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What Video Search Means for Search

For about 2 bucks, you now can see a full episode of “CSI” on Google Video Search. Other pay-per-view options include “The Brady Bunch,” “MacGuyver” and “Survivor Guatemala.” It’s the dawning of a new era.

OK, in most ways it’s not the dawning of much of anything at all. Google Video Store, as the Google pay-per-view service is called, is the logical next step in a cultural evolution that’s already well under way — started largely by TiVo. And whether you’re talking about Google Video, TiVo, iTunes video or any other video-on-demand platform, the market underpinnings are all the same: the masses are no longer willing to live at the beck and call of the information gatekeepers. Instead, they’re looking to get information on their own terms.

That attitudinal shift isn’t just about what people want to see, either. It’s changing how people think about what they refuse to see, too. Case in point: TiVo lets you see whatever you want, whenever you want to; it also lets you skip commercials. As people embrace active information, they’re ditching passive information along with it. Watching what you want, when you want to, is active. Sitting through a barrage of 30-second TV spots is passive.

Though all of this is common knowledge by now, it’s important to consider in light of the decline of the TV ad as it relates to the rise of search. Much of the marketing industry has already pointed out the basic upshot: eyeballs are moving away from TV ads and toward search; those migrations need to be reflected in ad spend. Many industry pundits also go one step deeper, pointing out, as we just have, that it’s the birth of the “information on your own terms” mantra that’s driving both migration trends at the same time. That mantra will only grow louder as search technology improves.

But here’s why Google Video Store does mark the dawning of something very big. It’s watershed in the position of the moving image within our culture.

The moving image is, arguably, the most culturally defining information format in the world. That is why, for example, the television — the standard platform through which you watch the moving image — is the piece of furniture around which most living room decoration is arranged. It’s also why the name for the room is called “the living room” and “the TV room” so interchangeably: on a level, TV is interchangeable with living. Which is to say that the standard moving-image platform is interchangeable with living.

And now the standard moving-image platform is shifting, from the television to the search box. And that move is beginning to be monetized by the brand more associated with search than any other. Which is a major push forward in the evolution that is under way; more importantly, it is also the search world’s way of putting its flag in the ground to finally claim that evolution as all its own.

When the transition we’re only now beginning is complete, we’ll have changed from a television culture that happens to use search, to a purely search culture. That is a revolution that is as big as the previous moving-image-platform shift, in the 1950s, from movie theaters to television. That change entirely altered the advertising landscape, in much the same way that search is altering the advertising landscape today. And, as the transition progresses, it will continue to change the landscape at a level none of us could have dreamed of five years ago.

What does this shift mean for your own search and offline campaigns? Stay tuned for the answers.

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