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Boost for Joost?

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NEW YORK Last week, when Joost finally unveiled its long-awaited Web-based version, it was greeted by the following headline on the social media-focused blog Mashable: "Joost Re-Arranges the Deck Chairs on the Titanic."

Indeed, deep skepticism reigned last week as the onetime tech-media darling looked to revitalize its flagging business with a more user-friendly, social-networking-infused video site.

But Joost CEO Mike Volpi believes the likes of Hulu owe Joost a great debt. "I don't think that [those launches] would have happened" were it not for Joost, he said.

While Volpi acknowledges users did not take to Joost's required software, the strategy was "necessary to get us over the hump." The software, he explained, was designed with digital-rights management at its heart, giving comfort to partners putting so much premium fare online. Without it, Volpi said, companies like Viacom "wouldn't have given us anything."

Joost's content partners agree. "I really do believe that it is so, so early," said Greg Clayman, MTV Networks executive vp, digital distribution and business development. "They have ample time to establish themselves."

Dmitry Shapiro, founder and chief innovation officer of Joost rival Veoh Networks, said Joost needs to offer users something truly special to get its mojo back, so to speak.

"At the end of the day, the [Joost] user experience was poor and the content was lacking," Shapiro said. "I'm always a believer that it's never too late-but they better have something magical."