January 25, 2005


Yahoo, Google Expand Searches: The rival firms, in different approaches, offer services that help users find video programming online. (Chris Gaither, January 25, 2005, LA Times)

Search-engine rivals Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. will open a new front in their Internet battle today when they plan to unveil dueling efforts to let users hunt through the content of television shows.

Google Video will let people look for text in the closed-captioning of television shows on PBS, C-SPAN, Fox News, ABC and other channels. Google has been recording thousands of hours of programming with its own equipment and hopes to eventually let people watch the content through Google Video.

Yahoo Video Search, which has been available in an experimental form since last month, scours the Web for video clips. And Yahoo plans to announce today that its video search engine will soon include news clips from Bloomberg and the BBC that are indexed by closed-captioning.

Although it's unclear how these efforts — and others pursued by smaller players in the online world — will fare, many say video searches could provide an entirely new way for people to find, and view, television programming.

"Just think of the number of hits these folks from Google get every day," said Brian Lamb, founder and chief executive of C-SPAN, one channel participating in Google Video. "We're not really sure where they're going to go with this, but we're all ears."

Yahoo and Google have taken very different approaches.

At last we'll be able to find the episode of Bring 'Em Back Alive where Frank Buck scornfully tells his Japanese foe: "You're not Bushido, you're just bush."

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 25, 2005 7:01 AM

OJ - Nice Magnum P.I. reference.

Posted by: FOos at January 25, 2005 9:57 AM

This is a gift to oppo researchers looking for negative campaign ads. Anything a candidate says in some obscure 11pm Sunday clip on C-SPAN2 years ago that nobody watched/remembered can now come back to bite them.

Posted by: Gideon at January 25, 2005 12:35 PM


It'd be very cool to be able to find just the best episodes, like that one, huh?

Posted by: oj at January 25, 2005 1:27 PM

Do you know how bad many of those transcriptions are?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 26, 2005 1:58 AM

More to my point Larry Simon said:

There's a minor problem here... you're going to discover the deep dark secret of closed-captioning of live events: It's awful.

The scripted stuff gets into the teleprompter, which most closed captioning operators download and gloss through before typing. But the "Breaking News" and pundit slap-fights aren't, and that's where the public figures usually stick their feet in their mouths because they're prancing on a wire without a net and free of their assistants' leashes.

I challenge you to watch your favorite unscripted newscast(s) or pundit-shows with the closed captioning and the sound on. Watch for errors beyond basic spelling errors, where words are selected incorrectly or negatives are left out that change the meaning of a sentence. Marvel at the innacuracies of televised stenography.

Even though the quality has improved over the years, there are times when you just have to wonder what substances the operator has recently consumed or it they're wresting a pack of rabid ferrets while trying to type. And I'm not saying that I'm some god of transcription or a typing maven. I remember trying to transcribe tapes at KUHT for extra cash and a few at KTRK as part of an experiment in cranky speech-to-text systems, and it's not easy. Transcribing live material that you can't rock back and forth is significantly more challenging.

But it's just amusing that some people assume that this stuff is rock-solid reliable when it isn't.

So before you start using these things as sources, just be sure to sample a few while they're being transcribed. And when someone tells you that these things are perfect, have a twenty-spot and a TiVO ready to win an easy sucker's challenge.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 26, 2005 10:47 AM