Picture 46I think there is much to be learned from studying how other people simplify and present complex information, so the article in the NY times biz section on Sunday about Howcast, the online “how to” video resource, was enlightening. Howcast is one of a growing number of sites that are trying to capitalize on the YouTube-inspired frenzy for online video, by creating short, instructional videos on a ridiculously wide range of topics—from the useful (how to use Twitter) to the frivolous (how to survive a bear attack…on second thought, maybe the Twitter video is frivolous, and the bear attack is useful). The requisite rating, sharing, and commenting features apply.

The Times article makes some interesting points about the opportunities and challenges of entering the social media business category. Howcast CEO, Jason Liebman is quoted, “Being a media company today means you can’t exist inside a walled garden, just driving traffic to your own site. You have to produce the content, distribute it all over the Web, develop the technology — all of which is hard to do. But you need to do everything in order to be successful today.”

In other words, it’s relatively easy to enter the category, but it’s enormously challenging to stick, succeed, and make a profit.

Of course, I was drawn to the “How to start a business” section which includes an impressive number of videos, but not too much that is fresh or informative. Here’s one on writing a business plan that is not terribly original, but it delivers some pretty dense material in a concise, effective way.