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People always ask me: How do you get by without cable? I say that my Google Reader keeps me in touch with what’s going on in the blogosphere/pop culture and I listen to NPR for my news. Both of these are true, that’s part of the reason I can go without a cable bill. I do, however, get my television zoning out pleasure courtesy of Hulu.
There is two main ways for media companies to make money online: 1) charge users a fee to access the site or 2) get advertisers to foot the bill and offer the users free access. Hulu has opted for the latter, and may or may not be making enough money to support themselves. Regardless of whether Hulu is turning a profit at the moment though, they are doing interesting things online.
Hulu is having customers chose their viewing experience… and getting customer data in the process.
Several times recently, I was given options for commercials. Did I want to watch a 1 minute 30 second long commercial about Nuvaring before the show began or did I want several shorter commercial breaks? Did I want to watch the stylish, tech, or speed-oriented commercial for Google Chrome? (Part of me also wonders also if there is some ad targeting going on based on my age, sex, and other demographics.)
It’s interesting that Hulu is allowing users to ‘customize’ their experience but really what they are doing is collecting data about user preferences, a power tool to offer their advertisers, and way more information than a traditional television station could give about their viewers.
Hulu is trying to make television watching social.
If I really wanted to, I could have a Hulu profile where I could share my television watching experience. Hulu also integrates well with social media, you know, if I wanted to share with Facebook that I love watching Millionaire Matchmaker while eating fish sticks. And some people I’m sure do. (Full disclosure: I am too ashamed about what I actually watch on Hulu to share it.)
Television watching seems like the least social activity ever, but good for Hulu for trying to change the very idea or television being mind numbing and uninteractive.
Hulu doesn’t work internationally… or does it?
Based on postings from a few people on review boards, you can’t watch Hulu in the UK, Mexico, or Canada, among other places. Though just as fast as it was blocked, someone figured out a work around. (If someone international could let us know if it works, that’d be great.)
As far as other bad things, I am hard pressed to think of any.
I do hope for my sake that Hulu can create a revenue stream, otherwise I am looking at facing lunch breaks without Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.. well, either that or I’ll find another way.
Read the article about Hulu possibly charging for some content (from January 2010)…