Peter Kafka

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Frequency, a TV Guide for Web Video, Tries a New Look

You watch a lot of Web video, and you will watch a lot more. Who will serve as your TV Guide?

There are a whole lot of people who want to be in that game, and Blair Harrison is one of them. His Frequency, which launched last year, has gone through an overhaul, but its gist remains the same: It wants to let you pick and choose feeds of stuff you know you like. It wants to show you stuff your friends like, too, by incorporating cues from your social networks.

Harrison, who made his money and reputation building iFilm and selling it to Viacom during the beginning of the Web 1.0 boom, raised $3 million last year, and since then has rounded up another $1 million.

More important, his new Web site is slicker, and now features a dashboard that you can program with feeds you select, along with ones that use suggestions from Facebook, Twitter, et al. And the service now offers an iPad version, as well as one that will be featured on some Samsung TVs. Here’s what it should look like on the big screen:

Harrison’s challenges also remain the same: He needs to convince people that they should use a Web video hub, period. Facebook already does a great job of surfacing cool videos my friends think I should see (thanks for the Wilco clip, everyone), and Twitter is getting better at it.

And if I am inclined to use a Web video hub, chances are I’m already doing it via Google, at YouTube.

Google is particularly interesting for Harrison, since it’s both competition and de facto partner. YouTube is in the process of dividing itself up into niche channels that will work particularly well with Frequency’s new scheme — if you like the indie music that myISH serves up on YouTube, it should be easy to bring that feed right into Frequency.

But Google would very much like to be the program guide for Web video, too, via Google TV. That means, for instance, that some Samsung models will feature Frequency, and others will feature the one from the giant company with enormous resources. Tough fight.

Harrison isn’t asking consumers to fund his fight, either. The Web sites and apps are free, and the only ads that show up on the videos are the ones that the original distributors add in there, so right now Frequency is revenue-free.

Harrison says he needs to build scale and can figure it out later, but there are some obvious sponsorship/customization routes that he can try, just like Flipboard is trying out with magazines for its Web app reader. In fact, if you said that Harrison was trying to build Flipboard for Web video, he wouldn’t stop you.

Anyway! No point in writing about Web video without showing Web video. Here are a couple of clips Frequency tells me my friends think I would like:

Now-65-year-old David Bowie, from way back in 1973, via Facebook:

And, for whatever reason, a weather balloon, via Twitter:

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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”