Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably already aware that there are a huge number of business benefits to being on Google+. It’s great for your position in Google’s results and to increase word-of-mouth. But have you heard of Google+ Hangouts?

This casually-named video conferencing feature is more than just a web-bound version of Skype. Host a video conference with up to nine other people (or 14 others if you activate “premium features”) or broadcast your conversation to the world. Use multiple cameras to capture your Hangout exactly how you imagined it. Screen share or pass documents back and forth. There’s even an API with which developers have built tools to use Hangouts in new ways.

Sorry Google, YouTube Captions Aren’t for the Deaf. They’re for Your Robots.

Google, who owns YouTube, rolled out auto-captioning for English language videos yesterday.  All videos with a clear English audio track will have automatically-generated captions.

At the press conference a deaf engineer did the product demo and students from the California School for the Deaf in Fremont came on stage.  Google is painting this development as a service to the hearing impaired.

But that’s not Google’s true motivator.

Changing audio into text lets Google spiders index the content of YouTube videos.

The spiders don’t understand audio so they can’t index videos for search.  But with YouTube audio available in text form, a huge and invisible chunk of the web is opened up to Google’s search technology.

This will be a watershed for Google.  It is a good time to buy Google stock.  The company will make a lot of money selling advertising on these newly-indexed videos. Here’s what to expect:

YouTube visits from the US up 26% from 2007

In a sign that online video is becoming increasingly popular, Hitwise is reporting that US YouTube visits have increased 26% from last year’s numbers.

For many, YouTube has become the preferred destination for everything from movie trailers to how-to videos.  Many video podcasts are also uploaded to YouTube, and the vast amount of random, hilarious videos cannot be understated. The content marketing industry as a whole is exploding.

Myspace TV holds the second place spot, though lost 44% of its traffic from last year.  My theory is that this has a lot to do with Fox shows being streamed from Hulu instead of Myspace.

Google Video is still impressively in third place, even though Google now owns YouTube and has thrown most of its video love behind that.  As a result, Google Video’s traffic is down 52%.

Yahoo! Video is clinging to fourth place, trying to ride out all the Yahoo! drama going down in Sunnyvale.  From last year, traffic has dropped 31%.

In last place we have Veoh, the company with the smallest market share but the biggest percentage gain in traffic.  Since last year, Veoh’s visits have increased 32%.  What exactly this means remains to be seen.  Will Veoh come on even stronger before this year ends and perhaps steal third or fourth place?  Only time will tell.