Truveo Retrieving Its Video Search Brand

Truveo trounced its competitors in the online video search space in two very important categories. One, it found a buyer, though some might say it sold too early to AOL in late 2005. And two, it found a business model, powering video search for everyone from Microsoft to Brightcove (attracting 39 million monthly uniques in the process).

For Truveo, folding its cards early in the consumer space (with its public site the generic ““) was a good, pragmatic, conservative move. But as a result, there’s no big consumer brand in video search, in terms of traffic or name recognition. Hoping to fill that void, Truveo is reclaiming its brand and launching a revamped site on Thursday.

Google Video’s jumble of strategies is hindering the assumed winner from taking all. Companies like blinkx, Dabble, Pixsy, ClipBlast, and EveryZing are far from household names, and would-be competitor CastTV still hasn’t even gone into public testing.

The biggest impediment? As I’ve written before, the public perception (and often the reality) is that you can find most anything that’s out there on YouTube, so people aren’t scratching their heads looking for a cross-site search engine.

Yet now is as good a time as any to try a consumer video search play, as more and more content creators (e.g. the television networks) are testing Internet distribution in different (and often hard-to-find) ways. Furthermore, Google just shut down its own (little-used) paid content service, and isn’t yet offering any paid alternative on YouTube — so helping people find video they want to buy is an open opportunity.

Enter the new Truveo, which we took for a spin on Wednesday. The pixelated play buttons are now circles instead of squares. The excessive lists of options for categories and sources of video have been narrowed down and better organized. The thumbnails are bigger, though the grayscale design hasn’t improved much.

However, it actually seems to take more clicks to watch videos, because rather than taking you to a video that’s only available on the site where it’s hosted, Truveo now directs you to a page of its own which then informs you that you’ll have to go elsewhere. (This would happen for a clip from ESPN, for example, whereas a clip from a site like YouTube that allows embeds would just appear within Truveo.) Previously Truveo took you wherever it was you wanted to go. But I guess that’s the difference between services and portals.

However, Truveo tools that didn’t make much sense without a portal, like favorites and recommendations, make a lot more sense on the new site, integrated into the new “My Video Center,” which is associated with a user’s AOL account.

Click on the thumbnails for screenshots of the new and old Truveo.