Last week I got a chance to meet with J.D. Heilprin, the founder and president of a new video service called Modern Feed. It's a smart product, taking hosted video programming from a variety of sources and consolidating it into a single directory that's curated by human beings. The entire experience revolves around a small navigator that sits atop your browser in its own frame. It lets you browse around playlists, search for your favorite shows, and jump around to various content providers without getting lost.
What makes the product noteworthy is that it's taken some of the annoyances out of viewing professionally produced content on the Web. For example, if there are several places to get the same piece of content, the human curators, known as "feeders" go through and pick out the best one to send you to based on video quality, stream speed, and ease of use. It will also tell you how to get at the video if there are steps you need to take to get the video to start playing. Each time you click to play a video you can preview this information before being jettisoned off-site. It's a really nice touch.
Playlist management is also well thought out. You can subscribe to shows on a season pass, just as you would on a DVR. The newest shows end up in your queue and can be reordered. There's also a designation between a regular playlist and one for iPhones, which contains any H.264 files that can be played on the device if you don't feel like viewing on your PC. Viewing and browsing these clips requires the use of the specially designed iPhone site (i.modernfeed.com) and a Wi-Fi connection, but the implementation is quite beautiful. Heilprin says the designers took a page or two from Facebook's iPhone app, and that they plan to make other device-optimized versions in the future.
At launch there are more than 25,000 programs in the directory. There's a built-in search tool that does a great job at getting you to various shows. The real hook, however are the feeder-created categories, which are far more enjoyable to explore than simply browsing alphabetically. The feeders have created picks the like of iTunes with staff choices and hot lists of what users are watching the most. It makes the site very human and keeps you watching tons of videos from all over the place.
While Hulu may have gotten some real buzz for its convergence of video resources, Modern Feed is doing something far bigger. It's lassoing content from everywhere. It's doing what social aggregators like FriendFeed and SocialThing have done so well, which is putting all this information into one centralized location. The added benefit is that Modern Feed has made it exceptionally easy to use and incredibly useful if you're thinking about ditching your cable provider.