on YouTube. While some people find that stuff compellling, a minimum of it is truly worthwhile in my view.
While I strongly believe that Clicker will succeed, there is still a challenge in executing against the ambitious vision. To help that big vision along, Lanzone has already raised $8 million.
The ultimate opportunity is that Clicker might become a kind of “front door” to programming consumed online and maybe, eventually, on TV. The online video numbers are getting bigger by the day. So if Clicker can build an audience it can make money off ads. However Lanzone also envisions a “pro” (subscription) version like the IMDB.
I don’t want to be too effusive; success online is never guaranteed. But I was immediately impressed when I saw the demo; and the site reflects lots of careful thinking and hard work so far. Lanzone has also assembled a strong team, many of whom are colleagues from Ask. Finally, I was also impressed with brand and the fact that he managed to get a URL that is an English word and has all its vowels intact.
Postscript From Danny Sullivan: I saw Clicker a few months ago and loved the concept. I’d just hunted all over the web to try and locate where an episode of Rescue Me might reside. There are so many places offering TV online, but where to go? The official site? Hulu? I used Clicker just now to find a missing episode of Defying Gravity. I missed the premier, and when I started recording, I was already well into the series. No scrambling around — I got pointed to ABC (Hulu also has it, but as ABC is the source, I guess that’s what gets listed first). Of course, disappointment. The episodes I missed aren’t online any longer. That’s more an issue with the TV networks than Clicker, of course.